Member Spotlight: Humeira Dhanji (Part 1 of 2)

Humeira Dhanji is a Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS) for the Acute Pain Service in Calgary. She is the embodiment of the definition of a patient advocate. She is thorough, persistent and dedicated.

If you’ve ever met Humeira, you know she takes her job seriously and takes much pride in her work. If you ever get to know Humeira, you know she has a fantastic sense of humour and a Joie de Vivre like no other. As intense as she is at work, she manages to live life to the fullest outside the hospital walls. She is a seasoned world traveller, a mother of 2 beautiful children and a contributing member to society through her many volunteer efforts. This interview had to be broken up into two parts. The first part describes Humeira’s lighter side of life, the second describes her role as a CNS.

Q:​Where​ ​are​ ​you​ ​from?

A:​ ​I​ ​was​ ​born​ ​in​ ​Karachi,​ ​Pakistan.​ ​My​ ​parents​ ​immigrated​ ​to​ ​Calgary,​ ​Canada​ ​when​ ​I was​ ​4​ ​years​ ​old​ ​&​ ​I​ ​have​ ​lived​ ​here​ ​ever​ ​since.

Q:​ ​What​ ​has​ ​been​ ​your​ ​nursing​ ​work​ ​journey, and where do you work now? 

A:​  I​ ​graduated​ ​with​ ​a​ ​Bachelor​ ​of​ ​Nursing​ ​in​ ​1997​ ​from​ ​the​ ​University​ ​of​ ​Calgary. ​My​ ​first​ ​role​ ​as​ ​an​ ​RN​ ​was​ ​in​ ​Neurosciences​ ​on​ ​Units​ ​111/112​ ​at​ ​the Foothills​ ​Medical​ ​Centre (FMC).​ ​I​ ​cherished​ ​this​ ​role​ ​&​ ​worked​ ​there​ ​for​ ​4​ ​years. Unfortunately​ ​I​ ​ended​ ​up​ ​injuring​ ​my​ ​rotator​ ​cuff​ ​as​ ​a​ ​result​ ​of​ ​lifting​ ​a​ ​heavy​ ​stroke patient​ ​&​ ​was​ ​forced​ ​to​ ​leave​ ​that​ ​line​ ​of​ ​work. I then worked on Unit 81, ​Medical​ ​Cardiology ​at​ ​FMC.​ ​This field complemented​ ​my​ ​background​ ​in​ ​the​ ​neurosciences​ ​&​ ​pushed​ ​me​ ​to​ ​pursue​ ​my graduate​ ​degree.

I took two years off of work and in 2004, I obtained​ ​my​ ​Masters​ ​in​ ​Nursing​ ​from​ ​the​ ​University​ ​of​ ​Calgary​ ​with​ ​a focus​ ​on​ ​Cardiology​, ​specifically​ ​on​ ​patients​ ​living​ ​with​ ​ICDs​ ​(implantable cardioverter​ ​defibrillators). When I went back to work I joined​ ​Unit​ ​94,​ ​Cardiovascular​ ​Intensive​ ​Care​ ​Unit, ​at FMC where I ​provided​ ​1:1​ ​or​ ​1:2​ ​care​ ​for​ ​patients​ ​after​ ​open-heart​ ​surgery. Finally, in 2005, I became a​ ​CNS​ ​with​ ​the​ ​APS​, originally ​at Rockyview​ ​General​ ​Hospital​, and​ ​currently​ ​at​ ​FMC.

Q:​ ​What​ ​drove​ ​you​ ​to​ ​pursue​ ​a​ ​Master’s​ ​in​ ​Nursing?

