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The Registered Nurse: ‘Giving care to people in need’

Registered Nurse Liji Mathew. Photo by Brian Smith.

National Nursing Week in Canada runs until May 14. At Providence Health Care, close to 3,000 nurses, representing a broad range of roles and disciplines across numerous sites care for hundreds of patients and residents every day. To mark this week, we’re profiling five of the many nurses who play such a vital role in the well-being of those Providence serves. Yesterday we introduced Clinical Nurse Specialist PJ Matras. Today, meet Registered Nurse Liji Mathew.

Growing up in a multigenerational extended-family household, Liji Mathew learned the importance of respect and taking care of others at a young age.

So when her first cousin became a nurse and shared how rewarding it was to care for others as a career, Mathew was interested.      

“I joined nursing to continue my goal of giving care to people in need,” Mathew says.

In her 15 years with Providence Health Care, Mathew has worked in palliative care, peritoneal dialysis, extended care, and rehabilitation. She’s currently a Registered Nurse at Holy Family Hospital – one of the largest referral centres for rehabilitation in British Columbia. The hospital offers intensive therapy for older adults to overcome obstacles caused by strokes, arthritis, orthopedic trauma or major surgeries like hip, ankle or knee replacements and leg amputations. 

“As new patients come to our hospital, most of them are completely dependant on the staff for basic daily needs,” she explains. “Our goal is to rehabilitate the patient to make them as self-sufficient as possible so they can carry out their day-to-day activities on their own, or with basic support.”

“It always brings a sense of gratitude to be able to work with a patient and see them discharged after a few weeks or months, ready to go forward with the new skills they’ve learned.”

The unit Mathew works on is considered sub-acute. A typical patient assessment might involve checking vital signs, blood-glucose monitoring, wound care, and medication administration. Every patient is scheduled for daily therapy, either individually or as part of a group, and further intervention takes place as needed.

Unique therapeutic amenities

Holy Family Hospital has a number of specialized rehabilitation amenities. The hospital is home to Easy Street – a therapeutic area that incorporates real-world environments and obstacles into the rehabilitation process and provides a realistic setting where patients can practise functional skills that are necessary to re-enter their community. There’s a grocery store, bank machine, a car (to practice getting in and out of, or putting groceries in the trunk), as well as curbs and other obstacles found in every community.

Holy Family also has a 540-square-foot therapy pool equipped with grab rails and a ramp where patients can do water therapy.

“We try to practice everyday tasks with patients during the rehabilitation process so they can develop the cognitive skills to move forward with whatever physical challenge they may have,” Mathew says.

A lasting impression

Being part of a patient’s rehabilitation journey is meaningful to Mathew, who recounts a particularly memorable case of one patient who arrived on her unit during the pandemic. He was a post-COVID patient, extremely weak, bedridden and had bedsores.

“He could not do anything on his own,” Mathew recalls. “But with the support and teamwork of all the staff in the hospital, we were able to work with him for four months and gradually he made significant improvement, to the point where he left the hospital walking on his own.”

While many patients have made lasting impressions on Mathew, she hopes the care she provides makes a difference in their lives too.

“I’ve always felt giving to others and being positive with patients in whatever situation or circumstance they arrive in leaves a lasting impression to always think about going forward in their lives with the goal of wanting to be better and improve.”