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BC Children's nurse with a heart of gold wins PHSA+ award

Dolly Khanna has been a nurse for close to three decades and, as a winner of a PHSA+ Award this year, she shares what skills have helped her most throughout her career.
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​"You need a calm head, a heart of gold, a strong gut instinct, critical thinking and lots of empathy," says the nurse clinician for BC Children's orthopedic department. "Be kind and have a warm smile, and it will take you far."

Khanna was nominated for the award by Wendy Krishnaswamy, a fellow nurse clinician in the BC Children's Orthopedic department.

"We find ourselves in situations which are enormously tragic and heartbreaking such as a death of a child," says Krishnaswamy. "I have witnessed Dolly's compassion to families when they have had to say goodbye to their child. Her comforting words and non-verbal communication had been the key to help support the families during the most awful time of their lives. Dolly works passionately to provide the best care to her patients and families."

Khanna says she often puts herself in the patient's or parent's shoes.

"To think - if you were visiting the hospital with your child, niece or nephew - how would you like to be treated," says Khanna. "Just for a moment, step back and provide the care that you would like to receive. The goodness is always there in you to connect with them. Nurses have a privileged responsibility to touch and change lives, do your best… and then some more." 

Khanna regularly attends conferences in her off-work hours to update her skills.

"You can bring knowledge from anywhere in the world and share it. There is always more to learn," she says. "If you are going to just stick a certificate on the wall, I don't know what use that is. But if you're going to enhance practice and improve lives, it's worth it."
She also volunteers for the non-profit organization, Operation Rainbow Canada, helping with cleft-lip and cleft-palate surgeries. Khanna has been on nine missions so far, including to Cambodia, India, China and Ukraine. They do approximately 80 to 100 surgeries per 10-day trip. 

"It's extremely exhausting, working in foreign environments in absolutely sub-optimal situations. You're doing the best you can, but it's so worth it," she says. "You come back totally grounded, humbled and appreciative of what we have here. From hot water, to washrooms, to health care."

Khanna grew up travelling with her family, following her father's engineering career with the Indian government. She's lived in four countries, nine cities and speaks five languages, including English, French, German, Hindi, Punjabi and Urdu. She says global travel helps nurses understand other cultures and new immigrants.

"If they've recently arrived, you know what hardship they've come through. There's a lot of war and struggles in the world," she says. "If you've been there, you've seen the hardships so you have empathy for them."

Khanna's daughter, Robin, is a new nursing graduate and recently started in the BC Children's surgical ward. Khanna's advice to her and other new nurses is to work hard, be flexible and learn to be an advocate for patients.

"New grads shouldn't be afraid to speak up. In the beginning, they can be very scared. You want to say something because you have a gut feeling that this patient is not well, but you're hesitant to approach other nurses or doctors," she says. 

"Never compromise your work ethics and integrity. At this campus, everybody is absolutely approachable. They love to teach. They'll pull out a piece of paper and pencil and be eager to show you what's going on. It's a nice, warm atmosphere."
Khanna wants to give a shout out to all health-care professionals and unsung heroes, working hard during the pandemic. Like them, Khanna's not in it for the awards. She's in nursing to help her patients. 

"Kids are so fantastic and resilient," she says. "You keep them comfortable, you take their pain away and you make sure their tummy is full, and you'll get lots of hugs and smiles. They don't have a worry in the world. They're innocent little souls. Kids are just lovely. That's why I love working at BC Children's."


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