A Brief Intro to Radiation Clinic

August 27, 2014.

Orientation done. Well sort of.

And I’m off to start working in my new department, in a new hospital, in a new country… half way around the world… So I’m taking my amazing work family from back home with me for moral support on this first day of my new job!


Today starts the beginning of my orientation to the Radiation Clinic. 4-5weeks of preceptorship and learning the ropes in a new department!

Fortunately, I have my radiation therapy nursing certification, so the science of it all is no different. What is different is how the department is run. And my role here!

When I visited the unit last week, everyone was supremely welcoming and friendly. But it’s all a bit of a blur now and I really don’t remember many peoples names… Or much of where anything is!

So… I arrived at work… And met my new work momma… Shiny, my orientation preceptor. And she is absolutely the sweetest!!! I’m really going to love working with her.

And everyone is absolutely so kind and friendly… I feel like I got a giant hug today from everyone! Just scooped up and cuddled like a sad and lonely little puppy!

One of the Radiation Therapists, a beautifully vibrant and energetic and outgoing individual, shortly after meeting me, invited me along to a bunch of events this weekend as I had nothing planned due to all the other girls from my GNO group working the weekend. It was so nice to feel so welcomed and to have something to look forward to on the weekend… which is only a day away now.

Now… my first day of work was interesting. It is going to take a while to wrap my head around the differences here. I’ll go into great detail on it at some point… but for now…

The basics are that the Radiation Clinic consists of 6 treatment units for various types of radiation therapy… of which I have nothing to do with. That is where the Radiation Therapists come to play.

Then, there is the Recovery Room (nursing domain) where patients are monitored post General Anesthesia for Radiation Therapy, patients also recieve IV fluids, blood products and various other treatments if necessary.

In another corner of the department is the Nurse Clinic, where nurses see patients requiring hydration, blood products, IV starts for CT sim, medications for symptom management, and other treatments also that might be scheduled or for drop in patients.

This is all very much like home.

What is different, are the various clinics where nurses and doctors see patients throughout the week. Rooms 2&3, 4&5, 7&8… all contain different clinics depending on the day of the week. All the doctors hold clinics – stereotactic clinic, head and neck clinic, sarcoma and miscellaneous clinic, lymphoma clinic, pediatric clinic, gyne clinic, breast clinic, etc.

And the nursing role in these clinics is… well… hmm… different!

My first day was in rooms 2&3 in the Gyne/GI/GU clinic. We start out by checking charts… prepping charts (stamping and dating progress notes) … checking the rooms and schedules to make sure everything is ok. And then we start to see patients… as in we check their vital signs. Maybe assess their skin to make sure they are not developing radiation dermatitis. Obviously generally assessing the patient to ensure that they’re doing ok. But then we seat them in the room and get them ready for the doctor.

Then the doctor sees the patient and assesses how they are doing. Writes in the progress notes and maybe orders some labs or a cream or a medication.

We enter the orders. Sign off on the chart. And send the patient merrily on their way. The end.

Minimal education on side effects. Minimal assessment of side effects by nursing. No handouts on constipation management or skin care or pain managment or maintaining nutritional or hydration status…

Very different from back home where nurses do the majority of assessment and monitoring of radiation side effects and definitely the vast majority of teaching on preventing radiation side effects and how to manage side effects if they develop. At home the doctors do all this also, but a large portion of that role falls to the nurses.

Obviously a significant reason for this difference is due to language barrier. It easy enough to look at a patients radiation site and physicially assess the skin. But it is much harder to ask them about nausea, pain, constipation, fatigue, etc. and get good information if you don’t speak their language fluently. It is even harder to provide them with clear, consise information on how to manage all those symptoms if you don’t speak their language. So the majority of patient teaching falls to the Arabic speaking nurse educator.

So… learning Arabic as rapidly as possible is going to be extremely important!!! Yalla yalla Annemarie!!!

And that is the beginning of my nursing career here in Saudi Arabia. Prepare yourself for a lot more discussion on the differences on nursing care here vs. home… the benefits… the downsides… the challenges… the beauty of it all…

Until next time…



Paul’s Perfection

August 23, 2014

Before arriving in Saudi Arabia, I had read about a fabulous coffee shop in Riyadh, called Paul.

