February 15, 2024

Jon Schmid

Jon Schmid

February 15, 2024

This is an interview-based series, in which a broad range of nursing specialties, scopes and care areas are explored through the career progression of inspiring nurses. Newly graduated nurses, and those with emerging and evolving careers can benefit from understanding the often unconventional or unique paths taken by professionals in the broad field of nursing practice.

I had the wonderful opportunity to interview Jon Schmid recently, and want to share our conversation about his career, leadership path, unique nursing role development and what he would like to share with newly graduated nurses.

Jon Schmid started his career in healthcare in 1995, training as a medic and later a Nursing Officer in the CAF Primary Reserve. He graduated with a bachelors of science in nursing from the University of Saskatchewan and immediately started a career in emergency nursing in 2001 at Royal University Hospital in Saskatoon. Jon went on to certify in critical care, and also practiced extensively as a northern primary care nurse, travel nurse, and advanced practice fixed wing flight nurse. With a passion for learning and teaching, Jon held various positions in the first decade of his career ranging from ER charge nurse, clinical nurse educator, sessional lecturer colleges of nursing UNBC & U of S, ACLS instructor, and ATLS administrative coordinator. In the second decade of his career Jon transitioned into leadership roles ranging from ER manager of nursing, director medical imaging, director access and flow, director of hospital wide clinical operations, and chief operating officer for one of Canada’s largest nonprofit hospice organizations. During this time, he became certified as a healthcare quality improvement consultant, Lean Leader, and earned a master degree in healthcare quality from Queens university. Now, Jon is a Canadian healthcare solutions and government affairs consultant supporting a global nonprofit organization that operates in 76 countries.

Jon remains passionate about nursing and the importance of supporting nurses through education, mentorship, and strong clinical leadership.

I started by asking Jon what led him into the field of nursing to begin with. Surprisingly, he indicated that it was by accident, as he was focused on becoming a police officer. In seeking military experience for an anticipated future in policing, he chose an available path of medic training in 1995. After coming to realise the pull that trauma-medic nursing had on his interests, he pursued a nursing degree at the University of Saskatchewan. His past experiences as a medic and his continued love of trauma and emergency work led him to an emergency department in Saskatoon as a newly graduated nurse.

“I’m thinking- I’ve never done this….I loved that pressure.”

Jon Schmid

Jon described his transition to practice as fairly unique. While he doesn’t currently recommend direct entry into trauma care for the newly graduated, he shared that despite being “exhausting”, the environment was one he loved being in. The opportunity to be exactly what patients needed, in a very trying set of circumstances (likely benefited by his medic experience) was something Jon enjoyed. He also noted that he was not only supported in that care environment as a new graduate, but had excellent mentors at that time.

In following years, Jon took primary nurse contracts in fly-in communities in remote areas of northern Saskatchewan. The primary community care nursing role was fairly isolated, with extensive amounts of independent practice and decision-making. Jon later entered a primary care Nurse Practitioner program (at a time when NP program streams were quite limited) and, realising the Community NP role was not for him, withdrew. Emergency Room management, undergraduate teaching and his own graduate education followed. Jon later began taking on larger and more extensive leadership portfolios, at times overseeing multiple sites and thousands of personnel.

After a significant geographical relocation to the west coast of Canada, Jon continued his leadership development through corporate leadership roles including Quality Assurance, Clinical Operations and more. His Clinical Operations role coincided with COVID-19 and despite his skills and experience leading him (as he led others) through the many waves of the pandemic, the unrelenting nature of 2 years of 24/7 work led to interest in making a change. When offered a role as Chief of Operations for a large Hospice nearby, Jon made the decision to follow the unique opportunity.

“Every Nurse experiences a lot of trauma”

Jon described his move to the Hospice role with high regard for the work that was accomplished and what he had learned in that time. Moving from a career of high pressure life and limb practice, where the inability to save a patient was a failure, to that of hospice was an extreme shift in perspective. Jon considers that role one of the best things he has done, describing the needed rest it was from the demands he endured through the pandemic, as well as the opportunity to shift focus to the heart and soul of the patient, as well as the body. With fondness, Jon shared about learning to lead with vulnerability, and learning from the ways in which the staff supported each other, such as using a practice of Code Lavender. Given the enduring losses experienced by those in hospice care daily, Jon described calling a Code Lavender as a self-identified verbal or physical indication of an individual's need for space to process end-of-life care experiences, and be supported by your coworkers in doing so. Jon maintains that as nurses, each care area means a different type of trauma, and that currently the stakes of caring are really high. He remarked that “When it gets to be a lot, and it will,... what are you doing to take care of yourself?

You don’t have to make any binding decisions

Throughout the interview, Jon noted that one compelling aspect of the nursing profession includes the ability to reinvent yourself, personally and professionally, prn! Over his leadership career, and through his management of thousands of nurses, he continues to recommend that all nurses develop an exit strategy. Jon further explained that what he means is that, statistically, nurses are transitioning partially or fully out of roles at a much faster pace than in the past. He described that many necessarily embrace this by taking on unique roles, retraining or specializing.

For those entering their careers as newly graduated nurses

More recently, Jon has spent time in humanitarian, non-military aid in Ukraine, and shared how it and other international visits to healthcare environments can be key to developing a necessary component of caring motivation; gratitude. He described seeing community needs, along with procedures and practices elsewhere as a way to reframe your problems (without discounting Canada's local and at times enduring traumas experienced by many nurses). Jon now operates in a consultation role for a non-profit organization, blending his many skills and abilities developed over his career, helping others find healthcare solutions.

For the future, Jon remains encouraged at the innovations soon to come to healthcare, and how they and other necessary system changes will be championed and embraced by emerging nurses seeking their full and expanding scope. He recommends particularly that as a new graduate you find a mentor to help you through the initial transition period.

Published in February 2024

Kathryn Corneau

Program Coordinator

NTF

Nursing The Future™ acknowledges that nurses across this country live, work and play on the lands of our Indigenous Ancestors and we join our members in expressing respectful gratitude for this privilege.
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