Woman in PPE
“The solidarity of the healthcare community has been awe-inspiring and continues to motivate me to improve both at work and in my everyday life,” says Alexandra Connolly, a graduate of the Respiratory Therapy Program at the Michener Institute of Education at UHN, who jumped right onto the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic after completing her studies. (Photo: Courtesy Alex Connolly)

At a time when they're needed most, 30 respiratory therapy students at The Michener Institute of Education at UHN's School of Applied Health Sciences completed their program and entered the frontlines of healthcare earlier this spring.  

Respiratory therapists (RTs) are the medical professionals who treat problems with a patient's lungs or breathing. They play a pivotal role in the care of patients who become critically ill with COVID-19.  

Despite the students' summer simulation semester being delivered primarily online due to COVID restrictions, they were still able to come on-site in small groups for concentrated skills practice that included enhanced infection control practices. Information on the management of COVID patients was also provided, including access to the Michener-built COVID and Critical Care Learning platform.  

Starting in September 2020, the students completed their clinical year in its entirety. To allow them to enter the workforce quickly, Michener expedited the review process in order to confirm with the College of Respiratory Therapists of Ontario who was eligible to apply for a graduate certificate of registration. 

“Typically, this process is completed in a two-week period after the students finish their clinical year," says Lori Peppler-Beechey, Chair of Critical Care at Michener. “This year, we completed this in a matter of days."  

For graduating respiratory therapy student Eba Basith, completing her clinical year at North York General Hospital during the pandemic has been physically and mentally challenging, but it has also been a great learning opportunity for managing multiple patients during a highly stressful time.  

“With what the RTs are dealing with now, especially new graduates, I know we will come out being able to handle any situation thrown at us," she says.  

“I'm not sure that any amount of respiratory therapy training can adequately prepare you to work on the frontlines during a pandemic caused by a respiratory virus," says Alexandra Connolly, who completed her clinical training at St. Michael's Hospital and now works there, as well as Toronto General Hospital. “However, I do feel that Michener provided me with many opportunities to utilize my theoretical knowledge of Respiratory Therapy in a hands-on environment."  

Eba and Alexandra have also found amazing support in their fellow healthcare workers, especially those who are newer graduates themselves as they have already had the experience of transitioning from being a student to working during the pandemic.  

“I see beauty within the respiratory therapy and multidisciplinary teams that I am a part of," Alexandra says. “The solidarity of the healthcare community has been awe-inspiring and continues to motivate me to improve both at work and in my everyday life."  

 The Princess Margaret takes Pride in caring for patients who identify as LGBTIQ2S+ 

MS Teams
The Sexual and Gender Diversity in Cancer Care Working Group (SGDc), which includes physicians, nurses and Allied Health members across TeamUHN, aims to improve the patient experience for those who identify as LGBTIQ2S+. (Photo: UHN)

For the members of a recently formed working group at UHN and the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre, Pride is not only a celebration. It's also an opportunity to increase awareness of a historically underserved community's needs and help foster a safe, more inclusive and welcoming environment in cancer care.

The Sexual and Gender Diversity in Cancer Care Working Group (SGDc), which includes physicians, nurses and Allied Health members across TeamUHN, aims to improve the patient experience for those who identify as LGBTIQ2S+ by providing them with cancer information, support and services tailored to their specific needs.

"LGBTIQ2S+ patients can face many barriers within healthcare," says Margo Kennedy, Oncology Social Worker at the Princess Margaret, and one of the co-leads of the SGDc working group. "From the very beginning, when patients enter the system, they are not asked for their chosen pronouns which is crucial to their identity and to be treated in a respectful manner.

“Our work will focus on combining research, education, and clinical practice to help break down those barriers and to foster national collaboration across Canada."

The working group is launching a new Sexual and Gender Diversity and Cancer Guide to Resources in the Community to coincide with Pride Month. Developed in collaboration with Patient Education, this new resource will help patients learn more about resources, services and programs specific to the LGBTIQ2S+ community members.