Now, I love coffee shops!! And one of the things I miss most about home is being able to get in my car and drive to a coffee shop and sit there and study or read or relax with friends…

So I was really eager to try this coffee shop out! So, about 9 of us girls from my GNO group crammed into one small SUV one Saturday afternoon and headed off to Tahlia street.

The front of the shop is the cutest little, very French looking bakery!! Black and white checkered floor, chandeliers, and pastry cases filled with tempting treats of decadent deliciousness!!!


Behind the bakery is the restaurant, which is where we found ourselves seat to enjoy coffee and some dinner before desert!

Cappuccino… Ohhhhh so delicious!! With a teensy little loaf cake on the side. So good!!!!


Followed by a refreshing crab and salmon salad! Mmmm nom nom!!


Pause briefly for prayer. This is going to take a while to get used to!! The restaurant sort of closes during prayer… Like everything else! You can’t get in or out. You can’t order any food because there are no servers around. And you have to make sure you’ve got everything you need before prayer time starts so that you can just eat and relax through it… About 20-30minutes, depending on the place. Anyways. We were fine. We had our food, so we just sat and ate and chatted through dinner and prayer time.

imageimageSo… finally… Dessert. The famous Millefouille…(The dessert we call a vanilla slice at home). One of Paul’s best selling treats… It is all flakey pastry and smooth creamy vanilla filling… And fresh strawberries on mine… Absolutely perfect!


And the best part of the whole experience, was relaxing with my GNO girls… Getting to know them more. Everyone says that your friends from GNO will be the friends you stay the closest with throughout your time in Saudi. And I believe it! These girls are amazing! Heaps of fun! Plus we’re all getting started together and experiencing the same frustrations, losses… And joys of being in a new country and having an absolutely amazing experience!


And thanks to Paul for bringing us all together for this wonderful evening of food and laughter and delightfulness!!

returning soon!!!!!



Gone caving!

August 20, 2014

So, KFSHRC has a massive campus! Not only is the hospital and all its various buildings completely massive, but theres multiple apartment complexes, support services buildings, training buildings, recreational center, and all sorts of stuff. And then on top of it, theres a large cave park in the corner of the hospital grounds.

My friend Sarah and I decided to go exploring one night and check out the Al Mather, the cave park.

It was warm outside and dark… but the park was well lit. And from the top of the park we could see the lights of the downtown area of Riyadh ahead of us… the cone shaped buildling with bright lights at the top is Faisaliyah Tower… its a beautiful building with a great shopping center and a beautiful restaurant, the Globe, that I have yet to check out yet! one day soon!

imageimageimageAt the bottom of the cave park, was a little lake, fed by a waterfall that spilled down from the top of the park (no clue where the water actually comes from cuz there’s definitely no visible stream feeding it!) But anyways… it was really nice… there is a little boardwalk around the lake and bridge over the waterfall… and nice little walking paths through the “gardens” around it…

imageimageThe park also includes a bunch of BBQ stations… can’t wait for the weather to get cooler so we can have parties here in the park!!

And the view of new King Abdullah Center for Oncology and Liver Disease from here is amazing!! I didn’t realize really how big the buildling is until I stood in the park below it at night and looked up at it! 19 floors strictly for cancer care and liver disease care! Currently the buildling is still under construction, and I’m supposed to be working there eventually… once it opens… hopefully this year yet, although it looks like it will be sometime next year for sure… Insha’Allah.

imageSo… it was a great walk. I tried to google the history of the cave park… and what the caves really are from… but google wasn’t particularly helpful in this case. So I really couldn’t tell you much about the park other than that its lovely for an evening walk and for BBQ’s once the weather is cooler 🙂

The end.



Cloud 9

August 19, 2014

Week 2… Is it possible I’ve found cloud 9? I didn’t think I would find it in Saudi Arabia… but if feels pretty close right now to what I imagine Cloud 9 feels like!!

