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Women of VCH: Zerlina Chan, Nursing Practice Initiatives Lead


Leading up to International Women's Day — Monday, March 8 — we're highlighting just a few of the thousands of incredible women who help us deliver exceptional care at Vancouver Coastal Health. Read about all of them in VCH News Stories and see more photos on our VCH Instagram and Facebook.

Zerlina Chan knew from an early age she was destined for a career helping people. After caring for her grandfather following a stroke, it was an easy decision to become a health-care professional. 

"I have always wanted to be a nurse because it is the perfect profession where I can use my knowledge from science and the art of caring to look after others," she said.

In August, Zerlina will pass a major milestone in an impressive career, marking her 30th year in nursing. 

Currently, as the Nursing Practice Initiatives Lead for the Coastal Community of Care, her team is there to ensure that nurses in Coastal have the tools they need to do their jobs. Zerlina helps facilitate guidelines for new skills, develop protocols, and ensures subject matter experts are involved in changes and decisions that impact patient care.

She noted her current role demands a wide knowledge base and leadership experience in order to influence teams and bring best practices to the bedside.

"People tend to think about a role that covers a geographical location but practice extends far beyond a physical space," she said, adding her team has collaborative relationships with the entire healthcare range including frontline nurses, managers, human resources, physicians and allied health. "We work with teams to think about their practice and how that practice affects patient care."

Zerlina started her journey in health care as a nurse on a medicine unit and then an intensive care unit in different hospitals before moving into formal leadership roles that include a clinical nurse leader, hospital supervisor, and interim manager roles.

Along the way, she's gained valuable insight for young women starting out in the profession. 

"I would say that it is important to develop relationships with patients and all healthcare team members," she said. "We are a human service and we need to remember that to take care of others, we need to take care of each other. Be ready to learn about people's work environments, their challenges, and reflect on how you can help them.  Sometimes you don't have the answers to a problem but the journey is to work together with others to come up with resolutions."

As the COVID-19 pandemic approaches the one-year anniversary, Zerlina also sees a way women can take care of themselves while continuing to stay on the frontlines.  

"I think that it is important to be open about what causes us fear and to give each other time and space to for self-care," she said.  Although not always possible, I think that the women on my team try to encourage time off away from work."

Tell us the first thing that comes to mind in just a couple of words.

Give us a snapshot of an ordinary moment in your life that brings you great joy?

Spending time with my grandchildren. Family is first and foremost.

What is the one thing you're grateful for right now?

That everybody is working hard in light of COVID-19 and that most people are kind to one another.

When you're taking time to rest and recharge, what are you doing?

Reading, watching television, taking walks and working out.

Dead or alive, which inspirational woman would you like to have dinner with?

Michelle Obama

What book or show have you really enjoyed during the pandemic? 

The Expanse.

This year's theme and pose for International Women’s Day is Choose to Challenge. Posing with a hand held high shows commitment to choose to challenge inequality, call out bias, question stereotypes, and help forge an inclusive world.

SOURCE: Women of VCH: Zerlina Chan, Nursing Practice Initiatives Lead ( )
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