Registered nurse, Lawrence McNeil, knew rural Alberta was where he belonged even before he enrolled in nursing school in Edmonton.
McNeil was working part-time as an emergency medical technician in Westlock when he wrapped up his nursing degree in the mid ’90s. The single dad picked up a pen, drew a circle with a 500 km radius around Edmonton (his preferred region to work) on an Alberta map, and applied for nursing positions at about 52 rural hospitals within that area.
McNeil quickly found his way into the emergency department, a place that had intrigued him whenever he dropped off ambulance patients in Westlock.
In these small little towns, you have to be an emergency room nurse, an intensive care unit nurse, a geriatric nurse, an obstetric nurse, pediatric nurse, all at the same time, because we see everything, a lot.”
– Lawrence McNeil, registered nurse
He recalls being on his own during a shift when a cardiac case arrived in the emergency department.
“A patient came in, and there was no time I couldn’t inform the doctor, [so] I did the labs. I called the second nurse down [from acute care], and we saved his life. He had a 100 per cent block[age in his heart], but we gave the appropriate treatments. By the time I phoned the doctor, [the patient] was stabilized,” McNeil recalled.
“When we get calls from bigger centres saying, ‘Good job; you saved his life,’ that’s the reward. That’s the memories for me, the big cases where [we made] a difference.”
“That’s actually why I went into nursing: [to] make a difference; to save lives; to do something thats going to have a good outcome,” McNeil added.
McNeil appreciates being able to make use of all of his training and work to his full scope of practice, a rare occurrence in larger hospitals.
“In these small little towns, you have to be an emergency room nurse, an intensive care unit nurse, a geriatric nurse, an obstetric nurse, pediatric nurse, all at the same time, because we see everything, a lot.”
Living in rural Alberta has other major benefits, said McNeil, an avid outdoorsman, who enjoys the big game hunting and fishing opportunities nearby.
More than that, he insisted,“[It’s a] very welcoming community. We’re friends inside and outside of the hospital. It’s just the way a small community is … Where else can you go to the grocery store in your pajamas?
“The biggest thing is, I found my wife here.”
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