I know I’m in the honeymoon phase of Saudi life right now… as everyone keeps reminding me that it will pass… But I have no intention of moving out of the honeymoon phase or of losing my positive and optimistic perspective anytime soon!!! Life is what you make of it… The opportunities you seize… The mood you chose to be in… The way you chose to interact with others…

So… I’ve now finished General Hospital Orientation, General Nursing Orientation, and start Oncology Department skills days soon! Moving along… Getting antsy to actually start working and find out what it’s all about! But I’m enjoying the hours we “work” right now and all the free time in the evenings… And especially the time to hang out and get to know the girls from my orientation group. We’re definitely going to be each other’s closest friends and supports trough the next year or few!!! Friends who GNO together stay together right?!

In celebration of finishing orientations and starting skills days, my friend Sarah (another Canadian YAY from Montreal) and I went to check out Panorama… A mall close to the hospital. And it was here that we completely unintentionally, discovered the lovely brilliant delicious little bits of cloud 9 called macaroons from Lauduree!!!

Sarah was thrilled to find a little macaroon shop here from the famous Paris/French macaroon shop! And I was just excited to try macaroons for the first time.


And oh. My. They. Are. Absolutely. Divine!!!! The orange blossom… Or the rose petal… Or the pistachio… I don’t even know how to pick a favourite!

We finished up the evening with coffee and chocolate cake at the beautiful Versus by Versace Caffee… Red carpets… Fabulous coffee… Mmmm so good! This country definitely knows how to make you feel like a princess!! And… I can understand why everyone talks about the Saudi 10… the 10 lbs you gain on arrival here… we do so much eating out!!! And there are just way too many delicious desserts everywhere!! :S


So… If this is how cloud 9 feels… I definitely never want to leave!!! Can’t wait to see what the next 51 weeks of our first year in Saudi will bring!!! All sorts of wonderful things I’m sure!!!

Feeling happy happy happy!!!!


And that’s all for now… Ma’a Salaama



First Embassy Party!!

August 21, 2014

Less than 2 weeks here in Saudi and I went to my first embassy party!!! With the girls from my GNO group!! The lovely Australian girls in the group invited all of us along… And oh we sure do appreciate it!


And… We had a blast!!! First big big night out in Saudi and we got to wear pretty dresses and take off the abaya and dance the night away in the Diplomatic Quarter at the Australian embassy!!!

(Unfortunately, no phones/cameras are allowed in the embassy so we have no pictures of the event… we do have a few pics of ourselves all dolled up before we left for the embassy though!)


On our way to the embassy (8 girls and our driver smushed into one mid-sized SUV) we were so full of energy and excitement!! I think we felt like a bunch of young girls who had just reached legal drinking age headed out to the bar for the first time!! It was amazing! The driver turned up some music and we rocked our way up to the Australian embassy were we spilled out of the vehicle in a flood of enthusiasm and energy and billowy black abayas… which we promptly tore off because it was so blinking hot outside!!!

I’m not sure what I was expecting… I guess it’s hard to know what to expect because who of us has been to an embassy event back home?!!! Australians are a particularly friendly and down to earth group of people… So I didn’t expect anything too extravagant. Plus it’s a BBQ and casual dress was emphasized! However… No-one actually dressed particularly casually… Although there were quite a few guys in jeans and t shirts.

It really was like going to a big BBQ/garden party back home in someone’s back yard. Minus the lawn chairs and add tablecloths and chairs with white seat covers… A dance floor… And waiters… And lots of ladies in pretty dresses! But otherwise it felt really relaxed and comfortable! Not some fancy schmancy hoity toity thing 🙂

The whole event was outdoors, although there was a bar indoors which provided some lovely cool relief from the heat every now and then… Outside, fans circulated a little air and mist… But it’s full on summer here!! And it doesn’t cool down more than a couple degrees in the evenings… So it was well over 40 degrees out still all night long! And we were HOT!!!!

But the food was delicious… we socialized and met so many wonderful people!!! Connected with some lovely girls who also work at KFSHRC… and it was great to get out and be free!!! And to dance too!! Despite the heat, we still had so much fun dancing together (in front of the fan!!!).

