A U/D Hello: Meet Nurse Nilufer (Nilly) Espiritu

January 20, 2021 by University District

Q & A with Clinical Trial Nurse- Pediatric Neurosciences at Alberta Children’s Hospital



At University District, we like to recognize people who help form our warm, neighborhood character and who make our community tick. This month, we profile and applaud the efforts of local healthcare worker, Nilufer (Nilly) Espiritu.


Nilly is a nurse in the field of neurology at Alberta Children’s Hospital and a University District resident. Since last March, she has taken on secondary nursing roles as part of the province’s COVID- 19 response.



Hi Nilly, thank you for speaking with us. Can you please introduce yourself?



I’m Nilufer Espiritu, known by Nilly, a nurse at Alberta Children’s Hospital and a new resident of August at University District.


I have been at the hospital for three years now, working with kids with neuro-muscular and neurological conditions. Since March, I have also worked in COVID- 19 response roles. After moving from Turkey with my family when I was 10, I grew up in Dalhousie, before attending the University of Calgary where I lived in residence before starting my nursing career. I live with my partner Brian, who works at Foothills Creamery as a Quality Assurance Manager. We know that U/D and August welcome pets, so one of our goals in 2021 is to get a pet for ourselves!




Tell us more about your role at Alberta Children’s Hospital.



Nilly is a nurse in the field of neurology at Alberta Children’s Hospital and a University District resident. Since last March, she My role has many parts to it as I work in an outpatient setting and on research projects. My work is with children with various neurological conditions which involves, case management, assessment, administration, and bedside care.


Most of my patients are chronically ill throughout childhood so require continuous care for conditions like muscular dystrophy, spinal muscle atrophy, epilepsy, and multiple sclerosis. I work with these types of patients in both care and in research for clinical and patient care trials. Fortunately, science has improved so much, there are more and more solutions to problems which it is exciting to see play out.



What are the best and hardest parts of your job?



My favourite part of the job is direct patient care with kids throughout their health journey. Although I have some patients as young as five, most are between 10 and 15, which is an interesting age group to work with anyway. I can have fun with them, which is nice to be able to say when working in a medical role.


My patients still have regular kids’ problems like too much homework or being upset that they cannot go to a friend’s sleepover because Mommy said so. The kids grow to feel safe with me, and as the point of contact I get to know their families very well too.


The hardest part of the job is seeing kids in pain as it pulls on the heartstrings. As a nurse, one learns to cope with this over time, and it’s reassuring to know you are part of the help and support they need.


Tip: Learn more about the work of Alberta Children’s Hospital Foundation and donate here.



How did you decide on a career in Nursing?



When I was younger, I was the neighborhood babysitter, and knew I wanted to work with kids in some way, I thought perhaps as a teacher. I had been a sick kid myself suffering with chronic pain and migraines of unknown origin. I saw a lot of specialists at that time but remembered always liking my nurses more./


I then went to the University of Calgary, where I loved my anatomy and biology classes. One day at the gym, I saw an ad for assistants to help patients undergoing rehabilitation with their fitness, so I volunteered.


I realized I had a fascination with medicine, and so I transferred and took up the Pre-Nursing program. I then had a rotation in nursing school at the Tertiary Neuro Rehabilitation Unit at the Foothills Medical Centre. It was there that I moved up from being a student to a Registered Nurse.



What advice do you have for someone considering a career in nursing?



First, I would ask them what they do not like in a job, as in nursing there can be a lot of late shifts and night shifts that impact your lifestyle. If you are not prepared for that, nursing is not for you. It’s a job that brings a lot of joy and I would highly recommend it to anyone who likes lifelong learning. It is highly flexible, as one can work in many different fields and it also offers independence and travel opportunities as Canadian trained nurses are respected and sought after internationally.


TIP: Learn more about the Faculty of Nursing at the University of Calgary here.



In 2020, you took on secondary roles in response to the COVID- 19 pandemic, tell us about that?

When Covid first hit, it was all hands on deck. I had worked in flu clinics in the past and got co-deployed. Ever since March 11, I’ve worked in contact tracing following up with positive cases as part of Alberta COVID- 19 Exposure Response Team (ACERT). I also handle calls to Health Link, helping Albertans navigate this pandemic, by providing answers to questions that they have about Covid.


