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Pat Mason has been making her "rounds" at Toronto General Hospital (TGH) for more than 35 years, with her own special dose of healthy cheer.
A resource of information to medical staff, a provider of hugs to concerned families, and a conversation-buddy to patients who are healing, Pat considers the role of environmental services staff to be much more than maintaining the cleanliness of the hospital.
"I love my job. I come to work for patients," explains Pat, who now works in the transplant step-down unit on the 10th floor at TGH.
"The staff look at me as more than a housekeeper. They view me as a team member who's working with them and their patients."
For this year's International Housekeeping Week, UHN News is profiling Pat, who explains what she enjoys about housekeeping, and how she helps create exceptional patient and staff experiences.
In 2003, when SARS hit and visitors to the hospital were limited, Pat felt that the patients needed a way to connect with the outside world. So, she started picking up
Metro Toronto newspapers and handing them to the patients on her floor every morning. At the time, she worked in the transplant inpatient unit on the seventh floor of TGH.
This is a practice she has maintained for the past 13 years. Every day of the work week, Pat's shift starts at 7 a.m., but she is at the hospital at 6 a.m. – first distributing the paper to patients on the seventh floor, and then to those on the 10th floor.
"The patients look forward to it," explains Pat.
"Many say, 'Thank you. If it wasn't for you, I'd be staring at the wall.'"
Arleen Sterling, a staff nurse from the seventh floor, often talks to Pat as she does her morning newspaper delivery to patients on her floor.
"The patients feel that she is looking out for them because she always has an encouraging word for everyone. She's willing to take the time and listen to a person," says Arleen.
Working alongside a critically ill patient population
Pat has worked in numerous TGH departments throughout her 35 years here. Since 2005, she's worked in the transplant step-down unit, which supports patients who have just received a transplant and require continuous monitoring.
"The patients who come to this floor are very ill. So if I'm about to take a break, but I find out I need to make the bed for a new patient, I do the bed before I do anything else. Everything we do for these patients is very important."
"I like working with their families too. If I see someone who looks like they need a word of encouragement or comfort, I do that for them right away. It feels good. It's my passion."
Pat says she applies this way of being to everyone she meets, from patients to families to fellow UHN staff members.
"Sometimes, I can see it on the nurses' faces when they need to sit down or they need a cup of tea. If I sense this, I will bring them crackers or tea. Their first response is always, 'Pat how did you know?'"
"She takes a real interest in patients. She provides emotional support for them, and gets to know them by their first names. She even gave me chocolate when I was really sad," says Vanita Marques, a staff nurse on the seventh floor who has known Pat for five years.
Pat, a mother of three, grandmother of six and great-grandmother of two, still comes to work every day at 6 a.m. for her dual-floor paper delivery.
"I work with everyone here, and that's how it should be. For nurses that rotate between departments, for example, I tell them where the supplies are that they need," explains Pat.
"I love what I do here. It is my reason for waking up in the morning, knowing that I am a 'change agent' who is affecting someone's life."