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June 16, 2017

Introducing… a geriatric emergency management nurse

Donna Marttunen is a geriatric emergency management nurse in the emergency department (ED) at Juravinski Hospital & Cancer Centre (JHCC). The role was created in September 2016 to help support older adults who visit the ED.

Describe a typical day in your role

The role of a geriatric emergency management nurse is to support seniors through their emergency visit to the hospital. When someone who needs by help comes into the ED, I’m called in to assist. From there, I talk to patients about their fears and needs and create a plan with them to make sure they understand what is happening in their treatment. I also talk to them about their home life to make sure they are returning to a safe environment when they leave the hospital. The goal is to set them up for a successful discharge.

“It is always gratifying to assist the older patient to return home”

What do you love most about your job?

I love being able to interact with the older adult who is at a point of crisis and help them to sort through the various issues that have brought them through our doors. The older adult has a wealth of experience and I am honoured to have the time to explore who they are and then be a part of their journey forward.

Tell us about your most gratifying experience at HHS

I saw a patient on referral from the emergency physician with concerns about whether the patient could to return to her home. The patient had moderate cognitive impairment and lived with her spouse. The patient presented with high blood pressure. As I spent time with the patient and spouse, I discovered that the spouse had been taking his wife’s blood pressure with a home machine and when he noticed it drop the week before, he reduced her blood pressure medication. I was able to do teaching around taking blood pressures and the importance of informing the doctor of changes and following his orders. Once the patient had the correct amount of medication, she cleared medically and was able to go home that day. It is always gratifying to assist the older patient to return home, avoiding a potential long hospital stay. I find that being a detective helps uncover things that could lead to larger problems.