A:​ ​I​ ​wanted​ ​to​ ​do​ ​more​ ​in​ ​my​ ​role​ ​as​ ​a​ ​nurse.​ ​I​ ​knew​ ​there​ ​were​ ​changes​ ​that​ ​needed to​ ​occur​ ​in​ ​the​ ​workplace​ ​and​ ​I​ ​felt​ ​powerless​ ​in​ ​my​ ​position​ ​at​ ​the​ ​time​ ​to modify​ ​them.​ ​​ ​I​ ​am​ ​referring​ ​specifically​ ​to​ ​the​ ​way​ ​nursing​ ​policies​ ​&​ ​procedures were​ ​written​ ​or​ ​carried​ ​out.​ ​When​ ​I​ ​discovered​ ​that​ ​something​ ​was​ ​unsafe​ ​or​ ​could be​ ​carried​ ​out​ ​in​ ​a​ ​manner​ ​that​ ​provided​ ​better​ ​quality​ ​care​ ​for​ ​a​ ​patient,​ ​I​ ​wasn’t always​ ​heard.​ ​A​ ​large​ ​part​ ​of​ ​the​ ​nursing​ ​role​ ​is​ ​being​ ​a​ ​patient​ ​advocate.​ ​I​ ​felt​ ​I​ ​was doing​ ​a​ ​disservice​ ​to​ ​my​ ​patients​ ​whenever​ ​a​ ​situation​ ​like​ ​this​ ​occurred​ ​and​ ​I​ ​was unable​ ​to​ ​ameliorate​ ​it.

Q:​ ​What​ ​does​ ​a​ ​typical​ ​work​ ​day​ ​look​ ​like​ ​for​ ​you? 

A:​ ​My​ ​typical​ ​work​ ​day​ ​can​ ​occur​ ​in​ ​1​ ​of​ ​3​ ​ways: I am the only nurse responsible to do APS rounds, I am one of a team of nurses to do APS rounds, or I have a non-clinical day. On clinical days, I​ ​come​ ​in​ ​to​ ​work,​ ​look​ ​up​ ​APS​ ​patients,​ ​do​ ​morning​ ​rounds​ ​with​ ​the Anesthesiologist​ ​&​ ​determine​ ​the​ ​best​ ​patient care plans.​ ​We then re-assess​ ​the​ ​patients​ ​in​ ​the​ ​afternoon​ ​to​ ​see​ ​if​ ​what​ ​was​ ​implemented​ ​was effective.​ Throughout the day, we​ receive​ ​consults​ ​for​ ​developing​ ​an​ ​effective​ ​& comprehensive​ ​analgesic​ ​regimen​ ​in​ ​complex​ ​pain​ ​patients​ ​(i.e.​ ​extensive trauma,​ ​acute​ ​on​ ​chronic​ ​pain,​ ​opioid​ ​dependency,​ ​and​ ​cancer​ ​pain​ ​patients).

My non-clinical time consists of meetings​ ​for​ ​policy​ ​&​ ​protocol​ ​development,​ ​teaching​ ​or​ ​developing​ ​APS workshops​ ​/​ ​in-services​ ​(which​ ​can​ ​involve​ ​a​ ​myriad​ ​of​ ​topics​ ​on pain for various audiences), participating​ ​in​ ​safety​ ​reviews​, and ensuring that​ APS​ ​teaching​ ​and​ ​information​ ​resources​ ​are​ ​kept​ ​up​ ​to​ ​date​ ​on our​ ​APS​ ​website. Of course, there are always ​clinical​ ​or​ ​nonclinical​ ​issues that​ ​arise​ ​regarding​ ​acute​ ​pain​ ​management throughout the day.

Q:​ ​What​ ​do​ ​you​ ​like​ ​most​ ​about​ ​where​ ​you​ ​work?

A:​ ​I​ ​feel​ ​very​ ​fortunate​ ​to​ ​be​ ​in​ ​a​ ​position​ ​that​ ​allows​ ​me​ ​to​ ​work​ ​to​ ​my​ ​full​ ​scope​ ​of practice.​ ​​ ​As​ ​a​ ​result​ ​of​ ​this,​ ​I​ ​feel​ ​valued​ ​in​ ​the​ ​work​ ​place.​ ​The​ ​APS ​consists​ ​of​ ​Anesthesiologists,​ ​CNSs​​ ​and​ ​Nurse​ ​Clinicians and ​is​ ​based​ ​on​ ​a​ ​collaborative​ ​approach.​ ​Pain​ ​management​ ​for​ ​a​ ​patient​ ​is discussed​ ​amongst​ ​all​ ​those​ ​rounding​ ​on​ ​the​ ​patient​ ​that​ ​day​ ​and​ ​the​ ​various options​ ​are​ ​evaluated,​ ​allowing​ ​us​ ​to​ ​come​ ​up​ ​with​ ​the​ ​best​ ​plan​ ​for​ ​that​ ​particular patient.​ ​

