“Nurses are angels in comfortable shoes.”
In May VHA Registered Nurse Heather Jacques-Henry had an eventful trip home from her regular shift at a children’s school. She was at a subway station in Toronto and heard a group of teenage boys talking about one of them being cut. Glancing over, she noticed the leg of one of the boys was bleeding heavily, so she immediately jumped into action to help. Heather started talking to the boys and soon found out the injury was the result of a stabbing. “I wasn’t sure if it was safe for me, or the boys, or the others in the TTC station, but I knew I needed to act quickly to help stabilize the boy,” Heather says.
With no one else offering to assist, she took charge of the situation. “I told one boy to call 911; I asked another to inform TTC staff to make sure everyone at the station would be safe; and I sent another to get water. One of the boys had a sweater, so together we wrapped it around the wound and I had the boy who was injured apply hard pressure to control the bleeding. He was so scared. He kept asking me if he was going to die,” remembers Heather. “I did my best to reassure him that help was on the way and we were doing all we could to stop the bleeding.”
Heather recalls, “What the boys needed more than anything was someone to reassure them and for someone to take charge of the situation. The boy I had asked to call 911 sounded so relieved on the phone with EMS. I heard him say ‘Thank God we have a nurse here, she’s helping us’ and it made me proud and glad to be able to help.”
“You never know how you will react in a situation like that,” Heather adds. “I remembered from my Sick Kids training at VHA – Presence of Mind: stay calm and think it through. That is what helped me get through it.”
Eventually EMS came and took over. Heather remembers offering them gloves and hand sanitizer, because she was not used to having someone else involved. “It was hard for me to let go, but when they took out all their fancy gear, I realized that I was NOT a paramedic,” she laughs.
“I remember questioning whether as a nurse I was supposed to help people who are not my clients, and at the same time wondering if there was more I could have done. If I knew it was a stabbing before I got involved, I may have been more scared and less confident, but in that moment, I just acted,” she shares emotionally.
“In the end I am very glad I did it, and I would do it again in a heartbeat. I have never been more proud to be a nurse, and I felt so grateful for my training. That is why I got into nursing – to help people. It made me want to be an even better nurse. Now I want to do more training so I could offer even more help in situations like that.”
Heather’s advice for other nurses:
The skills and the training we have is not just for a job. If you’re a nurse and you can help someone even outside of your job, then do it. Offering help and comfort to someone in need means everything to them, and you should be proud of what you can do as a nurse.
It is never just about the client you visit. We are all affected by everyone around us in our communities, so when you help your clients, you are also helping the client’s family and everyone in their community.
Open communication with your supervisor is very important. After the incident, my supervisor, Ethelyn Pilapil, was so supportive, and understood what I was going through as a fellow nurse. Ethelyn was everything I hoped my supervisor would be for me in that moment, and I encourage you to always talk to your supervisor.
About Heather Jacques-Henry:
Heather Jacques-Henry‘s nursing career began a year ago when she joined VHA. As a Registered Nurse, she works partly with children at a school and runs overnight respite for mostly infant to toddler clients. Before getting her nursing degree, Heather studied International Development & Political Science. Eventually, her desire to help others led her into nursing.