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Arden Townshend

BSN, RN, ET

My path to ET nursing has been a series of happy circumstances. I took nursing as a stepping stone to medicine but quickly realized that nursing was where my heart was. I attended the University of Northern BC in Prince George (which I thought was just past Hope!) because it was the school that offered me the earliest entrance; although it was not my ideal climate, after finishing school I realized the education I had received in the North was excellent.

After graduating with a Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing, I started working in the Downtown Eastside doing primary and community care. Working with people with mental health issues, addictions, HIV, homelessness and poverty was challenging and interesting. I was part of a team that included family physicians, specialists, pharmacists, social workers, dieticians and counsellors, to name only a few. We were the first stop for emergencies, provided ongoing care and education for people with chronic conditions, and worked to develop strong relationships with people who often had not had good experiences with health care in the past. Part of the rainbow of roles the nurses played was complex wound care. It was amazing to see wounds heal when everything the textbook said prevented wound healing was a part of the person’s life. This is where I first started thinking about doing the ET course.

I spent a number of years working with people who have spinal cord injuries and brain injuries, supporting them to live successfully at home and, also working with those who are not able to live independently. Many people with spinal cord injuries or mobility-limiting conditions develop wounds, and again I found myself fascinated by the body’s ability to regenerate.

Again, by happenstance, I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to teach Resident Care Aides/Health Care Assistants at Vancouver Community College; in this role I found a love of teaching, and immense pride in watching my students show the caring, dedication and skill I feel are the foundations for nursing practice.

In 2011 I decided to take the Canadian Association of Enterostomal Therapy (CAET) ET education program to increase my knowledge of wound care and was pleasantly surprised to find I enjoyed the ostomy and continence sections as well. The course was informative, but I realized we had only scratched the surface of these complex areas of care.

After completing the course, I was generously offered the opportunity to learn more about ostomy care at Ostomy Care and Supply Centre. The chance to learn from experienced and inspiring practitioners has been a gift and I treasure it. I also treasure the relationships I get to build with the people who come to see the nurses for ostomy care; some are temporary and some are long, and I feel so privileged to be invited to be a part of this complex and personal part of peoples’ lives.