Stephanie Phan
"I am so grateful to have been part of the inpatient clinical team and able to help provide some relief to the nursing shortage, and care for patients during this challenging time," Stephanie Phan says of her volunteer redeployment last month. (Photo: Courtesy Stephanie Phan)

With the Omicron Wave receding and March 11 marking the second anniversary of the COVID-19 pandemic, UHN News is asking TeamUHN members how they're doing, what they've learned, how they're coping and what the future looks like.

Life has a way of giving us what we need, when we need it.

That's how Stephanie Phan, Clinical Lead of the Cancer Rehabilitation and Survivorship Program in the Department of Supportive Care at the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre, describes her redeployment.

It was early January, another pandemic year was off to a harsh and dramatic start – more than 1,000 members of TeamUHN were off work after contracting COVID-19, or in isolation due to exposure.

Stephanie was one of the many across UHN – both clinical and non-clinical – who volunteered. She spent three weeks working on inpatient units 17A, 17B and 16P at the Princess Margaret, providing what she describes as "some much-needed relief to nurses, doing whatever was needed," from answering patient call bells, getting water and delivering food trays, to toileting and supporting patients' families.

"Being back on the in-patient units for the first time in 16-plus years was definitely an adjustment," Stephanie says. "But like muscle memory that has been buried, it comes back with use and familiarity."

Pulse of UHN  

Looking back, Stephanie says the redeployment rejuvenated her. It taught her lessons of courage and resilience – among patients, their families and caregivers, as well as those on the UHN care teams – and gave her deeper appreciation for her own good health.

It also underscored to her that it "truly takes a village" to care for acute inpatients.

"For me, the experience was humbling, valuable and enlightening, with many lessons learned," Stephanie says. "I am so grateful to have been part of the inpatient clinical team and able to help provide some relief to the nursing shortage and care for patients during this challenging time."

Despite the fact it was "not easy or comfortable" to be wearing full personal protective equipment all day, Stephanie says "a silver lining" was reconnecting with former colleagues on the units for the first time in more than a decade. She was also grateful to be working with inpatients again.

"It was a privilege to bear witness to the courage it takes for a patient to ask for and receive help, to accept feeling and being vulnerable, to build resilience and maintain hope," Stephanie says. "I am reminded of the strength of family, friends and supports who lift up patients and inspire them toward recovery."

Stephanie says even though "it felt like madness and chaos at times," redeployment helped her refocus and "appreciate the small moments," which will help her persevere through the pandemic.

"I choose to remain optimistic and to see the good that can come when we are facing challenges, as collectively we can get through it," she says. "I believe that small acts of kindness will change the world.

"Every person and every action is all it takes to make a difference."

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