Jessica’s colleagues describe her as ‘the calming, rational force in the storms we face daily in the ICU’.
The ICU is a high-stress, high stakes environment, what draws you to it?
I was always known in school as being the adrenaline or Code Blue junkie (a hospital code indicating that a patient requires immediate resuscitation). Whenever there was an emergency, I would always ask to see what was happening in the room. As soon as I could, I did the Basic life support and Advanced cardiac life support certifications - urgent medical interventions for life-threatening illnesses or injuries, cardiac arrest, stroke and other life-threatening medical emergencies.
"I was always known in school as being the adrenaline or Code Blue junkie"
The combination of emergency situations, the pace in the ICU and the need to integrate critical thinking with the knowledge that you have – I just find that to be the right environment for me. Neurology is a subject that is not completely understood. It is not like with the heart – it is a pump and we understand it. The brain is the boss of the entire body and is incredibly complex. That intrigued me. I remember I had a brain injury patient when I was doing an internship and I saw him have a seizure. I remember thinking ‘wow’ neurology is really interesting and amazing medicine.
You were awarded the Lorine Besel Award for Leadership in Nursing. What does it mean to you?
It’s funny because I never saw myself in management when I went into nursing. When I went into management, I did not get a lot of training and did not have other managers around to give me feedback. So I would go around asking people ‘am I doing this alright?’ When people would tell me I was doing great, I would ask ‘what am I doing great, what am I not doing not doing well?’ So I think as much as I mentor people, they mentor me. To know that people think I am an effective enough manager to be given an award is a huge deal. It confirmed that I am on the right track. If I loved management but people were not responding well to me, I would never continue. Especially in healthcare where as a manager, you have such an impact on the culture of a unit and ultimately on the patients. It has encouraged me to start an interdisciplinary Masters in Health Management.
What qualities do you think make you a good leader or a manager?
I never really get stressed or overwhelmed and I act really well under pressure. Having a calming presence in the unit helps to calm people down in emergencies. "Being a manager requires being an active listener" Management can be seen as the complaints department. Nobody ever comes to you and says ‘I love that schedule you made for me. That is such a great schedule!’ They will only tell you because they are not happy about something. So being a manager requires being an active listener. I understand that when people come to me with a concern, they really want to be heard. If it is really busy, I don’t hide in my office. “That’s not my job” is a sentence you will never hear from me. I will wash a patient or move a patient. I scrub floors when we do not ha ve housekeeping. My team has told me many times that they really appreciate that kind of help.
What do you like most about your work?
There are so many things! If I had to choose one thing: it is that there is never a typical day. There is always something to learn. There is always a new challenge. There is always a new emergency. There is never a mundane moment in The Neuro’s ICU! There is such a strong spirit of teamwork here. Everyone helps each other out. We get a sense that we are all in it together- to achieve one big goal. That’s what has kept me at The Neuro for nine years.