Introducing 2020 HHS Nursing Excellence Award winner Edita Hajdini
“I was meant to be a nurse,” says Registered Nurse Edita Hajdini, who has worked in the neuro-trauma intensive care unit (ICU) at Hamilton General Hospital (HGH) for the last eight years. Before that, she cared for patients in a range of areas including palliative care, complex care, orthopedics, medicine, and the burn trauma unit for a total of 15 years of nursing experience.
We spoke with Edita, one of the 2020 recipients of Hamilton Health Sciences’ Nursing Excellence Award, to learn about her work.
Nice to meet you, Edita! Did you always want to be a nurse?
As a young person, I wanted to be in the fashion industry but I loved sciences in high school. I started my career as a practical nurse to explore this area of medicine and fell in love with it. In short, I never really knew much about nursing but when I was exposed to it, I knew right away that I was meant to be a nurse. I initially began my nursing career as a practical nurse in palliative care. I realized that I loved caring for people so much that I decided to go back to school and obtain my nursing degree.
What have you learned working as an ICU nurse?
My passion for helping others and working alongside a team that is dedicated, highly skilled and compassionate has made me realize why I love what I do even more. In these last few weeks, I have especially realized how important teamwork is. I am fortunate to work with people who are compassionate and hard-working despite the challenges we face. During times as these, teamwork is what gets you through the day.
You won a 2020 HHS Nursing Excellence Award for Innovation & Quality. Tell us about some of your accomplishments in that area.
Five years ago, I recognized opportunities where end of life care (EOL) in the ICU could be improved. I collaborated with partners to develop standardized order sets for withdrawal of life support. This means I was able standardize care between colleagues and institutions and promote a collective approach when managing patient’s symptoms at the end of life.
I implemented an “EOL Sign” to be placed outside of a dying patient’s room to create situational awareness that a patient is dying. This has indirectly led to decreased noise level in the ICU and enhanced patient and family privacy and experience at the bedside.
I also created two palliative rooms in our ICU funded by a generous family member and grant approvals. The rooms mimic a home-like environment for patients and families, which allows for a dignified, peaceful space for families to grieve while spending their last valuable moments with their loved ones.
It’s clear that one of your passions is to enhance end of life care. What improvements do you hope to see?
Since the beginning of nursing career, I have been particularly passionate about palliative care and EOL care. My experience with chairing the EOL committee and being involved in the work mentioned above has motivated me to continue pursuing this field of medicine in hopes that one day I can be a catalyst for improvement.
As a facilitator of the Serious Illness Conversation Guide at HHS, I have been involved with educating and promoting the importance of “goals of care” discussions. As a system, we may fail to recognize a person’s wishes, beliefs and values in a timely manner, which then limits our ability to create individualized care plans, especially at the EOL. Our current care plans focus on medical interventions rather than exploring a person’s wishes, values and beliefs.
My experience has connected me with a network of like-minded clinicians and researchers. With my team, especially the front line staff, I am hoping to further examine the barriers to timely EOL conversations and planning with the goal of creating an individualized plan for patients at high risk of critical-illness.
Why is professional development so important to you?
I have always had an interest in professional development, particularly advocating for new nurses, which lead to my role as a clinical instructor at McMaster University. Having this opportunity to shape the future generation and teach new learners the art of nursing is an honour.
I have also always been compelled to advocate for my patients, specifically for those less fortunate who lacked a support system. This quality and eagerness to be actively involved in trying to improve the way things are done motivates me to continue to enhance my professional development.
Through the Masters of Science in Healthcare Quality program I am hoping to gain the skills, knowledge and competency to develop quality initiatives that improve the quality of care for all patients at our organization, and beyond.
As a mom to a 15-month-old, what’s your advice for maintaining work-life balance?
I am certainly new in the role of a mom and have not mastered how to balance work, school and a family but I am trying every day. There are many challenges to being a new mom, with constant feelings of guilt and anxiety. I am fortunate to have a supportive partner and family to help. My recommendation to new moms, or those juggling many things at once, is to give yourself a break. We often put a lot of pressure on ourselves to be the best we can at every role, but it’s okay to have setbacks and failures because that is what life is about. I have put my teaching aside for now, and have recently returned from maternity leave to work part-time in the ICU. My main focus right now is my daughter, while I continue to pursue my education and involvement in projects that motivate me.
Has Hamilton always been home for you?
I was born and raised in Kosovo. We moved here when I was 10 years old and fled our country before the war. It was a challenging time for my family but we are lucky to have immigrated to Canada — a country that allows equal opportunities for success.
Who inspires you?
My inspiration in my personal life is my daughter Dea, my partner Colby, and my parents, Skender and Feta. Dea motivates me to be fun and loving, while Colby supports and inspires me to pursue my passion. My parents have taught me to be true to myself, be kind to others and stay curious and humble. I am fortunate to have a supportive family life.
What inspires me at work are my colleagues. We may all have personal challenges and struggles, but at the end of the day, we stick together as a team to help others. Ultimately, the biggest inspiration has to be the patients. They are the ones who inspire me to continue to be the best nurse that I can.