Good morning, TeamUHN!

It is a pleasure to connect with you across care, research, and education through this weekly CEO update – all in service of A Healthier World.

Key reminders and updates

  • I want to start again with another note of thanks and appreciation for all TeamUHN members who have pulled together amid this extremely difficult period of staffing challenges and high patient volumes, particularly our nursing colleagues. Though this moment of intense pressure is not unique to UHN and is being felt across the Canadian health sector and internationally, we know that it has only meant more stress on the backs of our dedicated colleagues. We are profoundly grateful for the service of all TeamUHN members who continue to ensure that the needs of patients come first – our primary value as an organization.
    Under the guidance of People & Culture and Collaborative Academic Practice (CAP), UHN is exploring all strategies to retain and recruit staff. We hired 540 nurses by the end of June. Some retention measures include the Nurse Engagement Strategy that seeks to make this a better place for nurses, including through career pathways and mentorship, more efforts to showcase excellence in nursing at UHN, and further collaboration between CAP and The Michener Institute of Education to create innovative programs to support point-of-care teams with new roles. Michener is also doubling the intake of its Medical Laboratory Technologist student cohort.
    The Employee Referral Program (Corporate Intranet > Departments > People & Culture > Employee Referral Program) offers rewards for TeamUHN members who refer a candidate hired for permanent Full-Time and Part-Time hard-to-fill roles. The New Grad Guarantee program (Corporate Intranet > Departments > CAP > Nursing Graduate Guarantee) continues to support new graduate nurses in finding full-time opportunities. UHN Careers has also launched 'Ask a Nurse,' which allows students to have a virtual chat with TeamUHN Nurses about their work and departments. Please share this link with prospective candidates.
    CAP is also collaborating with the Ministry of Health and the College of Nurses of Ontario to support internally educated nurses and help them attain the necessary competencies for registration. Windmill Microlending and UHN have partnered to offer financial assistance to internationally educated UHN employees serving in roles that are not commensurate with their skills and experience, so that they may pay for the costs of accreditation, training, and career development. Learn more about this initiative and the eligibility criteria here.
    Last week, Health Minister Sylvia Jones sent directives to the College of Nurses of Ontario and the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario to develop plans to expeditiously register internationally educated professionals. The Registered Nurses' Association of Ontario says there is a backlog of 26,000 international nurses awaiting registration.
  • Hearty congratulations to Dr. Fei-Fei Liu on her prestigious appointment as Scientific Director of the CIHR Institute of Cancer Research. Dr. Liu has been an outstanding clinician scientist at the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre for more than three decades and serves as Head of the Department of Radiation Oncology. In this role, she will play a crucial role in advancing cancer research. We are also proud that the Institute will be based at UHN. Her four-year term begins on Sept. 1. Read more about this appointment from the Government of Canada. Well done, Fei-Fei!
  • A reminder that the Synapse project is in the stabilization phase until December 2022. Stabilization means fixing in Epic what isn't working as intended or poses a high or immediate risk to patient safety. In parallel to stabilizing Epic, UHN Digital is folding the ongoing support of Epic into their regular operations, making adjustments to team structures and processes along the way and as needed. This shift from project work to operations includes managing requests for system enhancements and new Epic-related projects. Over the coming weeks, Synapse Working Groups will be oriented to the scorecard and other tools they'll use to assess and prioritize requests in partnership with UHN Digital. Based on the determined priorities, an integrated, multi-year roadmap will be developed to address Epic-related requests. It is also worth noting that in November there will be a scheduled version upgrade of Epic that will likely provide some of the improvements users are seeking. Balancing the need to optimize the power of Epic with Digital’s other accountabilities – which include responding to required changes to provincial systems, delivering on other essential projects, and using limited resources effectively and efficiently – will be an ongoing challenge, but one that Digital leadership is prepared for.
  • Ontario's Legislature will resume this week, with a throne speech set to be delivered Tuesday by Lieutenant-Governor Elizabeth Dowdeswell. The throne speech will broadly outline the objectives and priorities of the Progressive Conservative government. Members of Provincial Parliament are expected to sit for five weeks during the summer session. Among the first orders of business will be debate and a vote on the provincial budget that was not passed before the June election. As I've said, we look forward to working with our provincial partners to advance our goals for A Healthier World.
  • Last week, Dr. Adalsteinn Brown announced he would step down as co-chair of the Ontario COVID-19 Science Advisory Table. After more than two years leading the table and providing advice to help the provincial government respond to the pandemic, Dr. Brown is now set to focus on his work as Dean of the Dalla Lana School of Public Health at the University of Toronto. I thank Dr. Brown for his always frank and clear assessments of the pandemic challenges facing Ontario, and for his service to the province during an exceptionally trying time. I also extend best wishes to Brown's replacement as co-chair, Dr. Upton Allen, a professor of pediatrics at the University of Toronto and the chief of infectious diseases at the Hospital for Sick Children.

Closing Notes

Researchers at UHN's Krembil Brain Institute have developed an approach to better tailor deep brain stimulation (DBS) to patients' needs to help with conditions such as Parkinson’s disease. DBS, which uses electrodes implanted in the brain to alter neuron firing patterns, is an encouraging treatment for neurological disorders. The team, which also included researchers from the KITE Research Institute at UHN and SickKids, used implanted electrodes in two patients to record brain activity as patients experienced symptoms. From that information, researchers found unique patterns of neuron activity as symptoms occurred and programmed electrical pulses targeting localized brain areas to reduce symptoms. Dr. Alfonso Fasano, who is also a scientist at UHN's CRANIA Institute and the study's first author, says the research is "potentially game-changing." Read more about this study at UHN News.

A new study from researchers at UHN's Schroeder Arthritis Institute suggests patients' satisfaction with spine surgery is greatly influenced by their preoperative expectations. Researchers pored over data from more than 1,860 patients who underwent elective surgery for spinal conditions and who were asked about their expectations for the procedure, such as reduced pain. The research team found that patients were more satisfied if their pre-surgery expectations were met, regardless of measurable outcomes. Dr. Mayilee Canizares, a co-first author of the study, told UHN News the finding can inform "how clinicians approach pre-surgery consultations, not just for orthopaedic procedures but for all elective surgeries." Read more at UHN News and learn more about the study here.

Check out this story about how teams at Toronto Rehab and KITE navigated the unchartered waters of virtual rehab amid the pandemic and created a tele-rehab toolkit to help other health professionals do likewise. The comprehensive online program, which included all the details other organizations needed to set up and deliver tele-rehab, was launched within weeks of the start of the pandemic. The resource has been downloaded more than 500 times, with more work planned from this group to help institutions stay connected with their patients virtually. Read more about how virtual rehab is here to stay, part of The Game Changers series of stories about the remarkable people, research, and ideas behind rehab at UHN.


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Have a good week,


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