Luke Currie, a nurse at St. Paul’s Hospital, has never sought the limelight. The 34-year-old Vancouver resident describes himself as someone who likes to “fly under the radar”.
But his kindness, humility, and quiet attention to detail have made a huge impact on his patients – perhaps none more so than James Stitchman.
In 2021, James contracted COVID-19 and was admitted to St. Paul’s. Shortly thereafter, his condition worsened and he became sick with what would eventually be diagnosed as sepsis. Good timing meant staff were able to give him oxygen treatment and steroids immediately, which ultimately saved his life.
“I was definitely one of the lucky campers,” quips James.
Because his stay at St. Paul’s occurred during the height of the COVID lockdowns, James was separated from his family and had limited communication with his loved ones. The nursing staff stepped in to fill the void, and among them was Luke.
Luke says his role at James’ bedside was mainly to provide reassurance and support. “During COVID, it was often the case that people would come in and things would get a little bit worse before they would get better,” he says. “So from our side of things, we wanted to reassure him that we were there to support him and he could come to us with any changes or any concerns.”
He adds that the protective equipment worn by medical staff was a complicating factor. “When you’re surrounded by health care workers who are all donned in these bright yellow protective gowns and everybody’s got masks, not to mention if you add in a little element of confusion or delirium, it can be a challenge for folks,” he explains. “So, I think having a familiar and calming presence can go a long way, which was the case in Mr. Stitchman’s situation.”
Luke’s calm demeanour and consistency made an important impression on James.
“All of the medical staff were absolutely first-rate. But this one fellow, he was always there. Any time I had a question or even when I didn’t have a question, I would wake up and realize there was somebody standing beside the bed, and it would be Luke,” says James.
He continues, “I don’t know where he parks his harp and his wings, but he’s a true angel. A true caregiver.”
And of course, James made quite the impression on Luke.
“He was easy to connect with and quite pleasant despite the challenging circumstances under which he was admitted to hospital,” Luke shares. “Certainly, there was always an emphasis on how much he cared for his family and how much that meant to him.”
For anyone who knows Luke, James’ praise comes as no surprise. In the hospital, Luke is always hustling: checking in on patients to ensure everyone is ok, conducting routine assessments, administering medicine, and tackling other tasks as they come up. He also works as a relief clinical nurse leader, organizing staff and managing shifts when critical team members are away.
It’s a good fit for Luke. “I like to be busy,” he says. “There are always new challenges and new things to figure out every day.”
Luke moved to Vancouver from Whistler about 10 years ago. He still spends most of his weekends outdoors with his fiancée and two-and-a-half-year-old golden retriever: hiking and camping, or skiing in Whistler where his family still lives.
He first began working at St. Paul’s during his nursing degree, when he was placed at the hospital as part of his practicum. During that time, he became familiar with the work of various departments such as the general surgical ward and the medicine program.
Luke was especially drawn to the clinical experience, and upon graduation, he returned to St. Paul’s as a full-time staff member. “I like the hands-on aspect of working bedside, and the opportunity to work with different clinical populations as opposed to conducting more research-based or more community-based work.”
While no day is the same, Luke says there’s one thing each shift has in common: they’re busy. But he gets by with a little help from his coworkers.
“The teamwork and the folks I work with – from my nurse colleagues to allied health, the housekeeping staff, and the care aids – are a big part of why I’m still working in the same area at St. Paul’s,” he says. “It can be a challenging and stressful environment, so it’s pretty critical to have people you trust and who you know can support you.”
“The people I work with are a big part of what keeps me going,” he adds.
When asked how it feels to have made such an incredible impact on a patient such as James, Luke responds in his characteristically humble manner. “It certainly is a good feeling,” he replies. “For somebody to go to those lengths to express their gratitude to you, it feels great.”
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