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Grateful to Make a Difference: November Spotlight Nurse Nicole Breton

“Her communication and interpersonal skills, her professionalism and compassion for the elderly are what drive her in providing excellent resident care.”

That’s just part of the nominator’s enthusiastic description that led us to choose Nicole Breton, RPN, as our PointClickCare Nurse of the Month for November. This is the time of the year when we focus a little longer on being thankful – and Nicole revealed to us how grateful she is to have found a rewarding career in long-term care.

A Summer Job Paved the Way

Nicole has been a nurse for 12 years, following a year as a personal support worker (PSW), at Extendicare Maple View in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, Canada. She’s currently covering a leave for a Behavioural Supports Ontario (BSO) RPN. Nicole says that her first job unexpectedly sealed the deal on her professional aspirations.

“I was cutting grass for an elderly neighbor down the road and ended up spending a lot of time with her. I’d run errands and help her with things around the house. I really enjoyed my time doing that. Combined with my interest in the medical field, I felt that nursing would be a natural fit for me.”

Nicole’s compassion and drive to help have grown through the years from that first interaction to the residents she now cares for in a secure unit.

“We have a wide variety of people; some have Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia, but we also have younger people with mental illnesses like schizophrenia or mental disabilities. It’s hard on the residents and their families for them to be in a locked unit, and the residents generally don’t get a lot of visitors. So, we become like family to them. It’s rewarding when residents begin to remember you, recognize your face, and smile when they see you. I love making their lives better and being there for them.” 

Extra Time – and Tech – Ease the Challenges

Unlike a hospital nurse who might have six to eight patients per shift, Nicole is responsible for 32 residents on her unit. She describes the atmosphere as demanding and “quite loud,” with residents who yell, try to fight or climb out of bed unassisted. Nicole has found a way to help diffuse the anger or confusion that they may be experiencing.

“I always try to make time to spend with them one-on-one. Ten extra minutes with someone can save them from falling or getting injured. I’ve never been one to pay attention to when my shift ends, or when I’m supposed to take breaks. I just want to help these people get through the tough moments and deal with the chaos. If I can take a resident aside and de-escalate a situation, I feel like I’m making a difference.”

Nicole adds that the technology developed since she began her nursing career has given her some of that time to spend with residents – and enables her to provide better care.

“When I started, we were all paper-based. Thankfully, medication errors and other problems that would occur from doing everything on paper have decreased a lot due to technology. Now that everything’s right on a tablet on our cart, communication is so much better. Even getting a report has improved a hundred times, because we get a whole picture of what’s going on with the residents. I love it!”

Perceptions of LTC Lag Behind Reality

Nicole points out that while the complexity of long-term care has changed, widespread understanding of what long-term care nurses actually do has not.

“LTC is not just that sweet little old lady sitting quietly in her room anymore. People still ask me why I don’t work in a hospital, and how I’m able to use all my skills in this setting. In fact, I use all my skills and then some! Choosing a career in long-term care has enabled me to reach my potential – and build real relationships with residents.”  

Pursuing Dual Passions

When asked where she sees herself in 10 years, Nicole says she’d love to get her R.N. degree. In the meantime, her focus on two areas within long-term care is driving her professional development.

“I never thought I’d like working in a secure unit, but now mental health has become my passion. I’ve also become passionate about palliative care, because I want residents and their families to have a really positive experience. One of my older residents always says, ‘I’m in the waiting room for Heaven.’ So how do we make that time in the waiting room the best it can be? I’m eager to bring more mental health and palliative care education and resources into my facility.”

Nicole is “proud and happy” that she was chosen as a Spotlight Nurse as part of our celebration of the WHO’s Year of the Nurse and Midwife.

We’re thankful that a nurse like Nicole was brought to our attention and wish her all the best throughout her career. Her work ethic, and words, are inspirational:

“Nursing is what you make it. Yes, you learn the skills at school, but it’s up to you as a nurse to continue to educate yourself. Ten years from now, you’ll be ten times the person you were. I’m so happy I became a nurse.”

October 30, 2020