Cornwall woman face in national campaign promoting nurses

Jim Day
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Tracy Hagan-O’Connor, a nurse educator at the QEH, says she is humbled to be among four RNs across Canada chosen to pose for posters as part of a national awareness campaign.

Tracey Hagan-O’Connor has been spit on and had urine flung at her but she wants to focus on the positive side of being an RN

She has been cursed out of a hospital room.

She has been spat on.

She has been grabbed violently by the arm.

Still, she loves her job.

A patient trying to bolt from the hospital violently knocked her aside. Impatient patients often barked at her unreasonable demands.

Always, from as far back as she can remember, she wanted to be a nurse.

Once a plastic urine-filled jug was hurled her way. She ducked and carried on.

Tracey Hagan-O’Connor does her best to dismiss a host of abuses and indignities as simply being part and parcel to the job of providing health care.

The long-time registered nurse does not like to talk about the negative aspects of nursing. Drawing out the dark side of her job is a bit like pulling teeth.

She is reluctant, for instance, to publicly discuss how physicians, particularly years ago, could really talk down to nurses. Boy, could those doctors ever be demoralizing, she recalls.

Best not to print that, she is quick to add after offering the critical assessment.

“In every job, there’s things you don’t like,’’ she says.

Yet the 46-year-old Cornwall hockey mom has agreed to serve as the face — or at least a face — of nursing in Canada.

Her image, currently peering out from a large poster in the bus stop near the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, is part of a national public awareness campaign to promote the role of registered nurses in Canada’s health-care system and raise awareness about the depth and complexity of the work they do.

Good nursing, says this poster girl, requires compassion. Nurses will provide comfort by holding a hand or offering soothing words.

Pampering, though, only scratches the surface.

“The work of an RN is multifaceted,’’ says Canadian Nurses Association president Barb Mildon.

“While much of their work is visible, other components such as assessing, prioritizing and decision-making may not be. Through this campaign, we want people to see how RNs are deeply involved with the complete health and well-being of their patients, clients and families and that they are leaders, experts and partners in better health.’’

Hagan-O’Connor feels humbled to be chosen as one of four nurses from across Canada to grace posters as part of the campaign.

By agreeing to be interviewed, she is also adding her voice to a campaign that is using television and print advertisements featuring four of the core nursing care settings: acute, community, long-term and home care.

Hagan-O’Connor has plenty of experience from which to draw in sizing up the nursing field.

She entered the profession 25 years ago. She spent her first 10 years as a staff nurse at the QEH and the past 15 as a nurse educator.

The pay is good, she concedes, with nurses earning between $29 and $36 per hour.

But the work is terribly demanding. It is also tiring. Many nurses put in 12-hour shifts and come the third consecutive day of work, fatigue hits hard.

Hagan-O’Connor is fueled, as are other nurses, by positive feedback from patients and their families. She believes nurses are well respected in the community.

However, the public, generally speaking, just don’t understand all that RNs do.

Thus the purpose for the campaign.

“We have a lot of knowledge, we have a lot of skill, we have a lot of critical thinking,’’ says Hagan-O’Connor.

Organizations: Queen Elizabeth Hospital

Geographic location: Charlottetown, Canada

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Recent comments

  • Sandra Graham
    June 19, 2014 - 07:24

    Health Care on PEI is a team effort. Whether we like it or not we have limited resources and (seemingly) unlimited needs. RNs, LPNs physicians, allied health and EMS work together for Islanders. While much of the RNs work is less task-oriented nowadays and more in care planning, education, discharge planning those things are just as important if not more important than the tasks -- trying to get person to their optimal health whatever that is and keep them out of hospital as long as possible. That does not only improve lives but it also saves lives. --' not to mention theoretically it should also save money. While there are some rough parts to any job nursing is one job that the good always outweighs the bad. We are making a difference. Daily. Proud to be an RN on Prince Edward Island (PCH).

  • Just thinking
    June 18, 2014 - 12:30

    It always goes on about RNs having all this training and so many skills also a lot of critical thinking . Well. What about the LPNs I believe that they do a lot more work than an RN as working in the hospital setting myself I see it everyday sometimes I see RNs treating the LPNs. Like their little puppets but I believe the RNs job would be a heck of a lot harder without the work of theses LPNs and the public doesn't understand all that an RN does well nor do they know how much more an LPN does .

  • Lisa
    June 18, 2014 - 00:51

    Way to print what she asked you not to Jim Day!

  • Anita McCabe
    June 17, 2014 - 20:05

    Knowing Tracey and having the privilege to work with her, I'm sure Tracey shared many, many great things about being a nurse as it's her true calling. She is an inspiration; a positive beacon for us all and sets a pretty high bar to aspire to as a professional. She has a great blend of skill, competence, compassion and true passion that has not faded one bit in her 25 years as a nurse. It's too bad the author of this article chose to focus on the few negative aspects of care as opposed to all the wonderful things about nursing I'm sure she'd prefer to share with anyone who asks. I for one would like to know the rest of her story ...

  • opinion
    June 17, 2014 - 19:39

    what I know now…I cannot agree more with the statement about doctors being demoralizing to nurses. I say it is time for nurses to speak out against that. Doctors are not gods, but the nurses make them angels. If the nurse if whispering to you….LISTEN! If you want the straight goods…talk to the nurse and then don't tell anyone where you got your info. Keep it to yourself as the nurse will get in trouble. The doctors should listen to the nurses too!!!!!

  • don
    June 17, 2014 - 12:14

    Tracey. thank you for a great job. but the patients has no idea what you all go thru. and as far as doctors are concerned they would be lost if not for RN's most doctors have no idea where 90% of the stock is all they can do is GIVE ORDERS. well doc's i would love for you all to do a weeks of nursing then see how you feel. i know as a 1st responder if i am at a mvc if i had a choice of a MD or nurse i'll take the nurse.

  • Squirrel
    June 17, 2014 - 08:59

    I couldn't agree more with Tracey. What is going on anyway, they are incredible heath care workers & don't get near the credit they deserve. Gov is always trying to replace nurses with less trained people , to try save money. We are giving up QUALITY for the buck .

    • don
      June 17, 2014 - 12:21

      i agree doc's would be in major trouble with out them. lets see the qeh run with NO nurses of any kind just doc's? but then you look paramedics some nurses figure ems is not trained that good but how many lives has ems save a year? but then not only nurses are not thanked enough but i saw the other day in the news where parents thanked the doc and nurses for helping to save there child but they forget ems was there to help with there child till they got to the hospital would the child be alive today with out ems? so thank you to the ems,nurses and doc's for your hard work.