It was a really fun evening and I’m so excited for the next one like this!!! So many people are shocked that we’ve so quickly made our way into the expat social life in Riyadh… I guess we’re lucky… And I’m so grateful for that!! Next up… Who knows?! Anything is possible here in the magic kingdom!!

Cheers to Australia!!! and Riyadh! and all the potential this place holds!!!




First Wave of Homesickness

August 20, 2014

First really significant wave of homesickness hit me today. I’m surprised it took as long as it did. But I’ve been so busy that I haven’t had much time to be homesick… Thankfully!

But today it hits. And the tears feel like they’re constantly blurring my vision…

I miss hugs from my family… and long chats and “debrief” sessions with my mom after work or just anytime… and “dates” with my little brother… and just playing with my adorable niece and her cuddles and chatter and giggles… and long talks with my sister… wakeboarding with my brothers… debates and discussions with my dad and the whole family getting involved and all riled up…

I miss my friends… hanging out, laughing and having fun together…

I miss running by the river in the sunshine or a slight sprinkle… the mountains and the smell of damp earth and foliage after a refreshing rain… I miss the ocean… I miss Cultus Lake and hanging out on the lake all day with my brothers on the boat…

I miss my work family, the group of absolutely incredible people, the most talented group of nurses I know, the most caring and compassionate individuals I’ve ever been blessed to associate with…

So, today was a skills day. We had a member of the palliative care team come to talk to us about palliative care and symptom management… and the nurses presenting the class knew and highly respected my beloved Dr.B, who worked here not so long ago! This is what triggered the homesickness… Talking about palliative care… My favourite type of nursing… The most fulfilling and rewarding job possible… The job that makes you look at everything in your life with a different perspective and appreciate infinitely more, all the good things in your life and all the wonderful people you hold dear!

Talking about palliative care out here in Saudi made me wish that I had actually chosen to go into palliative care here also, instead of taking a step back from it to delve deeper into Radiation Therapy nursing and other forms of cancer care. But the palliative care here is so different, and so minimal actually. I worry I would have become extremely frustrated and disheartened by it.

So change is good. And I will embrace my new department and all the wonderful new coworkers I’ll have and open my mind to learning many new things here at KFSHRC!

Despite the lengthy list of things I miss from back home, I am so excited and happy to be here in Saudi and learning new things, experiencing things I would never experience at home, enjoying this opportunity of a lifetime… I will return at some point to all the people and things I love… but right now, I’m going to fill that empty hole with many new adventures and life experiences, new knowledge, new friends, my new “work family”… and my life will be full and rich here also!!

So many new opportunities await here… Who knows what I will see in my year here?!! Or what type of education I might gain here??!! The people I will meet… The places I will go… It’s bound to be a great year! And that helps to ease the edge of the homesickness!!



Missing Music

One of the most significant downsides to Saudi Arabia… is that I’m not continually surrounded by music. I don’t drive, so I don’t get to hop into a vehicle and turn up my favorite song… You rarely sit in your car at a red light and hear music playing in the car next to yours…

Restaurants don’t play music… there is no music playing in the shopping malls in stores… it’s quiet. At home I am constantly surrounded by music. I must admit that it is nice to go for dinner and not have to speak over music that is sometimes played a bit too loudly. But, I miss the cheerfulness of music playing everywhere… the happy and relaxing coffee shop songs in the morning…

I didn’t bring speakers with me so my iphone/Ipad are the only things that put out a bit of tinny sound… no good bass that’s for sure!!

I’ve been so busy I haven’t had time to sit and browse through new music either…

And it’s not that Saudi’s don’t like music, because I know they love to sing and dance and Arabic music is beautiful! But, like many things wonderful here in Saudi Arabia, music is also restricted in public by the religious leaders and laws of the country.

But… I want to share a couple songs with you so you get a brief taste of Arabic music. Click the links to listen to a popular modern Arabic music artist, and traditional Arabic music.

Anyways… the restriction of music in public makes the times when music is played in public so much more appreciated!!! And as I update this a year later… I’ve experienced live Arabic music as well as been to parties where it was played… and it is beautiful (although I can’t understand the language) and I love to hear it played!!