Sisters inspired by type 1 diabetes diagnosis to pursue health-care careers
Hospitals have been part of Nicole Gelms’ life for as long as she can remember. The 21-year-old Smithville woman was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes as a toddler and has received ongoing care at Hamilton Health Sciences (HHS) ever since.
“Growing up visiting the hospital sparked my interest in health care as a profession.” — Nicole Gelms
Nicole’s health-care journey
Nicole was part of the Pediatric Diabetes Program at HHS McMaster Children’s Hospital (MCH) until she turned 18. Then she moved to the Diabetes Care and Research Program for adults for ongoing monitoring and follow-up care at the Boris Clinic, at HHS McMaster University Medical Centre.
“I’ve always hated needles.” — Nicole Gelms
As well as being a patient, Nicole is also an occupational therapy/physiotherapy assistant at HHS West Lincoln Memorial Hospital, Hamilton General Hospital, and at the Regional Rehabilitation Centre. Much of her work is with stroke patients going through rehabilitation.
“Growing up visiting the hospital sparked my interest in health care as a profession,” says Nicole. “I became very comfortable in the hospital setting at a very young age and felt inspired to work in health care. I can empathize with my patients, knowing what it’s like to be in hospital. I’m so grateful for our health-care workers and I’m ecstatic to give back to my community in this way.”
With type 1 diabetes, the body doesn’t make insulin so it must be injected regularly every day. Nicole requires daily, lifesaving insulin injections to manage her diabetes because if left untreated, the disease is fatal. When she was younger, this meant daily insulin injections and finger pokes to check her blood sugar levels. But she now wears an insulin pump, which sends insulin into the body through a narrow catheter.
“I’ve always hated needles,” says Nicole, who opted for a career in occupational therapy/physiotherapy because she didn’t want a job in health care that involved giving needles.
Inspired by injections
Her younger sister Natalie, 20, chose nursing, in part because she was fascinated by the lifesaving insulin injections that Nicole received every day growing up. “While it broke my heart to see Nicole struggle as a child with daily injections and finger pricking to test her blood sugar levels, I understood that this was saving her life,” says Natalie, a McMaster University nursing student who has done placements at HHS.
“My sister and I are very close, and I felt that nursing was my calling,” says Natalie, who is interested in a career as an operating room or emergency department nurse, or possibly continuing with her education to become a nurse practitioner.
“I love the whole aspect of caring for people,” adds Natalie. “And it was my sister’s experience with type 1 diabetes that led us both to careers in health care, helping others.”