Nurse learns a lot on job at SIAST

Jodi Schellenberg
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When she first started nursing, Elizabeth Papastergiou didn’t think she’s be working at a post-secondary institution.

Elizabeth Papastergiou enjoys working SIAST in the nursing field. The job gives her time to learn more about subjects and be a bit of an educator to her patients.

Papastergiou, who graduated from her nursing program with a bachelor of science in nursing in 1997, became a registered nurse because she loved interacting with people.

“It is an opportunity to get to know many people and actually help them,” Papastergiou said. “I was always one to always be in there helping -- if anyone needed help, I was always in there. It was a great opportunity for me to meet new people and actually feel like I was doing something worthy.”

Before getting a job nursing at the Prince Albert SIAST Woodland campus in December, Papastergiou worked for the Prince Albert Parkland Health Region.

“I still work in the health region and I do actually work a little bit on mental health,” she said. “The reason why I came here to SIAST is having two young children I was really finding that the shift work was getting hard on me.

“I still love my other job but I was really looking for something where I would be more accommodated for family. Not having night shifts and constant weekends was a real plus for me.”

Although there are some similarities between working for the health region and for SIAST, Papastergiou explained there are some differences as well.

“I would say the main difference is the pace,” Papastergiou said. “Of course, when you are working in the health region, you are working in the hospital, it is an acute care setting.

“When people’s health is so fragile at any given time, there are a lot of unpredictable things that can occur,” she added. “The pace is much more different because the medical demands of the people or when you work mental health the demand down there, make it that it is a different pace and a different type of nursing.”

Papastergiou said although she does have to deal with crises at SIAST, they happen less frequently than in the health region.

“It a slower pace, however, it can get very busy here, depending on illnesses and student issues,” Papastergiou said.

She has had to deal with everything from acute emergency to psychiatric issues and at times has had to call 911.

“The pace is definitely different and I have in fact had time to sit and do research on different health issues,” Papastergiou said. “I know it was interesting when I was taking this job, there were people who said, ‘Oh you are going to lose all your skills.’”

Although she may not be as busy with cases, Papastergiou said the opposite of those people’s opinions has proven to be true.

One of the examples she gave was when she was working on a bulletin board campaign for Eating Disorders Awareness Week. Papastergiou decided to do research involving different disorders and where to go for help.

“I myself was shocked to go online and find out about eating disorders I never knew existed and nobody else even knew existed -- things like rumination and orthorexia,” Papastergiou said.

She spent about a week on research and putting together the information. Once other staff members found out what she was doing Papastergiou was asked to do a presentation in the academic building.

“It was a learning experience for everybody so I have learned stuff that I never would have known before because when there are times that are quiet, I actually have the opportunity to be self-motivated and say, ‘What am I going to research today and how am I going to make this benefit the students at SIAST?’” she said. “It is a very enriching job in that regard and it is an exciting opportunity for learning for sure.”

In addition to being able to learn new topics, Papastergiou said she does a wide range of things at SIAST, including focus on immunizations for students involved in the public sector -- such as health-care students of early childhood education -- and helping students with health issues.

“Any student that feels that they have a health issue -- whether it be mild from a headache to a migraine, or a more severe medical issue -- I deal with that as well and I have to refer them to appropriate health-care personnel, so if they need to go to a walk in clinic or they need to go to emergency, I am usually the one that makes that decision,” Papastergiou said.

In addition, Dr. Khami Chokani, who is the medical health officer for the health region, does the same job as SIAST.

“There are times when if I’m not sure what to do with a student and a walk-in clinic is even not where it should be at, he has in fact stepped in and helped me as well, which has been really nice,” Papastergiou said. “I’ve had students come in here with extremely complex issues -- like say psychiatric issues -- where I need some direction with as to what I am going to do with this individual. Sometimes an ambulance doesn’t cut it.

“There are students here that will say, ‘Don’t you dare notify anybody, you can only notify a physician.’ I have to be able to know how to handle the student, even what their wishes are,” she added. “Sometimes it might be easy to phone 911, but the student says absolutely not, it can’t be that way. You have to be able to handle the situation properly but also keep the students’ wishes in check.”

Much like the Eating Disorder Awareness campaign, Papastergiou does a variety of other promotions as well.

“This year I have been working with recreation and we promote heart health and exercise and diabetes and things to be aware of with diet,” she said.

One of the things they have been doing is Wellness Wednesdays, where they set up booths with information about different health topics.

“I also go, at the request of instructors, if there is a topic they are dealing with and they want me to come and elaborate on something that normally they do not incorporate into their curriculum,” Papastergiou said. “For example, bullying -- I have been a nurse for many years so I actually went and had a talk on bullying. I’ve also talked about contraception with some of the adult basic education students.”

Nursing is one of the most important jobs in the health-care system because they are “the glue that holds the health-care system together.”

“We are the doctors’ noses, we are their ears, we are the advocate for the patients,” Papastergiou said. “We are the ones that use our assessing skills and our knowledge to benefit those that we take care of.

“People do not recover without that continuous care or having somebody to go to for health-care advice,” she added. “Nurses really do possess a lot of health-care knowledge and what is amazing to me, even when I started this job I thought, ‘What do I know that can help anybody?’ It is truly amazing the number of people who come in that are seeking knowledge that many of us just think everybody just has and they don’t have.”

Although she is not able to write prescriptions, Papastergiou will help her patients in any way she can and will direct them where they can go to seek the help they need.

“The tough part of the job is when they come to you and you know what the person could be needing and your hands are tied,” Papastergiou said. “You depend on the rest of the health-care system, like walk-in clinics and emergency to help you out in that area.

“That is probably the only drawback from my job is sometimes you feel like you wish you could do more for that individual but yet you do everything in your power to point them in the right direction and that’s all you can do.”

Although there is the one drawback, Papastergiou loves her job and wouldn’t want to be doing anything else.

“The thing I like most about nursing is the reward when something you have done for somebody makes them feel good or helps them -- that’s where it is at for me.”

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