When Doreen MacLauchlan was about ten years old and living in Calgary, her father brought her to the opening of the new School of Nursing at Calgary General Hospital.
“I was one of those girls who read all the Cherry Ames Student Nurse books” she says. To a young Doreen, nursing held a world of excitement and possibilities. “It was a really interesting tour” she remembers. “I knew it was what I wanted to do.”
She had dreams of attending the Calgary School, but her family moved west to BC and she attended the Royal Inland Hospital in Kamloops for her basic nursing program. She graduated in 1967 and worked for a year in public health as a trainee in Burns Lake, returning to Kamloops to work in the hospital there for a number of years before going to UBC in 1979 to attain her BSN.
“It was a time in my life when I was suddenly a single parent, living in family housing on campus with all the other families. It was really terrific” she recalls. “Not only the School of Nursing, which was great, but the whole experience of campus life and education.” She was part of what was called the retreads. “We came in the summer, had an introduction and started in the 3rd year of the program in the fall. Some of our classmates were brand new, 20 year olds, and the rest of us were in our 30s, 40s, and even 50s. It was a real mixture of people and life, nursing and scholarly experiences. I still have some good friends from those days.”
Doreen was interested in community nursing, and wanted more choices than were available in the hospital setting. Though she worked in many different units including psychiatry, ER and daycare surgery, the year she’d spent in Burns Lake had shown her that there was more out there. She really enjoyed the independence, being out in the community, teaching and working with people, being in their homes and getting to know them on a more personal level. So she focused her studies on public health rather than the administrative stream.
After graduating in 1981, she moved to Grand Forks where she was a public health nurse for three years. “It was great to start out in a smaller community. We were generalists – doing basically everything except the home care nursing.” She then moved to Abbotsford and stayed there from ’84 to ‘92. Nursing practice was much different in that community, “We worked in teams (east team, west team) and helped each other with the big schools and events. It was much more like the “big city” than Grand Forks” she recalls.
From there she moved to the Sunshine Coast where she’s been ever since. In Gibson’s she entered into a middle management-type position and quickly discovered that wasn’t the right fit for her. Happy with their current location on the coast, Doreen and her family chose not to relocate, but she arranged for a transfer to the BC Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC) in 1994.
Doreen works in the Centre’s STI/HIV Clinic. It’s a two hour commute to the clinic, which is located on West Broadway in Vancouver, but she says its a good opportunity for some downtime and occasional dozing. “I’m actually retired” she says, though she still works casual shifts a couple of days each week. “It’s stimulating, and a good place to work. No two days are the same and that’s one of the great things about nursing; you never know who you’re going to see or what’s going to happen!”
“We run a free clinic and anyone can come” she says. We do HIV and STI teaching, assessment, testing, treatment and prevention. It’s STI/HIV sexual health-based practice.”
Teaching has been a major part of Doreen’s work at the clinic, and one that she really enjoys. Especially now that their program has gained certification status, they are teaching patients, clients, and other public health nurses, as well as doctors, residents and medical students.
At the clinic, Doreen is also involved with research on various tests, programs and medications. “If you look at HIV, it has changed so much since we started testing back in 1984. Now, things are very different – it’s not as hopeless as it was in those days. And usually people feel better after they leave here.”
Doreen appreciates the team environment at the clinic. Though there is always a physician on site, at least 80% of the people who come in would be seen by a nurse. If something goes beyond their scope of practice, the physician can be consulted. “But most things we can manage,” she says, “so it’s really an expanded role.”
She has been semi-retired for five years now, but sees full retirement coming in the next year or so. She has her hands in a few other activities that she would like to start devoting more time to.
She is a fiber artist, and belongs to the Sunshine Coast Spinners and Weavers Guild. “I’m a weaver, and learned to do that in Grand Forks in ‘84. Each time I moved I connected to a guild and when I retired, my present to myself was a spinning wheel.” She also loves to travel, and sometimes combines these two passions, such as in July 2010, when she travelled to Albuquerque New Mexico, for an international weaving conference. “I’ve been to a few so far, and there’s always lots going on, they’re a lot of fun and a really great time!”
In addition to spending time with her husband (of nearly 25 years), she also has two children and three granddaughters that she likes to visit with. “I want more time for those other activates now” she says. “It’s time to let someone else take over.”