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The International Year of the Nurse and the Midwife: Sarah Matos

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Smiling woman taking a selfie on a bridge with a beautiful teal river behind her.
Sarah pictured in Whitehorse, Yukon. This photo was from a trip to Atlin, BC in 2019 (a community Sarah supports).

The World Health Organization has designated 2020 the International Year of the Nurse and the Midwife.

As part of this year-long celebration, Northern Health is highlighting a different nurse or midwife each month. For August, we interviewed Sarah Matos, a public health resource nurse in Kitimat!

Thanks for taking the time to share your story with us, Sarah!

Where do you live? How do you feel about it?

I live in Kitimat and I feel great about it! I was born and raised in Kitimat and did my nursing program in Terrace which is about half an hour away. I have family and friends here. My family and I love the area. I have three kids and a husband — it’s nice to have family close by.

Tell us about your nursing experience and role(s).

In 2009, I graduated and went into public health nursing for two years. I worked at the health unit in Prince Rupert and then moved back to Kitimat in 2011 where I continued to work as a public health nurse. In 2016, after Northern Health had a structure change, my position changed to a primary care nurse with a focus on public health work. I was also cross-trained in home care nursing and wound care management.

In 2017, I accepted a temporary public health resource nurse (PHRN) role for a year and a half. Then I had the opportunity to apply for the role full time. I got the job and here I am now! Currently, I support the interprofessional teams in Kitimat, Terrace, Stewart, and Atlin.

Working as a PHRN, I don’t do front line work anymore. Instead, I support front line nurses doing public health functions. These functions can include: running child health clinics for childhood immunizations, flu immunization programs, options for sexual health clinics (STI testing, birth control etc.), school health, and communicable disease management (case management, contact tracing, and follow-up) for diseases like measles, pertussis, and many others.

What do you like about your role?

One of the main reasons I wanted to get into this role, was to challenge my leadership skills. I enjoy helping, teaching, and orientating the front line nurses. I get to help them with their decision making and point them in the right direction. I act as an advocate and a link between the interprofessional teams on the front lines and public health.

I love the constant learning in this role — or any nursing role, really. So far, I've learned so much! I also love the team that I work with. We work really well together. Public health nursing has definitely been a passion area for me. In this role, you’re really able to be creative and innovative. There’s a lot of potential for that.  

What impact does your role have on patients?

I have an indirect impact on patients. This can be challenging at times. As a front line nurse, it’s easier to feel that direct satisfaction. You get that wholesome connection and feedback from patients — you’re satisfied that you’ve made a difference.

Being the link and advocate in my role now, I'm able to help front line nurses do a better job and help them do good public health work. It feels good when you talk to the front lines and help them through something. I don't direct people — we always look at the evidence and literature, and then make a decision together. We work collaboratively together. 

What has your nursing background taught you?

A bunch of things! My background has enhanced my passion and love for public health promotion and work. I think the importance of public health nursing can sometimes get lost in the realm of nursing and perhaps not be as appreciated. I feel like since the COVID-19 pandemic, the importance of public health nursing has been highlighted.

What made you want to go into nursing?

When I was a child I was diagnosed with leukemia — that was what sparked my interest in nursing. The compassion, care, and work ethic I saw at the BC Children’s Hospital fired my interest. The nursing program came out in Terrace, BC when I was in high school. This made it more appealing as it was a short distance from home. I felt like nursing fit my qualities as a person and that it would be a nice opportunity.

What’s one thing about nurses that you wish you could tell everyone?

I think our number one goal as nurses is to obtain optimal holistic health for our clients and communities. Our work is so important to us.

What drew you to NH?

I was born and raised here and have family in the area. My husband and I wanted to raise our family here. We have no intention of moving! We love what the area has to offer: the outdoors and the scenery. We love the small community and that small community connection. I have close relationships working at the health unit.

Happy International Year of the Nurse and Midwife!

Thanks for taking the time to share your story with us, Sarah. We wish every nurse and midwife in the North a happy International Year of the Nurse and Midwife!