In this economy, it’s every student’s dream to finish a co-op, internship or practicum and have a job lined up right after graduation.
That scenario may not be realistic at every organization, but Alberta Health Services (AHS), which operates 400 facilities throughout the province, including hospitals, clinics, continuing care facilities, mental health facilities and community health sites, needs to hire thousands of new staff members to help them achieve their goal of becoming the best-performing, publicly-funded health system in Canada and continuing to provide patient-focused, quality healthcare to more than 3.7 million Albertans.
After completing multiple practicum placements and a preceptorship with Alberta Health Services in geriatrics, postpartum, medical, surgical, rural, mental health and obstetrics units throughout nursing school, University of Alberta at Grande Prairie Regional College Nursing grad Brittney Peebles learned it was possible to start her career in an area of nursing that she really enjoys and wants to specialize in: obstetrics and gynecology at Queen Elizabeth II Hospital in Grande Prairie, Alberta.
“I was asked several times if I was going to remain and work on the unit after graduation,” she says. “It was a logical move to begin my career where I had already built rapport with staff and patients.”
For Brittney, staying in Alberta was a no-brainer. “There are many interests within nursing that can be satisfied in Alberta with Alberta Health Services, from long-term care to acute care, from rural nursing to generalist nursing to specialized fields,” she says.
Getting a nursing job with Alberta Health Services
Alberta Health Services doesn’t just hand jobs out anyone who passes through their doors, of course. Brittney still had to apply for nursing jobs online with a resume and cover letter, and be interviewed for the position like everyone else.
“The interviewers want to see that you are able to think critically and find information, as no one knows absolutely everything.”
—Brittney Peebles, Staff Nurse, Alberta Health Services
“The interview consisted of a number of questions, including questions related to interpersonal, problem solving and critical thinking skills,” she says.
Some of the questions were beyond her knowledge level as a new graduate, but she simply admitted that fact during the interview and described the steps she would take to find the information.
“The interviewers want to see that you are able to think critically and find information, as no one knows absolutely everything,” she says. “Knowing that made the process much less intimidating!”
A day in the life of a nurse on an obstetrics and gynecology unit
Brittney’s unit contains 16 postpartum beds, which means she and her colleagues (other Registered Nurses, Licensed Practical Nurses, Undergraduate Nursing Employees and Physicians) are responsible for at least 32 patients – 16 mothers and 16 babies – when the unit is full.
“I complete assessments of postpartum mothers and newborns, and gynecological post-operative patients also come to the unit, so I complete post-op surgical assessments on these patients as well,” she says.
Part of Brittney’s job also includes teaching women who have just given birth how to take care of their newborn babies – and themselves. “There is a considerable amount of teaching related to newborns’ needs, newborn care and the various postpartum changes to expect,” she says, adding that she and her colleagues repeat this information to the new moms at least once every shift. “I also do a great deal of breastfeeding teaching and hands-on assistance, as this is a learning process for both mom and babe.”
There are few things more rewarding than helping new mothers and their babies navigate the first few days of the newborns’ lives.
Hands-on training for new nurses
If you haven’t guessed it by now, Brittney was hired by Alberta Health Services as a Staff Nurse in the obstetrics and gynecology department at Queen Elizabeth II Hospital. Her first few weeks on the job included:
- a four-day classroom orientation for new hires, which familiarizes you with Alberta Health Services’ policies and the layout of the hospital
- a four-day obstetrics classroom orientation for nurses who are new to the area of obstetrics
- four days and four nights of “buddy” shifts, with the opportunity to ask for more if required
The training doesn’t stop there, either. “I will be cross-trained in labour and delivery, as well as oriented to charge nurse responsibilities for postpartum,” she says. “Having training in more acute obstetrical situations will give me more confidence and skills related to my area of nursing.”
Although she’s only worked in her role for less than a year, she’s already had the opportunity to share the knowledge she’s gained with the nursing students who work on her unit.
Brittney says she’s also received an informal crash-course in being an employee: “There are things I just didn’t know about, because you don’t deal with them as a student, such as scheduling, overtime, and the union. It’s a whole new learning curve, upon entering the work world.”
Brittney’s advice for nursing students and new graduates
- Ask a lot of questions
- Pay attention to how others do things – it might be different from the method you use
- Look for opportunities to learn something new, even if you’re intimidated
- Be a team player
- Know the rest will come