April Guthrie, Patient Flow and Nursing Resource Team Manager at Toronto General and Toronto Western hospitals, and Princess Margaret Cancer Centre, is retiring after nearly 40 years at UHN. (Photo: UHN)

April Guthrie is someone her colleagues have always been able to count on.

Overseeing Internal Patient Flow and the Nursing Resource Team (NRT and NRU) at three sites – Toronto General and Toronto Western hospitals, and Princess Margaret Cancer Centre – April truly knows UHN like the back of her hand.

"I've learned what works well and what doesn't from experience," says April, who has been with the organization for nearly 40 years.

On Friday, June 30, she'll retire as Nurse Manager, Patient Flow and NRT – but her impact as a nursing leader will continue for many years to come at UHN.

"It's really all about the people," April says. "It's not about my accomplishments, it's about the team's accomplishments and all of the great things we've done throughout the years, and all the great things they'll continue to do."

April says she's been able to refine her leadership style over the years by taking the time to reflect on her experiences, including the mistakes she's made along the way. Part of what makes her an impactful manager and leader is that she instills these same lessons in her staff.

"Learn from your mistakes and take time to improve your skills, but always be true to yourself and never be afraid to speak up," says April, whose wisdom makes her a go-to person whenever a challenge arises.

"Even on nights and weekends, she always picks up the phone," says Darlene Gonzalez, Patient Care Coordinator at Toronto General Hospital.

"I always knew I could count on her if I needed help."

Her previous nursing experience at UHN has also proven to be valuable among staff when implementing new protocols.

"She has so much knowledge about the hospital that makes our day-to-day work run so efficiently," says Maria Pisano, Patient Flow Coordinator at Toronto General Hospital.

April Guthrie, (L), and Marcia Cameron, Nurse Manager for UHN'​s Ajmera Transplant Centre and Nephrology at Toronto General Hospital, celebrate World Kidney Day at Toronto General in 2015. (Photo: Courtesy April Guthrie)

April's journey at UHN began in 1985, at Toronto Western Hospital – before it was a part of the University Health Network – working as a staff nurse in a General Surgery unit after receiving her Diploma in Nursing from Niagara College.

"I was a new grad, just focusing on getting comfortable and learning as much as I could," she says.

Nearly one year later, in 1986, April took a staff nurse position at Toronto General Hospital again on a General Surgery unit. It was from this role that she transitioned to Patient Care Coordinator, eventually working her way into Clinical Educator and Nurse Manager positions across TGH.

Something she describes as one of the biggest milestones of her career was opening a 29-bed General Internal Medicine and Nephrology inpatient unit on 6 Eaton at Toronto General, which she managed from the ground up.

"It involved a lot of planning and organization, like arranging orientation for all the staff and making sure everything ran smoothly," says April.

About 95 per cent of the staff that April hired at the time were recent graduates, who were brand new to both UHN and to their career.

"I was petrified that it would turn into a mess," she says. "But the staff I hired made all the difference.

"They were a great group of people who worked well together, who supported each other."

April 'always led by example'

One staff member who worked closely with April during the opening of 6 Eaton was Marcia Cameron, Nursing Manager for UHN's Ajmera Transplant Centre and Nephrology at Toronto General Hospital.

"She's a wealth of information because of her years of service," says Marcia, who worked as Patient Care Coordinator under April when opening the unit in 2014.

"She provided a lot of guidance and always led by example, remaining calm and helping the team come to a solution."

The unit has since moved to 6A in Toronto General's Peter Munk Building. April was instrumental in creating the welcoming and dedicated culture that remains to this day.

"It was my biggest challenge that turned into my biggest accomplishment," says April.

April also spent over 15 years working as Nurse Manager for Thoracic Surgery and Respirology, and played a significant role in the development of the multidisciplinary high-performance team that came to be branded as "DOTS" – the Division of Thoracic Surgery.

"As a colleague, she's a team player, a team leader and is always there to support her team," says Dr. Shaf Keshavjee, Chief of Innovation at UHN.

"We are greatly indebted to her commitment to Thoracic Surgery, as well as the development of DOTS."

Upon retirement, April looks forward to enjoying lakeside living in Grimsby, travelling, and spending more time with her fiancé and her family. She also admits to looking forward to not waking up at 4:15 a.m.

When asked what she'll miss most about UHN, April says it will be the people. Her wish for her staff is to continue to always put the needs of patients first.

"It's all about remembering that you're here for the patients and to always do your absolute best for them,'" she says.

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