January 18th, 2021

Dufresne thrives on challenges, even in a pandemic

By Yoos, Cam on May 4, 2020.

Lethbridge College is celebrating 50 years of Nursing education. To mark the occasion, the college is highlighting five alumni from five different decades to show how the program has evolved. This is part five, featuring an alumna from Nursing’s fifth decade. To learn more about Nursing education at Lethbridge College, visit learn.lc/health-and-wellness.

It takes a certain type of person to not only put themselves on the front lines of a worldwide pandemic, but to embrace the uncertainties of that experience.

“I really love to be challenged,” says Natalie Dufresne, a 2015 Lethbridge College Nursing graduate who now works in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) at Chinook Regional Hospital.

“Things change every hour so we have to be very resilient and adapt very quickly, which isn’t always easy. But it’s a part of my career and a part of my art of adapting to the world of health and wellness.”

Serving her community in the midst of a pandemic wasn’t on the top of Dufresne’s mind when she was a 16-year-old weighing her post-secondary education options. In fact, she wasn’t sure what she wanted to do. She was leaning towards a career in health care, perhaps as a speech pathologist, until her mom nudged her in another direction.

“She reminded me how much I loved the TV show E.R. as kid,” laughs Dufresne. “I was always interested in the medical profession and she said, ‘well, what about nursing?’ And I said, ‘sure.’ That’s exactly how it happened.”

Her time at the college feels like a blur, where she was rapidly learning the lessons that would allow her to succeed later. She remembers her instructors, like Ramona Stewart, who made her want to try harder just by their encouraging nature, and Robin Brownlee, who showed the value of patience as Dufresne’s first clinical instructor. In the third year of her program, all of the pieces she learned finally connected for her during a placement in Pincher Creek.

“I loved Pincher Creek – the staff, the hospital, my clinical instructor, my clinical group, everything about it,” she remembers. “I had this moment with my patients where I connected anatomy and physiology and the disease process, and something happened in that moment where I was like, ‘this is what I want to do.'”

Dufresne’s journey has now come full circle. In addition to working as an ICU nurse, she has returned to her Lethbridge College roots as a clinical instructor. “I’ve always liked helping students and it reminds me of my own time being terrified as a student,” she says. “I thought, ‘this is like the perfect time to try teaching a clinical group.’ I also wanted to dive back into some of my basics like anatomy, physiology and pathways, so I thought, ‘I might as well challenge myself a little bit and teach, because that’s how you learn.'”

Although it is still early in her career, Dufresne says she has found a home in the ICU, where she plays an important role in helping people.

“I like to be an advocate for people who are truly experiencing the worst weeks or more of their life,” she says. “I like the bedside nursing part of it – knowing my patient and seeing them improve is so wonderful. When you’ve seen a patient struggling for days or weeks and then they get better, it’s awesome to see.”

While the next few weeks and months may challenge her like never before – there are many unknowns when dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic – Dufresne is confident her training and outlook will serve her well in continuing to help people and adapting to whatever situation she encounters.

“A long time ago one of my coworkers said, ‘nursing is a science – there’s black and white, and policy and procedures that we have to follow, but it’s also an art. You kind of have to adapt and make it your own,'” she remembers. “And that’s how I’ve thought of it, too. Nursing is an art to me.”

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