TIPS: For information, resources and supports on COVID- 19 in Alberta, visit here. For trusted health advice, call Health Link 24/7 at 811.



Like a lot of people, you had to get used to working from home part of the time, how has that been?



I had never worked from home previously as before Covid, it was unheard of for a nurse. However, it is now the norm a few days a week. I hadn’t thought about how much of my job involved human interaction, until it was taken away. As well as the patients I have worked with for years, I miss simple things like being able to eat lunch with my colleagues, as we now must keep 6 feet apart./


However, I have also learnt more about different health careers, because as part of ACERT, I am speaking to people all over Alberta on Zoom and Skype. I wouldn’t have known anything about school health teams in Medicine Hat or who makes up the outbreak team in places like Grand Prairie before this.



What impact has COVID- 19 had on you personally and your job at the Children’s Hospital?



It happened so fast that at the start I was overwhelmed and exhausted from overwork in multiple roles. I remember my skin was peeling from long hours wearing a mask. There was a lot of uncertainty and the public were understandably nervous, but as a nurse, one has built coping mechanisms and we had to adjust.  My only fear was that I would pass Covid to someone else that I was meant to protect. As time has gone on, I’ve grown accustomed to Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), masks, goggles, shields, and feel safe in my job.


Although patients are in separate rooms, one now sees more patients in less time. Kids are good listeners and don’t question wearing their masks, there’s no push back. They are also quick to pick up on emotion and body language, so we try our best to not make them anxious.


All direct patient contact is traced, and non-essential appointments no longer take place in person but by phone or Zoom. The fact I live so close to work has also made working at the hospital safer for me as there’s no bus, train or car parking involved, just a leisurely walk.


TIP:  Visit Alberta Health Services COVID-19 Response Page for information and updates here.



Why did you choose to live at August?



That’s simple, three words: Close to Work.


I actually wasn’t even looking for a place! I was on my lunch break one day in 2018 when I saw an ad for Homes by Avi. Thinking it would be great to live closer to work, I made an inquiry and Cassandra reached out asking if I would like to come by their Discovery Cente to take a look at the first building they were promoting at that time. I loved what I saw, so much so that I even stayed with the colour scheme of the show home!/


From that very first call, I liked that Avi was not pushy, as I was cautious after hearing of some bad realtor experiences. If we needed a question answered, we knew they were there. We liked dealing with the builder directly and being able to access files online. It really was a stress-free first-time buying experience, smooth sailing!


We moved in on November 2 and although we haven’t been able to get to know our neighbours as much as we would like, we have run into each other at the elevator and during a fire drill and agreed one day when possible we will do coffee or have a wine night!



Tip: Show suites for quick posession 1 and 2 bedroom condos at August are now open, learn more  here.



What are your favorite things about living in the University District?



I’m very comfortable in North West Calgary, having lived in Dalhousie and in residence at UCalgary. However, before the new developments, I felt all the property around here was gone, so it wasn’t an option.


I’m now so happy I get to live in an area where I have history, but also a future.


I especially loved when the neighbourhood came together at 7pm each evening banging pots and pans in a show of thanks and unity for healthcare workers. It really cheered me up after long shifts.


Overall, I find people in the neighbourhood are kind and appreciative of frontline workers, whether it is hospital staff or the workers in the grocery store keeping shelves stocked. I love that the grocery store Save-On-Foods is across the street, and that facilities and amenities are so close, like gyms for keeping fit and places to meet friends for coffee, even a pet store which I think we really must visit!


THANK YOU U/D: We are so grateful to healthcare and all frontline professionals whose bravery, selfless work ethic and spirits have kept our community and city moving through this difficult time with honour and pride. Thank you! We will forever be in awe and a state of gratitude for Nilly, her peers and all they do!



We appreciate U/D community member Nurse Nulifer (Nilly) Espiritu for taking the time to talk with us about her life here and important work for Calgary and its famlies. Post your feedback on University District on Facebook, @udistrictyyc_ on Instagram or Twitter. We are grateful to all healthcare and frontline workers, now and ever!

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