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Honoring an Extraordinary Nurse: Importance of Team Through the Hard Times

The APCNA Board lost one of our longest standing board members to Cancer. Chantal Rennie, passed away on March 21, 2023, after a very brief battle with cancer. Chantal was one of the founding members of the Alberta Primary Care Nursing Association having worked in a Primary Care office for over 20 years. I was lucky enough to know Chantal through my entire Primary Care career and learn from her amazing skills. One of my colleagues said it best recently, Chantal was the “Big Sister” to the new nurses throughout our entire Network and not just her individual clinic. She became the big sister to many of us nurses on the board and throughout the province.

It was in one of our nursing meetings where she, two other colleagues, and myself discussed

how we were continuously disheartened by the disrespect, and ignorance shown to Primary

Care Nurses in the field. We talked about the need for change and the need for a place for

nurses within Primary Care to connect with each other and empower each other to promote the amazing work we do. Chantal’s voice; always one of the strongest, yet never loud; advocated that all nurses, no matter their designation, are a part of the Primary Care Nursing Family and deserve the respect and recognition afforded to other Specialty Nursing practices. We met with other nurses across the province with the same goals and same desires, and thus the APCNA was born.

Chantal was a leader locally, regionally, and provincially and loved educating. It was only fitting that she held the Nurse Educator position her entire time on the board. In her role within her clinic, Bigelow Fowler, she was the Clinical Care Coordinator and was a leader in Quality Improvement and Education. Chantal led the way and was a part of major Provincial pathways including developing the Alberta Foot Care Pathway many of you use today. Chantal was a certified Quit Core educator as well as an amazing Diabetes Educator and provided chronic disease management to many patients. Her calm and patience were beyond compare- always putting the needs of the patient and her staff before her own. Chantal’s work ethic as well as her respect and compassion for all patients and staff, no matter their role, gained her a family of colleagues and friends that will miss her dearly.

I would be remiss if I did not mention that Chantal, above all things, loved her family. Her

husband Don, their three kids, Shayne, Chase, and Anelise and their step siblings Amy, Megan and Beth and her grandchildren, as well as her mother and siblings. Chantal was so proud of her family and smiled most when talking about them. Words can not express the grief that I know all of Chantal’s family and friends and colleagues are feeling right now. But how do we deal? How do you grieve the loss of a colleague and still go forward with your work? I, as well as many, relied on that ability to call up Chantal with a question or idea. How do you express that while you were not related, you lost a family member- too soon- some not even aware of the illness until she was gone.I am not a researcher or expert in grief, I can only say what I have found helpful. Team.

The team you surround yourself with, will help you through. Losing a team member will hit so many people differently. As healthcare professionals, we are often taught to compartmentalize, or separate the feelings from the work. My heart and my feelings are what make me the nurse I am. I cannot turn it off. We are finally seeing an era of work, which allows and encourages vulnerability and emotion to build trust with our colleagues and teams. When we know each other, we can support each other through the hardest times. building trust among a team is hard. It takes time and energy and real work. Chantal was a big supporter in encouraging and learning about the people you work with and that spending time on what some call the “touchy feely stuff,” makes your job easier, though many rolled their eyes at it. Brene Brown says people call this the “soft skills” until they have to try it. These are the hardest skills to learn, develop and become good at- but I encourage you to try. Not only does this work help the team work better together, but patients also benefit from a happier team. Together these three books have been foundational in creating and maintaining a team. A team that, when we said, “get through the hard times,” never imagined they would be this hard.

“Dare to Lead” Brene Brown

“Happiness Advantage” Shawn Achor

“Put Happiness to Work” Eric Karpinsky

To all of those who knew Chantal, and all those who did not, I express my deepest

condolences. Let us keep the spirit of Chantal alive by encouraging working as a team to

promote the work we do. Stand together as ALL nurses LPN, RN, RPN and NP- towards the

recognition and respect Primary Care Nurses deserve, and to support and put patient care first to create a healthier tomorrow. This was her dream- and we will see it through.

Kim Daniels RN, BN- APCNA South Zone Rep.

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