Joanne Ryan Grad
Joanne Ryan after graduating in 1975 from University of Toronto. (Photo: Courtesy Joanne Ryan)

After 42 years of nursing at Toronto General Hospital, Clinical Manager Joanne Ryan will no longer set her alarm for 4:23 am to arrive on her General Internal Medicine (GIM) unit on 13 Eaton at 6:45 am.

Joanne's final day at TG was last week – Monday, April 30.

"I've bought a lounge chair for my deck, and I want to enjoy the summer with no alarm clock to wake me," Joanne says with a smile, adding that she also plans to purge her house of the things she has collected while working flat-out for so many years.

And after that?

"I've always been a spontaneous person," she says. "Something else will come up.

"But first, I need to relax."

As a nursing leader at TG, Joanne has been involved in a lot of high-impact work, including starting new programs, streamlining unwieldly processes, or lending a sympathetic ear to colleagues and patients alike.

She is widely recognized for her creative problem-solving abilities, integrity, active listening and genuine understanding of others to build trust and establish rapport.

In meeting Joanne for the first time in the 1990s, Clinical Manager Beth Curiale knew it was her "lucky day." Not only was Joanne stylish in her granny boots, recalls Beth, but she was organized enough to always be able to find an email from years ago.

"Joanne's door was always open and she has always welcomed her colleagues, staff, patients and families," Beth says. "They have all sought her strength, calm counsel and wisdom."

Adds Senior Clinical Director Mary Kay McCarthy: "Joanne's hallmark is her ability to positively engage with others, to make room for all team members to share their ideas, and strongly advocate for patients and her team."

Joanne and Mary Kay McCarthy
Joanne at her retirement celebration with Senior Clinical Director Mary Kay McCarthy. (Photo: UHN)​

Two months after completing her nursing degree at University of Toronto, Joanne started as a staff nurse on Subspecialty Medicine in 1975, located in the old College Wing. At that time, nursing jobs were scarce, with many new Ontario graduates relocating to the U.S.  

The unit was composed of 24 patients from nephrology, hematology, and gastroenterology. Part of her care was teaching patients on total parenteral nutrition (TPN) or intravenous feeding to get their nutrition through their veins via a feeding tube.

"It was interesting….lots to learn," she remembers fondly. "I was so happy and proud to be offered that job because they only had one nursing job on that unit."

She became a Nurse Manager in 1982, working with many inpatient and ambulatory areas over the next 16 years.  During that time, two of her many accomplishments included opening the Medical Day Unit and Day Treatment Unit in the Immunodeficiency Clinic, paving the way for other programs to begin similar units.  

Joanne also worked in Corporate Nursing with the Nursing Information Systems team for several years where she examined nursing workload, along with resource and environmental factors.  It was the first time nursing had a dashboard with "at-a-glance" data to better assess resources, budget, support systems to plan ahead for the needs of a unit.

In 2008, Joanne became Nurse Manager for 13ES GlM. She talks fondly about the "extraordinary staff and physicians" who daily care for aging, increasingly complex patients, with seemingly fewer resources.

"It's a constant balancing act – ensuring our patients are ready to leave the unit, with enough community resources to help them, and, at the same time, getting ready to receive the constant stream of patients from Emergency," she says. "Everyone gives it their all to make this happen safely and with dignity for our patients."

Scott McIntaggart, Executive Lead at TG, remembers Joanne as an inspired teacher and mentor.

"She took me under her wing when I was a young manager and guided me through uncharted territory," Scott says. "I felt I was in good hands. Her can-do attitude was motivating to me and so many others."​

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