PATIENT STORIES

This year's National Nursing Week overlaps Mother's Day. We took this opportunity to honour our exceptional, smart, and hardworking cardiac nurses and mothers.

A Nurses’ Family Tree of Compassionate Care

Today, it’s time to honor the mother figure in your life and support nurses, who play a vital role in ensuring the well-being of patients and their families.

Your contribution will be matched by the generous Grass Family.

By investing in the future generation of cardiac nurses, we can improve patient care and ensure that nurses receive the recognition they deserve.

Ask any teenager what they want to be when they grow up, and most won’t be able to tell you.

However, Alyssa knew what she wanted from an early age. She dreamed of becoming a nurse.

It all started with a simple and compassionate gesture that changed the course of her life.

As a child, Alyssa’s frequent visits to CHEO made for a challenging time for the family.

“My mom would come into pre-op with me, and I’d bring my stuffed animals, but I was stressed and afraid to be separated. I remember there being a nurse who put I.D. bracelets on my stuffed bunny and puppy. They got their little I.D. bands so I could carry them wherever I had to go. I felt braver because of it.,” she shares.

Nurses went the extra mile to care for Alyssa, which stayed with her.

One of her greatest joys as a child was visiting the wards with her aunt and carefully filling up the patients’ water glasses. She loved every minute of it, so much so that she had a Fisher Price medical-themed play station where she could practice nursing at home.

Today, Alyssa works in the Day Unit at the Institute, where she enjoys caring for patients while they get back on the road to recovery.

Her aunt, Erika, a mentor, and vice president of clinical operations, is still a big part of her life, and she was even the one to bestow the nursing pin during her “pinning ceremony,” which welcomed her to the profession upon her graduation.

Erika, who took her to the wards in the first place, was a shining example of nursing at the Heart Institute. Since 1991, Erika has excelled in many roles, dedicating her nursing career to the Heart Institute, and has had the privilege to mentor many nurses.

Erika’s enduring passion for patient care and the very best in nursing practices keeps her engaged and moving forward. Like Alyssa, she has a very personal motivation for becoming a nurse.

Her experience of seeing her grandfather sick with the effects of heart disease led her to take on the ‘call’ for nursing.

“Nurses took the time to tell me what was happening; they could walk me through what my grandfather was dealing with, all the details. “I knew being a nurse was exactly what I wanted to be, and I have never regretted that choice. I am incredibly proud of my family for following this path,” Erika smiles.

However, there are sacrifices related to nursing, especially within families.

Cole, Erika’s son and also a nurse, remembers many holidays that his mother needed to work and be away from the family. Missing special events and working with last-minute schedule changes are the same things that he navigates now with his own partner, who is also in the nursing profession.

To him and his family, nursing allows them to work and live their passion for healthcare despite the challenging sides of the profession. They all feel that they are part of something ‘bigger’ and celebrate special days, granted, not always on the holiday itself.

The family has a special bond, and they understand the vocation, the challenges, and the joys of caring for patients.

Alyssa shares, “If I have had a tough shift or need to talk through my experience at work, I know Erika and Cole will understand. We speak the same ‘language’ and are very supportive of each other.”

“The Heart Institute is one of the absolute best places to work,” Cole affirms. “I also had one of the most inspiring examples of nursing possible in my mother, Erika.”

Pauline, another nursing matriarch, is now retired but had worked as a nurse for almost forty years, along the way mentoring many young nurses, the last of which being her own daughter, Jennifer.

“Lead with compassion, put yourself in your patients’ shoes, and do not be afraid to cry, hold their hands, and listen to their stories.”

That is the advice that Pauline gave to her daughter when she started nursing at the Institute. It was an honour to be colleagues, and the two worked together for a brief time.

Pauline was a nurse in the patient ambulatory unit and understood exactly what her daughter needed to receive in order to give exceptional care.

Jennifer would meet the patients from the Operating Room and review the medical histories that her mother had gathered for her, placing patients on the best path possible.

“Patients would ask me if we were related, and I would say: Yes, that’s my mother!

Talk about the continuity of ‘Morand’ care!'” Jennifer shares.

Nursing can be demanding. The nurses themselves also need care and support to offer the exceptional care they are known for at the Institute.

Angela, Alyssa’s mother, makes caring part of her job by seeking initiatives that enhance workplace wellness and employee satisfaction, particularly for nurses. She is a “carer for the caregivers.”

“Our staff are precious, and I, as an engagement and retention officer, ensure that this place of healing is also a great employer,” she says.

“My family is blessed with many nurses, which motivates me to ensure that all nurses are well-supported. It’s an incredible place, and I feel lucky to work here and do my part to support this amazing team.”

Thank you for reading!

Investments will help enhance nursing training, provide access to national and international educational opportunities, and support nursing-specific research that advances excellence in patient care.

This National Nursing Week, we honour our exceptional, smart, and hardworking cardiac nurses. We also recognize the contributions and commitment of mothers and how often our strongest values are passed down from generation to generation.

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