Health and career: a nursing unit clerk’s journey
Having reconstructive leg surgery as a young teen in BC Children’s Hospital set the course of Victoria Hu’s life.
“I had my first surgery at fourteen and the second at sixteen,” Victoria recalls. “I had to relearn how to walk. I spent a lot of time in the hospital. That’s where my love of health care was born.”
Because her surgeries required a lengthy home recovery, Victoria completed part of her high school online. After she graduated, she worked for a while as a make-up designer for a theatre company and a customer service clerk at a local recreation centre.
“I found out that I love the administrative side of customer service,” Victoria says. “Becoming a nursing unit clerk combined my love of administration and health care. For me, it was a perfect match.”
Choosing a program
Victoria researched Nursing Unit Clerk programs online. “A friend of mine had completed the program at UFV and she highly recommended it,” Victoria says. “The program is aligned with Fraser Health Authority, which is a strong advantage. And since I live in Chilliwack, UFV was also conveniently located.”
Victoria’s family was supportive of her choice. Her grandparents had saved money in an RRSP to provide both Victoria and her brother with a post-secondary education. “My grandpa was so proud and excited to have his oldest grandchild going to university,” Victoria says. “He’s a sweet man.”
Victoria started her studies in UFV’s Nursing Unit Clerk program in November 2017. It was an intensive eight months,” she says. “It’s very different from high school. It requires a lot of studying, but you end up with more knowledge than you expected. Teachers are passionate about the subject. And you get grounded in medical terminology and what to expect in a hospital setting.”
In the midst of school pressure, camaraderie kept Victoria going. “I enjoyed everyone around me,” she says. “Our group of girls became very close. And we are still close to this day.”
All in a day’s work
After graduating in June 2018, Victoria started a 180-hour practicum in the emergency room at Chilliwack General Hospital. She was hired shortly after completing her practicum in early fall.
The emergency room in Chilliwack is one of the busiest in the Fraser Valley. “I love working in such a fast-paced environment,” Victoria says. “It helps the day go by fast. I also enjoy the people there and how they work together to help patients.”
Eventually, Victoria also landed a maternity leave replacement position in a clinic at the Abbotsford Regional Hospital. “I’m now working regular part-time hours,” Victoria says, “and supplementing with casual shifts in the emergency room. With casual work, you get to make your own schedule, but it’s also nice to have consistent hours.”
Even in an administrative health care position such as nursing unit clerk, each day presents new challenges, which keeps work interesting. “One of our UFV instructors told us that nursing unit clerks are the equivalent of air traffic controllers in the hospital world,” says Victoria, “and it’s so true. Nursing unit clerks help medical professionals focus on what they are trained to do without having to worry about administrative tasks. We’re on top of everyone’s needs. We coordinate anything from food to x-rays. We make sure all meds are updated, doctors’ orders are sent off, patients are booked and registered, and the unit is set up with everything at your fingertips.”
While Victoria developed a strong sense of purpose in her role as a nursing unit clerk, she also needed to learn to cope with difficult outcomes. “I had never dealt with a fatality before,” she says. “It’s hard to witness people dying. You’re working and you’re so busy. There’s no time to wrap your brain around this reality. Fortunately, there’s good support in the hospital to help you address this type of trauma. I got help early on and I did not dwell on it.”
In her walk as a Nursing Unit Clerk student and young professional, Victoria stresses the need to care for your physical and mental health. “First you go to school and get work done under pressure,” she says, “and then you move to a hospital setting, which can be a hard place to be. It’s really important to take care of your health.”
For Victoria, this is doubly true as the ligaments in her body are an ongoing concern. “I need to keep exercising and strengthening my muscles,” she says. “I am far more active now, running around on a medical floor than I use to be as a student. In fact, I recently went rock climbing, which is something I could not have done before my surgeries. Keeping healthy is a journey.”