Paulina is a nurse practitioner in the division of nephrology at Toronto General Hospital
What is your morning routine?
I wake up at 6:30 a.m. – that is after two to three snoozes. By 8:00 a.m., I am at work for “morning sign-in” where I learn about new patients who have been admitted to the nephrology service, and also learn about any issues overnight with my current patients in hospital.
After morning sign-in, I head to the nephrology ward to start my clinical work, which includes clinical assessment of all my patients, ordering and interpreting test and investigations, and discharge planning. Three days out of the week, I lead interdisciplinary rounds, which includes myself, a physician, a pharmacist, and members of allied health. At these rounds, I lead the discussion on disposition planning and provide medical updates and the care plan, with the input of the team. This meeting facilitates teamwork and allows efficient patient flow and coordination of care.
Once I have seen all my patients, the rest of my day is spent following up on test results, responding to clinical issues or patients concerns and admitting new patients to the ward. As a part of my role, one day a week is set aside as an “academic day” – where I am able to focus on building my leadership and research skills and contributing to the organization.
Tell us about your career path and state your profession?
From the age of ten, I was inspired by the concept of promoting health and human welfare. At the age of ten, I would often say, “I want to help people.” Over time, my desire to help people translated to my pursuit of nursing.
I made the decision to pursue my nursing degree in my final year of high school. I was not entirely confident with my decision to pursue nursing at the time. I recall my aunt who is a registered nurse, reminding me that nursing was full of opportunities and that I could take it in any direction I wanted – whether that was bedside, academia or advanced clinical practice.
I was accepted at the Daphne Cockwell School of Nursing at Ryerson University in 2006. Having not applied myself much during high school, my first year proved challenging. I struggled with time management, exams preparations, and assignments, and often wondered if this was the right path for me. However, it wasn’t long until I entered the clinical setting, was introduced to my first patient, and discovered not only had I chosen the right path, but I had experienced, in that moment, how I could exercise compassion and “help people.”
I landed a position at Toronto General Hospital in General Internal Medicine after I completed my program.
This position was pivotal to building a strong foundation in clinical nursing, where I provided care for patients with a variety of illnesses and conditions and gained proficiency in new skills. Two years into my role, I decided to pursue my masters in nursing & nurse practitioner certificate at my alma mater. The decision to pursue a masters degree was one of a desire to engage in a more advanced clinical role, but also a need for a challenge. I successfully completed my program two years later and was offered a position as a nurse practitioner in the division of nephrology at Toronto General Hospital. It has been a whirlwind experience thus far and I am excited to see what’s in store.
What challenges do you or women face in your industry?
In the field of nursing, women are overwhelming more visible in the role, compared to men. This is also true specifically to the nurse practitioner role as well. Therefore, unlike many other professions where the visibility is an issue, in the nurse practitioner role, there are other challenges.
A major challenge myself and my colleagues experience, pertain to role expectations. Given the nurse practitioner scope of practice parallels with the scope of practice of physicians, this can promote the notion among physicians and other members of the healthcare team that the nurse practitioner role is interchangeable with the role of a physician. This notion creates a real challenge for the nurse practitioner, particularly in the clinical setting where the nurse practitioner is pushed to play the role of the physician, in the absence of readiness and training.
What advice would you give to young girls who want to be the NEXT you?
I would tell young girls what I was told at a young age – “Nothing great comes without sacrifice.” History has proven this to us over and over again. We have freedom today because Canadian soldiers sacrificed their lives for our future.
Women can vote today because a large number of women and men, sacrificed their time and advocated for our rights as women to have a voice in the political sphere. As a black woman, I am able to pursue my dreams because men and women sacrificed their lives so I would be recognized a valid member of society.
I want young girls to understand that the road to becoming a nurse practitioner requires sacrifice. Sacrifice of your time, sacrifice of your social life – lots of sacrifice. But this sacrifice is only temporary, because once you’ve achieved your goal, what awaits is greatness.
How do you separate work life from your personal life?
I am very big on work life balance. I think it is very important to separate the two. I make a point of not looking at my emails after work hours and on the weekends – as tempting as it can be at times. I think, most importantly, being very present at work and giving the day my very best, so that I can be very present at home.
What inspires you?
So many people inspire me in different ways. My mother inspires me to work harder everyday, as she is the model of hard work. I am inspired by the life of Nelson Mandela and how he chose reconciliation and forgiveness over hatred and revenge. I am inspired by my patients everyday, at how they cope with living with kidney disease, their courage, strength and perseverance.
When you’re off the clock, what are your indulgences?
I love trying different foods – I don’t do this as often as I’d like. Toronto has a variety of options from Vietnamese to Ethiopian and I love that!