Career Profiles:
Nicole McHardy, RPN

Nicole started her career in nursing 9 years ago when she graduated from Mohawk College with her RPN Diploma in 2005, and received an Honours Certificate in both Maternal/Newborn Nursing, and Breastfeeding Program. However, her proudest accomplishment came when she earned her International Board Certificate Lactation Consultant designation in 2014.

Nicole had learned about the course through one of her continuing education teachers and it was then that she decided to make this life changing career move. Even though this is not a common route for RPNs, Nicole was determined to prove that she had the capability to complete this course, and have the nursing career she dreamed of. The entire process was 7 years as Nicole was required to complete a Newborn/Maternal Nursing Certificate, the Breastfeeding Program and many of hours of clinical experience. Nicole knows there are other RPN International Board Certified Lactation Consultants out there, but as of yet has not met another one. This was a long and complex journey to certification, but with the support of key mentors at Trillium Health Centre she was able to successfully complete her exam.

An International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) is a health care professional who specializes in the clinical management of breastfeeding. They work closely with new families to help them successfully breastfeed their newborns. The consultants work with premature babies, healthy newborns, multiples, as well as newborns and mothers with complex health issues. An IBCLC can work anywhere from independent practice, in community-based settings, or within an organization providing in-patient services.

Nicole feels lucky to have completed her initial consolidation on the Maternal/Child unit at Brantford General Hospital. Her preceptor, also an RPN, was an amazing teacher who sparked Nicole’s love for working with new families and women’s health. Upon graduating she worked on a medical unit, and quickly realized this field of nursing was not for her. She continued on her career journey on a maternal/surgical unit, and it was through this experience that she discovered her true passion and decided to follow her current path in a more focused way. This new adventure took Nicole to Trillium Health Partners, starting on Obstetrics;  there she gained valuable experience with a wide variety of patients, cultures and clinical situations.

In the fall of 2014, Nicole was offered a position at Halton’s Healthcare Breast Feeding Clinic at the Oakville Site, and is thrilled to share that she is the first RPN/IBCLC to be hired in this position. Nicole is also the first RPN to work as the main coordinating nurse in the Urgent GYNE/Chief Resident Clinic at Trillium Health Partners at the Credit Valley Site. In this position she manages appointments;  checks lab values, does follow-up calls and is the case manager for patients. She also assists with biopsies and patient recovery. She was nominated for The Nursing Clinical Excellence award at Trillium Health Centre for her commitment to continuing education and her enthusiasm for patients and teaching. Nicole recognizes that her new role supports her to excel to the best her abilities and provides her the freedom to use her newly acquired knowledge and skills to help families.

The biggest transformation for Nicole is that now she participates in planning and implementation of care plans for patients from beginning to end, instead of just following an already laid out plan. It gives Nicole a great sense of pride to be the first RPN/IBCLC at Halton’s Healthcare Breast Feeding Clinic. Two main goals that Nicole aspires to achieve through blazing this trail are to have other organizations recognize that RPNs are well-suited for the role of Lactation Consultant as it will open new opportunities for RPNs and to change the culture of the traditional RPN role to shape new pathways for all RPNs.

The RPN role has changed so dramatically over the last 10 years. The advantages of having a career as an RPN are endless according to Nicole; nursing allows her to explore the profession with enormous variety. Her personal philosophy is that by excelling in continuing education and having the devotion to our clinical practice, an RPN can create new roles and demonstrate their expertise in every day actions.

“I always tell nursing students that your diploma is just step one.”

Nicole has flourished in her nursing career thanks to her determination in breaking down barriers of traditional roles, being a strong member of the inter and intra-professional team and through modeling the way. She has proven that her toughest critics could be swayed by exceptional evidence based practice and high quality patient care. Nursing allows us to follow our passion, whether from Paediatrics to Geriatrics and everywhere in between.

“Nursing is about a lifelong learning;  to me when you find something you love, learning about it doesn’t seem like work.”

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