Mike Loncik is a Clinical Nurse Educator on the Intensive Palliative Care Unit at Foothills. He has worked in palliative care for almost 15 years and makes a conceivably difficult nursing role look easy. The connections Mike is able to make while on the job are powerful. His philosophy is to be a human first, and a professional second; this way of practice assures that he makes a meaningful difference to patients and families going through one of the most stressful events in life.
Q: Where are you from?
A: I was born in small town called Martin in Czechoslovakia. I came to Canada when I was 19.
Q: Where do you work now, and what has been your nursing work journey that has brought you there?
A: Currently, I am a Clinical Nurse Educator (CNE) on Unit 47, which is an Intensive Palliative Care Unit (IPCU) at Foothills Medical Centre (FMC). I have been working here for almost 15 years, 12 of those as a Registered Nurse, and a CNE in a temporary line for the past 2.5 years.
My journey started on Unit 37 back in 2001 when it was a locked geriatric unit. I was a nursing aide who could barely speak English. Two years later, the unit had to close for renovations to become a beautiful nephrology unit and I ended up working on Unit 57/58 at Rockyview General Hospital (RGH). While at the RGH I applied to study nursing at Mount Royal. Throughout my college years I continued working on Unit 57 & 58. I ended up getting an undergraduate summer position on Unit 47 in my 3rd year of school. The thing is, I really really wanted to work in cardiology. I thought that was my calling. I even did my final clinical practice on cardiac floor. But in the end, it wasn’t. That summer changed the way I looked at palliative care. I never looked back and have been enjoying every bit of it.
Q: What do you like most about where you work?
A: It might sound little cliché but I really enjoy working with my patients & their families. I really enjoy getting to know them, their life stories, up & downs. There is something really personal about that. These people don’t know me and most likely never knew me before. For me, it is a privilege to care for them and become part of their lives. I am a really social person and I could talk your ears off. Building rapport along with the feeling that the patients really enjoy my company and support is the best feeling ever.
Q: What is the most important thing you think nurses should know about palliative care?
A: I think the most important thing is to remember it doesn’t mean that patients are imminently dying. Yes, there might not be a cure for their conditions, but with our care and symptom management, most of the patients are able to return home and with home care support, live regular lives.
Q: Could you describe your role of Clinical Nurse Educator for us?
A: The Educator role is quite extensive. It involves development, maintenance and implementation of policies, protocols and guidelines on provincial, zone and site levels. It also involves development of unit specific policies and protocols through collaboration with specialty services and our unit’s multidisciplinary & management team. Once the development is finalized, I work with the unit floor staff to implement the changes into practice and set expectations for maintenance of their competencies. In addition to all this, my role involves teaching palliative symptom management for the new hires, and FMC Skills Days every month for staff to renew their knowledge about infusion pumps, TPN, trachs, CVCs and epidural/intrathecal pain management and troubleshooting. Lastly, my role involves teaching patients and families about their epidural and intrathecal pain management and troubleshooting when they transition from our care to their home environment.
All in all, imagine a rain barrel. Instead of the water I collect all the new information, sift through it and disperse it to staff and patients to ensure great care & support.
Q: What does a typical workday look like for you?
A: My day can usually be split into 3 different parts:
- Unit support and professional development (such as rolling out various initiatives, policy & protocol support, and unit specific orientation)
- Stakeholder group collaboration (such as policy, protocol & guidelines development)
- Regional / Site duties (such as teaching in GNO, AMNSP & FMC Skills days)
I always like to be informed about the unit. I like to know about the patients, and nurses working the floor. My day starts off with the night to day clinician’s handover. I listen to the report and from there I determine which nurse needs help, and which patients’ situation (or need) would be a good learning opportunity for the nurses. Once the report is finished, I check my messages, email and my schedule. If I am not teaching or attending meetings I really like to help out on the floor. I truly believe learning comes from practice and what better way to do it than on the floor with the patients. I have an open door policy for anyone needing an advice or help with their practice. In between, there is always something to do, like new policies, guidelines or initiatives that need to be looked over and rolled out to staff on the unit. For the past two years ,our unit has been through accreditation, and i can tell you that there was never a dull day, but I wouldn’t want it any other way.
