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IN IT TOGETHER: Starting her nursing career during a pandemic

Posted May 12th, 2020

IN IT TOGETHER: Starting her nursing career during a pandemic

This is part of a series of stories profiling members of the Niagara Health team and the work they are doing as part of our response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Meet Sydney Shirton, a Registered Nurse on the Sixth Floor Medical Unit at our Welland Site.

Sydney Shirton could never have imagined starting her nursing career at such a monumental moment in history: during a global pandemic.

But that’s the story she will be able to tell when she reflects upon her career many years down the road.  Sydney’s first day on the job on the Sixth Floor inpatient unit at our Welland Site was March 16, the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I feel I have nothing to compare it to,” says Sydney, who graduated from Western University’s nursing program in December and passed her National Council Licensure Examination in February. “In a way, this is all I know, outside of my hospital placements at school, but that’s not the same. Ultimately, I think it will make me stronger, and I’ll come out the other side stronger as a nurse because of it.”

Why did you pursue a career in nursing?

I always knew I wanted to do something in the medical field and I’ve always had a desire to help people. Quite a few of my family members are nurses and I’ve seen their passion for the job and heard about the difference that they make. It just seemed like it would be a good fit for me.

What has been the most eye-opening part about working during the pandemic?

You have to learn to adapt and you have to be able to kind of go with the flow more than ever. I think nurses have to do that anyways, especially now when everything is so evolving. Almost daily there are new updates and things you need to be paying close attention to.

What is the most challenging part about working during the pandemic?

You have to learn so many policies and procedures in a hospital when you are new. I just feel like due to the pandemic, those are changing on a regular basis because there are so many unknowns about COVID and it’s such an evolving situation. There are a lot of things that are changing and a lot of different things you need to keep up with. Our manager Jacquie Vlahos also does a great job of keeping us informed and updated.

What is the most challenging part personally during the pandemic?

The same as everyone else, it’s hard to not see people outside of work. I feel like I have that much more of a responsibility to keep my distance, especially from the elderly or people who are sick, because I work at the hospital. I feel like I have that increased risk of getting COVID and therefore passing it on. I have to be extra cautious. We’re all in the same boat, we’re all missing our loved ones and not being able visit them.

Describe working with the team on the Sixth Floor?

They’re a really good and strong team. They’ve helped to make it as smooth of a transition as it can be for me during a time like this. They’ve been very helpful when I have questions. Overall it’s a challenging and stressful time at work right now with everything happening, but they make it fun and light and they do what they can to boost the mood, like ordering food in. I’ve learned a lot from them, things I have not seen in a while and some that are brand new, like how to do a nasal swab for COVID testing.  It’s a really good learning environment.

Click on the In It Together button below to read more stories about our team.

Niagara Health System