I​ ​also​ ​love​ ​what​ ​I​ ​do.​ ​How​ ​well​ ​pain​ ​is​ ​managed​ ​can​ ​determine​ ​the​ ​course​ ​of​ ​a patient’s​ ​illness​ ​trajectory.​ ​It​ ​is​ ​very​ ​rewarding​ ​going​ ​home​ ​knowing​ ​a​ ​patient​ ​that was​ ​previously​ ​in​ ​agonizing​ ​pain,​ ​now​ ​rates​ ​their​ ​pain​ ​as​ ​“mild​ ​and​ ​tolerable”​ ​as​ ​a result​ ​of​ ​the​ ​analgesia​ ​plan​ ​provided​ ​by​ ​APS.

Q:​ ​What​ ​is​ ​the​ ​most​ ​important​ ​thing​ ​you​ ​think​ ​nurses​ ​should​ ​know​ ​about​ ​pain control?

A:​ ​Pain​ ​management​ ​is​ ​vital​ ​in​ ​a​ ​patient’s​ ​recovery.​ ​Pain​ ​is​ ​a​ ​stressor​ ​and​ ​if​ ​left untreated​ ​or​ ​uncontrolled​ ​for​ ​a​ ​prolonged​ ​period​ ​of​ ​time​ ​can​ ​heighten​ ​the​ ​stress response​ ​resulting​ ​in​ ​decreased​ ​immunity​ ​and​ ​increased​ ​cortisol​ ​levels​, ​thereby increasing​ ​insulin​ ​resistance.​ ​​ ​Poorly​ ​controlled​ ​acute​ ​pain​ ​for​ ​an​ ​extended​ ​period​ ​of time​ ​can​ ​result​ ​in​ ​chronic​ ​pain​ ​which​ ​is​ ​irreversible.

Q:​Looking​ ​back,​ ​if​ ​you​ ​could​ ​give​ ​your​ ​new​ ​nurse​ ​self​ ​some​ ​advice​ ​what​ ​would​ ​it​ ​be?

A:​ ​Advice​ ​for​ ​my​ ​new​ ​nurse​ ​self​ ​would​ ​be:

