Much has changed since Doreen Van Eaton began her career as a licensed practical nurse (LPN).
When Van Eaton first began working as an LPN in Athabasca, Peter Lougheed was Alberta’s premier, the average house price in Canada was $30,426, a loaf of bread cost 25 cents, The Godfather was the highest grossing film, and Gordon Lightfoot released his song, Alberta Bound.
That was 1972.
In February 2022, Van Eaton will mark 50 years as an LPN at Athabasca Hospital, about two hours north of Edmonton.
She first became interested in a career in health care as a youth while caring for animals as part of her chores on a dairy farm near Tees, Alberta, northeast of Red Deer, and then witnessing health care while visiting her grandmothers when they were in the hospital.
“I watched nurses who were dedicated, caring, compassionate, and loyal,” Van Eaton recalled.
After graduating from the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology (SAIT) in Calgary, she began working as an LPN, a role that requires one to observe, assess, monitor, and document patient symptoms, reactions, and progress.
LPNs can also administer medications prescribed by doctors, perform medical procedures, and educate and inform patients about nutrition, self-care, medication management, and disease prevention.
“Enjoy your work, consider your patients first, work in the full scope of your practice, and continue taking education courses.”
Licensed practical nurse Doreen Van Eaton’s words of wisdom for up-and-coming nurses
Van Eaton set out with a goal of working for 45 years. She has witnessed many changes over the years in areas ranging from technology and new diagnostic equipment to health professional specialties, emerging treatments, and people being able to stay in their homes longer.
However, one thing that remains the same is Van Eaton’s passion for delivering the best possible care.
This passion hasn’t gone unnoticed.
Van Eaton was a nominee for the Laura Crawford Excellence in Nursing Practice Award through the Fredrickson-McGregor Education Foundation for LPNs at the College of Licensed Practical Nurses of Alberta. This award recognizes LPNs who display exemplary nursing knowledge, promote an atmosphere of teamwork, mentor team members, and show pride in their profession.
“It was a pleasure and an honour for my co-workers to recognize my care and compassion for each patient,” she said.
Van Eaton also enjoys passing along her knowledge to colleagues.
“I get a sincere feeling of satisfaction from mentoring my colleagues and LPNs, [emergency medical technicians], and primary care paramedic students,” she added.
Van Eaton is also registered with Alberta Health Services as a primary care paramedic.
Her approach to patients is “to be very professional, a good listener, providing patients with the most excellent care within my scope of practice.”
Van Eaton is renowned for her non-stop effort while on duty. She works three 12-hour shifts on, three off in the emergency nursing ward.
“I like to make sure that all patient needs are cared for before I go off shift,” she said.
That creates a win-win situation. Patients and their families ask for her by name.
“I value the kind, heartwarming, and complimentary feedback I receive from patients,” Van Eaton added.
Her advice to up-and-coming nurses: “Enjoy your work, consider your patients first, work in the full scope of your practice, and continue taking education courses.”
Van Eaton practises what she preaches, continually updating her knowledge.
She’s received two medals for her service from St. John Ambulance, and instructs first aid and CPR for that agency and the Heart and Stroke Foundation.
As if everyday life doesn’t keep Van Eaton busy enough, she’s also active in giving back locally.
Van Eaton set up the tranquility scene outside the palliative care facility with the assistance of a registered nurse and community members.
She also provides medical care at sports events and volunteers with Victims Services and the Ladies Branch of the Royal Canadian Legion.
“[Doreen] always considers the needs of the patients first. [She] will always go over and above in her line of duty for each one and their families. She’s very knowledgeable and is continuously taking courses to update her abilities.”
— Gladys Spence, a licensed practical nurse, who worked with Doreen Van Eaton for more than two decades
Another LPN, Gladys Spence, served with Doreen for more than 20 years.
“I enjoyed my working career with [Doreen]. She always made her co-workers feel confident and comfortable,” said Spence. Her manner was always very caring and professional, bringing out the best in her colleagues—certainly a positive influence to the facility and the community.”
Spence explained that Van Eaton’s bedside manner reflects her expertise, thoroughness, and loving delivery.
“[Doreen] always considers the needs of the patients first. She will always go over and above in her line of duty for each one and their families. She’s very knowledgeable and is continuously taking courses to update her abilities.”
Spence added that Van Eaton’s greatest strength is teaching and mentoring co-workers. She invests endless hours with students and her health-care colleagues to increase their expertise.
“Her kindness is never-ending. She’s always willing and is graciously helping out wherever she can.”