Recruitment Reflections: Registered nurse Kevin Acheson brings family motto ‘treat others the way you want to be treated’ to work at Yarmouth Regional Hospital

Kevin Acheson is a registered nurse (RN) on the surgical unit of Yarmouth Regional Hospital (grad photo submitted).
Kevin Acheson is a registered nurse (RN) on the surgical unit of Yarmouth Regional Hospital (grad photo submitted).

“People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

It’s that quote by Maya Angelou that motivates 27-year-old Kevin Acheson each and every day that he’s on the job as a registered nurse (RN) on the surgical unit of Yarmouth Regional Hospital.

“When you go in the hospital it’s stressful; it causes a lot of anxiety,” Acheson admitted. “You don’t know what the outcome is going to be, you might be there for something more serious, for something acute, and people are scared when they go into the hospital and they need that support.”

“So it’s very important to be cognizant of how you are approaching things and how people are perceiving you because ... one bad (experience could result in someone) having the opinion that all nurses are bad … so it’s very important for everybody to be aware of that,” Acheson said.

The sentiments behind that pivotal Maya Angelou quote are also ones he learned from his grandmother, who was a nurse at Yarmouth Regional Hospital for 36 years before retiring.

“She was a major influence on me growing up,” said Acheson, who graduated from Dalhousie University’s school of nursing satellite campus in Yarmouth just this past May.

“The profession always appealed to me because I was always interested in sciences, working with people, and I generally feel a lot of empathy for others, so it just made sense for me personally to go into nursing.”

Originally from Hartland, N.B., Acheson moved to Yarmouth when he was just seven years old and has lived there for the majority of his life.

“I originally wanted to go into medicine or dentistry, but I always felt like nursing was a better fit because it’s so diverse,” he said, adding, “I really like the bedside manner; to be at the bedside with the patient; that’s what I enjoy about it.”

After completing a couple of clinics while in nursing school, ranging from medical to maternity to pediatrics, Acheson finally settled on surgical, which he loves because of the fast-paced atmosphere and highly specific skills involved.

His grandmother shared many stories of her own long career, which included her time working as acting supervisor in the operating room, which further intrigued Acheson as he settled on his area of focus in nursing.

“It just sparked my interest the most,” Acheson said.

“I just knew that coming out of school, that was a good place to start,” he added. “They take on a lot of brand new grads on the floor I’m working on right now, so they’re pretty used to fresh grads, having students, so I wanted somewhere where I knew I would be supported into my transition into practice.”

But Acheson wasn’t always so sure of what he wanted to do with his life.

After failing to get into nursing school on his first try, Acheson spent a couple of years working toward an undergraduate degree in kinesiology at Dalhousie University. Deep down, however, he knew that he wasn’t quite on the right path for him.

So Acheson took a step back, upgraded a few high school classes, worked random retail jobs ranging from coffee shops to grocery stores in order to pay the bills, and eventually re-applied to nursing school.

This time, he got into nursing school and is hitting his career stride at Yarmouth Regional Hospital.

“So when I was in my final clinical there, I told my manager I had an interest in working here and went through the process,” Acheson explained. “I went online and applied for a supernumerary position and then went through the interview process, and I got a job!”

Acheson said transitioning from student to full-time Nova Scotia Health Authority (NSHA) employee was a completely smooth process, which much thanks from nursing recruitment consultant Michelle Murphy and other helpful NSHA staff.

“We had Michelle Murphy come down from Cape Breton; she told us about the interview process and how to apply, so I would say … she was like the good starting point,” Acheson said.

Murphy explains that “hiring permanent, full-time supernumeraries is a proactive approach to staffing fluctuations, retirements, and transfers expected throughout the year.”

“Hiring graduate nurses into supernumerary positions is an operational decision approved by NSHA leadership,” she said. “This proactive decision to hire additional nurses and offer a supportive environment will benefit staff and patients.”

Such as in Acheson’s case, graduate nurses are assigned to a unit for a one-year supernumerary period, providing a permanent, full-time position with all the benefits for the new NSHA employee to enjoy with the expectation of 75 hours of work paid for biweekly.

“Graduate nurse hiring is our largest intake of RN recruitment and it accounts for 60 to 70 per cent of our recruitment needs,” Murphy said.

That means she works closely with Atlantic nursing programs and regularly visits schools including both the Halifax and Yarmouth sites of Dalhousie University; St. Francis Xavier University in Antigonish; Cape Breton University in Sydney; Memorial University in St. John’s, Nfld.; the University of New Brunswick in Saint John and Fredericton; the Universite de Moncton and the University of PEI in Charlottetown.

Acheson is well aware of the tough job recruiters have in filling vacancies in a health care system that is suffering from a shortage of physicians and nurses not just in Nova Scotia, but across the country.

“Right now, with the shortage of nurses, I really wanted to help out in a way,” Acheson said. “I’m really more of a homebody in a way. I wanted to stay local, either here or in Halifax.

“I wanted to stay close to my family. I have family in New Brunswick, but because I have been in Nova Scotia for years, my siblings live in Nova Scotia, my grandparents that are still living do, my parents live in Nova Scotia,” he said, “so I wanted to stay close to my family.”

Acheson also emphasizes that because he lives and works in a small rural area, “a lot of the patients either know my parents or they know my grandparents; you just know the community.”

“So I just want to put my best foot forward,” he said. “I want to help out people I know or relatives of people I know. I want to make a difference in someone else’s life. I want to help out my community the best way I feel I can.”

So what advice does he have for others who may be considering nursing as a career option?

“I would just say, ‘do what’s best for them. Do what field suits them.’ ”

Acheson also adds that “if you want to make a difference and to help out – I know it sounds very generic – but it’s the truth – if you want to help out your community and you have a good bedside manner and you care about people and you feel a lot of empathy for people, then I think nursing is a great fit for people.”

Acheson goes back to this basic life lessons and values he learned from his grandmother and parents.

“I have always been told by my parents, while growing up, ‘treat others the way you want to be treated,’ ” he recalled.

“So I always try to put myself in other people’s shoes and to try to feel what they’re feeling and to take into account all of the social determinants of health they teach you in school, so just try to get the full picture.”

“How would I want to be treated in this situation and should I be more sensitive?”

Acheson recalls hearing another nurse say “the hardest thing you’ll ever do in nursing isn’t to be tough – it’s to be human.”

“So every day is a struggle but overall I would say, ‘how would I want to be treated? What kind of care would I want to receive if it was me or if it was one of my family members in the hospital?’

“So that’s what I try taking into account when I go in every day.”

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