  1. Hindsight​ ​is​ ​20/20​. ​When​ ​an​ ​adverse​ ​situation​ ​occurs​ ​in​ ​the​ ​workplace,​ ​don’t​ ​be so​ ​hard​ ​on​ ​myself.​ ​It’s​ ​simple​ ​to​ ​look​ ​back​ ​on​ ​a​ ​situation,​ ​evaluate​ ​it​ ​&​ ​determine the​ ​best​ ​course​ ​of​ ​action​ ​to​ ​take.​ ​However,​ ​the​ ​solution​ ​is​ ​not​ ​so​ ​easily determined​ ​when​ ​one​ ​is​ ​in​ ​the​ ​midst​ ​of​ ​an​ ​unfavorable​ ​clinical​ ​situation occurring.
  2. It​ ​is​ ​ok​ ​to​ ​laugh.​​ ​Nursing​ ​can​ ​be​ ​very​ ​rewarding,​ ​however​ ​it​ ​can​ ​also​ ​be​ ​very challenging​ ​(both​ ​physically​ ​and​ ​emotionally).​ ​It​ ​is​ ​ok​ ​to​ ​look​ ​back​ ​&​ ​laugh​ ​at yourself​ ​&​ ​the​ ​situations​ ​you​ ​had​ ​been​ ​in.​ ​​ ​Being​ ​able​ ​to​ ​find​ ​humor​ ​in​ ​certain stressful​ ​situations​ ​can​ ​increase​ ​job​ ​satisfaction.​ ​In​ ​order​ ​to​ ​excel​ ​at​ ​something, you​ ​need​ ​to​ ​enjoy​ ​it.​ ​In​ ​order​ ​to​ ​enjoy​ ​it,​ ​there​ ​has​ ​to​ ​be​ ​some​ ​laughter.
  3. You​ ​don’t​ ​have​ ​to​ ​know​ ​it​ ​all​.​ ​You​ ​are​ ​not​ ​perfect​ ​and​ ​you​ ​don’t​ ​have​ ​to​ ​be.​ ​It​ ​is​ ​ok to​ ​ask​ ​for​ ​help​ ​when​ ​you​ ​need​ ​it.​ ​No​ ​one​ ​knows​ ​everything.​ ​​ ​As​ ​you​ ​progress​ ​in your​ ​nursing​ ​career,​ ​your​ ​knowledge​ ​base​ ​will​ ​expand.​ ​Through​ ​time​ ​you​ ​will​ ​be able​ ​to​ ​draw​ ​from​ ​your​ ​clinical​ ​experiences​ ​to​ ​help​ ​you​ ​with​ ​your​ ​decision making.​ ​Your​ ​clinical​ ​experience​ ​will​ ​become​ ​one​ ​of​ ​your​ ​most​ ​valuable resources.
  4. Trust​ ​your​ ​intuition​.​ ​This​ ​is​ ​easier​ ​said​ ​than​ ​done.​ ​Once​ ​in​ ​a​ ​while​ ​you​ ​will​ ​get​ ​a “gut​ ​feeling”​ ​about​ ​your​ ​patient.​ ​There​ ​is​ ​no​ ​scholarly​ ​article​ ​explaining​ ​why​ ​you feel​ ​a​ ​certain​ ​way​ ​about​ ​their​ ​illness​ ​trajectory,​ ​or​ ​why​ ​you​ ​should​ ​take​ ​one course​ ​of​ ​action​ ​over​ ​another​ ​to​ ​obtain​ ​the​ ​ideal​ ​clinical​ ​outcome​ ​for​ ​them.​ ​You just​ ​“know”​ ​or​ ​“sense”​ ​which​ ​outcome​ ​will​ ​be​ ​the​ ​most​ ​favorable​ ​for​ ​them.​ ​Trust this​ ​feeling.

Q:​ ​​Why​ ​is​ ​the​ ​union​ ​important​ ​to​ ​you?​ ​And,​ ​do​ ​you​ ​think​ ​it’s​ ​important​ ​to​ ​the​ ​CNS​ ​role​ ​in​ ​general? 

A:​ ​​ The union is a unified voice among nurses, representing our collective interests. It ensures that our working conditions remain humane and protects our nursing rights. Because of the union nurses have job security, suitable wages, benefits, vacation, and so forth.

The​ ​union’s​ ​support​ ​is​ ​imperative​ ​to​ ​the​ ​CNS​ ​role.​ ​Even though​ ​the​ ​CNS​ ​role​ ​is​ ​defined​ ​by​ ​the​ ​CNA,​ ​it​ ​is due to ​the​ ​union​ ​that​ ​the​ ​role​ ​delineation​ ​between​ ​a​ ​Registered​ ​Nurse​ ​&​ ​a CNS​ ​is​ ​upheld.​ ​This​ ​allows​ ​me​ ​to​ ​work​ ​to​ ​my​ ​full​ ​scope​ ​of practice.

Q:​ ​What​ ​is​ ​your​ ​favorite​ ​thing​ ​to​ ​do​ ​in​ ​Calgary?

A:​ ​My​ ​favorite​ ​thing​ ​to​ ​do​ ​is​ ​just​ ​outside​ ​of​ ​Calgary​ ​in​ ​the​ ​Rockies.​ ​I​ ​love​ ​hiking​ ​&​ ​feel very​ ​fortunate​ ​to​ ​live​ ​such​ ​a​ ​short​ ​distance​ ​from​ ​Banff,​ ​Canmore,​ ​Kananaskis​ ​&​ ​Lake Louise.​ ​I​ ​find​ ​peace​ ​&​ ​inner​ ​balance​ ​when​ ​I​ ​get​ ​the​ ​opportunity​ ​to​ ​connect​ ​with nature.  I​ ​also​ ​love​ ​bike​ ​riding​ ​with​ ​my​ ​kids!

Q:​ ​What​ ​is​ ​your​ ​favorite​ ​restaurant/place​ ​to​ ​shop/book/movie/TV​ ​show?

