She can make a dialyzer out of a dishwasher ...
Subject: Nurses (Services)
Author: Beliveau, Lee
Pub Date: 07/01/2008
Publication: Name: CANNT Journal Publisher: Canadian Association of Nephrology Nurses & Technologists Audience: Trade Format: Magazine/Journal Subject: Health care industry Copyright: COPYRIGHT 2008 Canadian Association of Nephrology Nurses & Technologists ISSN: 1498-5136
Issue: Date: July-Sept, 2008 Source Volume: 18 Source Issue: 3
Topic: Event Code: 360 Services information
Product: Product Code: 8043100 Nurses NAICS Code: 621399 Offices of All Other Miscellaneous Health Practitioners SIC Code: 8049 Offices of health practitioners, not elsewhere classified
Persons: Named Person: Sparrow, Viki
Geographic: Geographic Scope: Canada Geographic Code: 1CANA Canada
Accession Number: 187615931
Full Text: Viki is a mentor to all of the hemodialysis nurses she has worked with during her career in nephrology for more than 20 years. I have often introduced her with the title of this piece and people immediately understand that she is a long-time expert. This creates an instant trust for patients who are afraid and staff who are nervous. As the commercial says, this reassurance is "priceless."


Viki Sparrow was born in Corner Brook, Newfoundland, and although she entered Memorial University at the age of 16, she did not begin nursing training until 1980, after her second son started kindergarten. She had travelled wide and her broad experiences enhanced her contribution to nursing. In fact, they still do, as Viki and her family continue to explore the world around them.


With the exception of three years, Viki has specialized in nephrology. She has worked as an outpost nurse outside Yellowknife where there was no running water, but the quality of life often exceeded life anywhere in Canada. Elders are well cared for and families live together. Infants bundled tightly in caribou hammocks, one after the other on a living room clothesline, "like pearls on a necklace," are images that resonate tranquility to Viki whenever she remembers the scene. From the Arctic, she travelled to Saudi, learning how to dress in a black head-to-toe Habaya in 40 to 50 degree heat.

Viki says she learned from the best in Newfoundland, with doctors and nurses who had been in nephrology since its inception. Dr. Henry Gault, who was awarded Officer of the Order of Canada in 1991 for his work in nephrology, as well as the landmark formula in evaluating kidney function, was a major influence on Viki's professional achievements. She describes Dr. Gault as a dedicated, compassionate, humble, perpetual teacher.

"The first time I was ever on call, I was absolutely terrified to work with Dr. Gault because of my respect and admiration for him. I knew it was routine to be questioned, so for three hours before the run in the intensive care unit (ICU), I studied the chart and reviewed my nephrology. When Dr. Gault came, he looked at me and left the room. I was floored. What about orders? My machine was set properly. Why did he leave? He did return, with two cups of coffee, motioning to me to come outside the room and sit down. He proceeded to tell me that one of our chronic patients had just received notice of her transplant. I knew her and I expressed the concerns against her finding a successful match. Dr. Gault nodded and quietly agreed, saying, 'Yes, but there will always be exceptions to our rules and they are made to be broken. We can never close our minds to that.' Dr. Gault wrote the orders and left without asking me a single question.

I like to think he wasn't just talking about this patient, but life in general, suggesting that we look at everything with an open mind and be willing to change it."

In the 1990s, Viki came to British Columbia and worked renal at Vancouver General Hospital and St. Paul's. When a new hemodialysis unit opened in Surrey in 1998, she became one of the founding members who mentored the first and several other rounds of new nephrology nurses. She proceeded to clinical resource nurse and then acting manager, where her broad knowledge base and hands-on skills enhanced policies and planning. In 2001, Viki was hired as Vascular Access Coordinator for the largest region in BC, covering five hemodialysis units.

Viki served a key leadership role for nursing practice, education, with development and implementation of initiatives to improve patient outcomes and reduce costs. She was instrumental in the founding of the BC Renal Agency Vascular Access Group, researched and wrote policies and felt privileged to play a part in attaining positive outcomes for patients and furthering the knowledge of her colleagues.

Surrey is very fortunate to have Viki back from her two-year experience in China. Her philosophy of life has developed not only from travelling, but also in being close to nature and the wilderness. She and her husband, Randy, spend lots of time enjoying wildlife, fishing, and canoeing. Her philosophy is to live simply and peacefully, in harmony with each other, never take life for granted, be aware of the world around you, learn from every experience and everyone, practise patience and be humble. She has learned to keep her mind open with a healthy dose of skepticism, make changes to things about which you are passionate, treat everyone respectfully, leaving judgments for the courts and the creator. People everywhere have taught her the importance of being able to laugh at herself and the importance of reflection, so she can see if she is living her beliefs.

Anyone who is privileged to know Viki can tell her she is!

Article revised by Lee Beliveau from a five-page story published about Viki Sparrow in a book edited by Duane Duff: I Have a Story to Tell, Too (2008), published by Invista, Surrey, BC. Lee Beliveau, RN, CNeph(C), staff nurse, hemodialysis unit, at Surrey Hospital, Surrey, BC, has been a member of the CANNT Journal Editorial Board from 2001 to present.
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