Q: Your bedside manner as a palliative care nurse is kind, empathetic and holistic. What is it about palliative care that drives you to keep up a high standard of care?
A: One has to really appreciate the complexity of palliation; and I sure do. It took me little more time to really appreciate the whole aspect of palliative care, but once I gained some experience and knowledge I was able to understand the most simple part of it; it’s really being a human first and professional second. Patients appreciate the human aspect of care first with professionalism and experience connected to it. This should be the essential part of nursing.
Every patient on our unit is in some sort of crisis, whether it is medical, psychosocial, emotional or financial. They deserve to be treated the way we would treat our own family and friends. It might sound cliché but I have seen nursing become “a job”, automatic with little emotion and personality. And that is exactly what drives me to keep up a high standard of care. It is not therapeutic in any way to just show up for the job, dispense some medications, do the mandatory checks and go home. I love being present, right there, with the patient and the family.
Q: In your opinion, what are some of the challenges education in the workplace is facing?
A: I think the general availability of information is the biggest challenge to education. The internet is saturated with all kinds of information. The problem is, the information available is not always correct, or the source is not always the most credible. As much as I love Google and other search sites, I also hate them. The easiness of access is also its greatest fault; everyone has easy access! It can be quite challenging for the nurse or nurse educator to convey a correct message without causing a negative effect on the patient-nurse rapport. This also applies to health care professionals: searching for correct information requires effort along with the right attitude. The challenge comes with “being busy”, “I studied so much I don’t have time to do this” or “school is over for me, now I just have to work” attitudes. It requires modelling of prudent behaviour.
Q: Being a male in a female dominated profession, what are some of the challenges you face that you don’t see your female colleagues facing?
A: To be honest, thorough out my nursing career I have been fortunate to work with a great team of people who made it possible for all the challenges to disappear or be overcome with ease. Most of the challenges come with cultural and personal differences which can be overcome with appropriate support from all of my nursing friends.
Q: Looking back, if you could give your new nurse self some advice what would it be?
A: I would tell myself to slow & calm down and most of all, leave work at work! My first 2 years of nursing were little bit anxious and restless. I would think that it was up to me to do everything and finish everything on time before I went home. I didn’t really understand the “nursing is a 24 hour job” phrase. I lost of lot of sleep and days off because of that! Oh the young years of nursing!
Q: Why is the union important to you? And, do you think it’s important to special roles like yours in general?
A: Union is exactly what it says it is: a unifying body and a backbone for all nurses (not just special role nurses). I am very proud to be represented by the largest and the strongest Union in North America. It gives me sense of security and ease of mind.
The union provides lots of educational opportunities for new and seasoned nurses, whether it involved scholarships for ongoing education, or post secondary opportunities. I personally think that’s an amazing thing, especially in these times when it is harder to come by extra money to get the desired education.
Q: What is your favourite thing to do in Calgary?
A: I only work in Calgary 🙂 My playground is outside of Calgary. I love the mountains, hiking, camping and anything that involves lakes, rivers and trees 🙂
Q: What is your favourite restaurant/place to shop/book/movie/TV show?
A: I love Vietnamese food. Any good Vietnamese restaurant will do. I’m not picky!
I’m a music junkie: love shopping at RecordLand, Melodiya Records, Sloth Records & Amazon.
My favourite book Is The Naked and the Dead by Norman Mailer.
My favourite movies are Braveheart and The Exorcist (which are pretty old!). From the newer ones, I’d say Deadpool takes the crown. It’s hard with TV shows, I start watching them, then lose interest, and that is it. I would say: Six Feet Under, Sopranos, Game of Thrones , Shameless (US) and Ozark are the ones I have successfully dedicated my time to!
Q: What are you looking forward to in the next year?
A: I’m looking forward to returning back to bed side care. I liked being an educator, learn new skills and experience different, more extended side of nursing role, but I really do miss our multidisciplinary team & floor nurses. Basically, I miss the simple, more patient and bedside dedicated side of nursing.
Q: Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
A: I don’t look that far. I’m not a planner, which drives my wife crazy. I’d like to enjoy bedside nursing for a little while and maybe look into clinician practice in the future, but like I said, nothing is set in stone!