A:​ ​​​Restaurants​ ​are​ ​like​ ​shoes.​ ​You​ ​can’t​ ​just​ ​have​ ​1​ ​favorite!! I​ ​love​ ​to​ ​eat​ ​so​ ​I​ ​have​ ​a​ ​few​ ​favorite​ ​places​ ​–​ ​OEB​ ​breakfast​ ​(Breakfast​ ​is​ ​my​ ​favorite meal​ ​of​ ​the​ ​day​ ​–​ ​a​ ​good​ ​breakfast​ ​sets​ ​the​ ​tone​ ​for​ ​the​ ​day),​ ​Tango​ ​Bistro,​ ​Anju restaurant,​ ​and​ ​The​ ​Keg​ ​to​ ​name​ ​a​ ​few.

As for shopping, ​I​ ​love​ ​a​ ​good​ ​sale!​ ​I’m​ ​not​ ​a​ ​fan​ ​of​ ​buying​ ​regular​ ​price​ ​as​ ​I believe​ ​everything​ ​eventually​ ​comes​ ​on​ ​sale.​ ​But​ ​I’ll​ ​shop​ ​wherever​ ​I​ ​can​ ​find​ ​a​ ​cute outfit​ ​at​ ​a​ ​great​ ​price.

My favorite books include ​The​ ​Book​ ​of​ ​Negroes​ ​by​ ​Lawrence​ ​Hill  and ​A​ ​Thousand​ ​Splendid​ ​Sons​ ​by​ ​Khaled​ ​Hosseini

My favorite movies are ​The​ ​Shawshank​ ​Redemption and Goodwill​ ​Hunting.

My favorite TV shows are​ ​Marvel​ ​Agents​ ​of​ ​Shield,​ The​ ​Blacklist, The​ ​Big​ ​Bang​ ​Theory and ​The​ ​Mindy​ ​Project.

As​ ​I’m​ ​sure​ ​you’ve​ ​noticed​ ​above,​ ​I​ ​can’t​ ​narrow​ ​my​ ​choices​ ​to​ ​just​ ​1​ ​in​ ​any​ ​category. I​ ​believe​ ​life​ ​is​ ​vast​ ​&​ ​full​ ​of​ ​countless​ ​enjoyable​ ​diversions.​ ​I​ ​think​ ​it​ ​would​ ​be​ ​a disservice​ ​to​ ​limit​ ​my​ ​leisure​ ​pursuits​ ​to​ ​just​ ​1.

Q:​What​ ​are​ ​you​ ​looking​ ​forward​ ​to​ ​in​ ​the​ ​next​ ​year?

A:​ ​Over​ ​the​ ​next​ ​year,​ ​​ ​I​ ​hope​ ​to​ ​continue​ ​in​ ​my​ ​role​ ​as​ ​a​ ​CNS managing​ ​acute​ ​pain​ ​in​ ​patients​ ​and​ ​teaching​ ​nursing​ ​staff​ ​about​ ​optimal​ ​pain management.​ ​I​ ​would​ ​like​ ​to​ ​persist​ ​in​ ​developing​ ​various​ ​policies​ ​&​ ​protocols​ ​that continue​ ​to​ ​facilitate​ ​the​ ​delivery​ ​of​ ​the​ ​best​ ​possible​ ​analgesia​ ​for​ ​patients,​ ​and​ ​I would​ ​like​ ​to​ ​keep​ ​on​ ​delivering​ ​lectures​ ​that​ ​discuss​ ​new​ ​pain​ ​management strategies.

Q:​ ​Where​ ​do​ ​you​ ​see​ ​yourself​ ​in​ ​5​ ​years? 

A:​ ​I​ ​would​ ​like​ ​to​ ​have​ ​the​ ​opportunity​ ​to​ ​do​ ​some​ ​research​ ​in​ ​pain​ ​management​ ​and hopefully​ ​a​ ​publication​ ​could​ ​ensue​ ​from​ ​this. In my personal life… Traveling!​ ​I’ve​ ​always​ ​enjoyed​ ​seeing​ ​other​ ​parts​ ​of​ ​the​ ​world.​ ​I​ ​would​ ​like​ ​to​ ​take my​ ​family​ ​on​ ​fun​ ​vacations!

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