Terry Pursell, President and CEO, North York General Foundation

COVID-19 Updates: Message from the President – May 14, 2020

Dear Friends,

This week may not be well known outside the hospital world, but it is Nursing Week, celebrated in close proximity to Florence Nightingale’s birth, some 200 years ago. Known as the pioneer of modern nursing, she made critical strides in the application of hospital hygiene and sanitation, and using data visualization and infographics to interpret statistical data. Clearly much more than my first recall of her as a nursing warrior with a lamp, who tended to soldiers. Miss Nightingale was fiercely committed to nursing and shunned the traditional pursuits of marriage and motherhood. She was a social reformer to improve health and abolish harsh prostitution laws, and fought for expanding female workforce participation.

And how about this… she was a fundraiser! That’s crazy. She used technology in 1890 to appeal for funds for war veterans.

Nightingale’s voice
Recorded to wax cylinder on 30 July 1890, to raise money for veterans of the Charge of the Light Brigade.[2]

…this woman was for the ages.

North York General is filled with nurses who embody the best of Florence Nightingale. They are fierce, independent, passionate, innovative, committed and fearless in their care of patients and their families. Every day should be Nursing Day, and Time Magazine’s Person of the Year surely must be a nurse.

In these times of nursing in the age of COVID, they have adapted, reacted, modified, flexed, worked and worked and worked, and sacrificed. The men and women whom we proudly call the nurses of North York, inspire and support us through their endless energy, compassion and hope.

Amidst the life-saving work she performs every day, nurse Connie Leroux was incredibly generous with her personal time to answer some questions for me.

Connie Leroux, RN, Critical Care Unit, North York General

Connie Leroux

What drew you to practice nursing in the Critical Care Unit (CrCU), also referred to as the Intensive Care Unit (ICU)? 

I developed my interest in the CrCU in nursing school and was very lucky to start within my first year of practicing. The CrCU is a very fast-paced, highly acute environment where we care for the sickest patients in the hospital during the most vulnerable and critical phase of their illness. It is a journey we take together. Sometimes this means successfully leaving the CrCU, and other times it means their journey ends here with us, and we endeavour to provide respect and comfort in the end-of-life process.

When a patient is admitted to an ICU, it often conjures up anxiety and fear. What do you share with the patient and their family to reassure them that this is the best unit in which to receive care?

It can be terrifying for patients and their families, and there is a great sense of loss of control and feelings of helplessness. This is especially true now when patients are not able to have their families physically with them to provide comfort and support them through their illness. Providing the patient and their family with as much information as possible and listening to their questions, concerns and fears is often very helpful. It’s important to be compassionate, empathetic and supportive. In the CrCU we have always considered our family members to be an integral part of the health care team, and they are remaining actively involved in decision-making in the plan of care for our patients.

As difficult as it is for the patients, we recognize that the family members are also dealing with the fear and anxiety, and they truly need our support. We encourage them to call as often as they would like for updates, arrange FaceTime visits with their loved ones, and in end-of-life situations, we arrange compassionate, in-person visits.

What does the term “new normal” mean for you professionally and personally? 

Professionally, I see changes in the way we practice, particularly with the constant donning and doffing of PPE equipment. As we learn more, we adjust and make changes based on those findings. We need to ensure that we are keeping up with these changes to provide our team with the best information and practices to keep them safe. Changing and adapting is not something new for us —it’s just magnified now.

Personally, I really don’t know…. I would think social practices will need to change, but I don’t know what that will look like. One challenge I do see for myself is figuring out how to manage my own fears and anxieties to minimize the impact it has on myself and my family, as this will be the new norm.

What would people be most surprised to learn about a CrCU nurse? 

ICU nurses are strong, determined, knowledgeable, compassionate, emotional, caring and staunch patient advocates. They are also incredibly supportive of our patients, families and our team members, and we are proud of the care we provide.

But what people may not know is…
EVERY experience, good or bad…. we take home.
When you are crying tears of joy or tears of sorrow…. We are, too.
Your success is our success.
Your loss is our loss.
We too have fears and anxieties.

Some of us are living in isolation from our families to protect them from what we may unintentionally bring home.

And I think the most important thing I want you to know is that we love what we do and wouldn’t be anywhere else. When you cannot be with your family, we are here, holding their hand and providing the best care we can to try and get them, and you, through this.

You may not remember or even know the name of nurses who have cared for you or a loved one, but you recall the experience and how they made you feel. The first three nurses I met my first week when I started here 10 years ago remain incredible models of dignity, grace and compassion, and yes, they are fierce – so here’s to you Andrea, Helen and Susan. If you would like to honour or thank a nurse, even if you don’t recall their name, please consider a donation as a gesture of gratitude: NYGHFoundation.ca/SayThanks

This Victoria Day weekend, I hope you are able to unwind a bit and make plans that involve parks, golf courses (yes!) and some of your favourite local shops.

My best to you and yours, and #staysafe,

Terry Pursell
Terry Pursell
President & CEO

P.S. As always, if you are interested in learning more about COVID-19-related issues, please go to the hospital’s website at nygh.on.ca/covid-19-updates and remember to access our self-assessment tool at covid19toronto.ca to help guide you if you or a family member are feeling unwell.