By Ariane Fleischmann
Glenn Cardinal joined St. Paul’s in 1999 as an emergency nurse at the Teck Emergency Centre, and has been the nurse educator since April 2013, responsible for training over 150 ED staff. As he gives me a tour of the busy department, patients and colleagues greet him cheerfully, proof of the incredible impact and meaningful connections he’s made over the years.
What first drew you to the ED?
I graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing from UBC and then worked in HIV/AIDS for about a year. But I always knew that I wanted to work emergency: I wanted that unstable environment and crisis energy, where you can really make a decision quickly to help people when they’re most vulnerable.
What do you enjoy most about working at St. Paul’s?
St. Paul’s is a great hospital for how we deal with people: with respect. Treat people how you want to be treated. We don’t judge; we don’t cast judgment; we treat patients like humans. It’s successful. It’s why I’ve been here for so many years. I’ve learned so much from our patients.
What does the nurse educator role entail?
It’s a big job. In addition to ensuring standards, policies and procedures are met, I also create an atmosphere in which people can grow, to make it comfortable for nurses to come to me when they’re struggling and need some help themselves. My door is always open. I also collaborate with the other specialties, medical teams and the heads of the departments, perform quality control checks and train nurses on new equipment, new drugs and changes to dosage.
How has the ED responded to the opioid crisis?
We created an area next to emergency and hired a dedicated nurse because we were so overwhelmed with the crisis. If we didn’t have that nurse, we’d have a lineup of patients. As nurses, we have our agenda: to assess patients and take their vitals. But someone going through withdrawal doesn’t care about vitals – they just want help. They want to feel normal. So many patients choose St. Paul’s because we treat our patients with respect. Sometimes it’s the first time they hear that someone cares for them, and so we forge a connection. Our nurses care, even during a crisis.