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How a BC Children’s nurse works to protect children from burns

You could say Frances MacDougall found her life’s calling at an earlier age than most.
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Frances MacDougall (centre) receiving her Excellence in Nursing Advocacy Award in December from Jacqollyne Keath, NNPBC Board Chair (right) and Tania Dick, NNPBC Board member (left)

“My mum said I was seven years old when I told her I wanted to be a nurse. I have always loved working with children and helping people so nursing was a perfect fit.”

That desire to help has led Frances to a 34-year career in nursing. Her career has taken her from Sunny Hill Health Centre to Lions Gate Hospital to the Kapiolani Medical Center for Women and Children in Honolulu, Hawaii. During this time, she has cared for children with special needs, babies born to vulnerable mothers and teens receiving treatment for anorexia. In 1990, she finally landed her dream job: working as a nurse on a general surgery unit at BC Children’s Hospital, an experience that sparked an intense interest in burn prevention.

Today, she works as a registered nurse in the Anesthesia Care Unit at BC Children’s. In December, she received an Excellence in Nursing Advocacy Award from the Nurses and Nurse Practitioners of BC (NNPBC) for her role in raising awareness about burn prevention. In addition to her nursing work at BC Children’s, Frances volunteered her free time to help the BC Professional Fire Fighters’ Burn Fund develop an early childhood burn prevention program called Too Hot for Tots. The program teaches parents and families around the province how to prevent burns to young children in the home. 

“It was heartbreaking to hear caregivers say that if they had known how much damage a cup of tea could do to their child, they would have done things very differently,” said Frances. “It was obvious that caregivers were not getting education about this common, serious and largely preventable cause of childhood trauma and a program like this needed to be created.”

Today, the Too Hot for Tots program runs workshops across the province teaching nurses and early childhood educators how to use the program to educate caregivers with young children. Frances was also part of an expert advisory panel formed by Parachute’s Horizon, an online hub that connects Canadians with evidence-based injury prevention solutions. 

While there is no way to track the number of children who’ve avoided a trip to the hospital because of Frances’ advocacy work, it’s safe to say she has helped improved awareness around preventing burn injuries.

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