The goal of this guide is to help remove barriers to health services by connecting patients and health care providers to organizations that offer supportive and inclusive programs. The resource guide is available online, from healthcare teams, and the Patient and Family Library at the Princess Margaret.

"While this guide is an important step towards creating a more equitable and inclusive cancer care system, we recognize that there is still much work to be done," says Christian Schulz-Quach, Cancer Psychiatrist and Palliative Care Physician at Princess Margaret and co-lead of the SGDc working group. "Our work will continue beyond Pride Month to promote and respect the voices and interests of the LGBTIQ2S+ communities at UHN and to foster deeper understanding and creative innovation for our patients and their chosen families."

Contact the Sexual and Gender Diversity + Cancer Working Group for more information or to get involved. Visit their website, email SGDc@uhn.ca or phone 416-946-4501 x 4728.

Honouring Ceremony recognizes the 215 Indigenous Children found in Tk'emlúps te Secwépemc territory (Kamloops) and all those affected by Residential and Day Schools

The ceremony featured a prayer and smudge from Elder Evening Westwind, healing drum and song from Rosary Spence, and a ribbon tying ceremony. (Video: UHN)

The Indigenous Health Program (IHP) held a ceremony on June 3 in honour of the 215 Indigenous Children who were found in unmarked graves at a former Indian residential school on Tk'emlúps te Secwépemc Territory (Kamloops) and all those affected by Residential and Day Schools. 

The ceremony, which featured a prayer and smudge from Elder Evening Westwind, healing drum and song from Rosary Spence, and a ribbon tying ceremony, was open to the community to come together for healing, recognition, and reconciliation.  

UHN Cancer Education Program launches revamped Cancer 360 open access course  

4 people staring at a globe
Initially launched in July 2020, the course is designed to equip and empower future and current cancer professionals through exposure to topics not typically covered in training or practice. (Image: UHN)

Following a successful pilot project, Cancer 360 is going global.  

Devised by the Cancer Education Program Team at the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre, Cancer 360 is a globe-spanning open online course. Initially launched in July 2020, the course is designed to equip and empower future and current cancer professionals through exposure to topics not typically covered in training or practice. 

The new and improved version of Cancer 360 launched earlier this month and features 10 peer-reviewed units with enhanced content from experts across fields and professions sharing their knowledge and experience on topics including cancer prevention, Indigenous cancer care, health literacy, the impact of smoking cessation on cancer treatment, and cancer rehabilitation. 

"Cancer is a major global health issue that continues to demand action," says Tina Papadakos, Co-Director of the Cancer Self-Management Research Centre within the Cancer Education Program, and Cancer 360 Course Director. 

"Training and awareness are vital in creating sustainable cancer care and closing gaps. Cancer 360 aims to bridge some of these gaps and support a well-rounded, adaptive cancer workforce worldwide." 

The course is open to current and future cancer health professionals around the world.

Members of TeamUHN who sign up using their UHN email account can also access special features, including live scheduled panel discussions with unit experts and contributors. UHN summer students working in the Cancer Program can access a TED-style talk competition and a Virtual Research Day including the opportunity to develop and present virtual research posters and compete for awards. 

Cancer 360 is also adapted to be accessible to high school students. Cancer 360 High School aims to inspire the next generation of compassionate, well-rounded healthcare professionals who may be looking toward a career in cancer care. 

Congratulations to UHN's Cancer Education Program on the launch of this innovative initiative with global impact.   

Learn more and register for Cancer 360 or Cancer 360 High School.  

Encouraging physical activity for UHN heart transplant community, one step at a time 

people exercising
Heart transplant recipients and UHN healthcare providers are coming together to compete in a virtual step challenge. (Photo: Courtesy of HeartLinks Heart Transplant Support Group)

To encourage physical activity during the COVID-19 pandemic, a group of heart transplant recipients and UHN healthcare providers are coming together to compete in a virtual step challenge.  

But it's more than just a challenge; it's also an opportunity to build an active transplant community and for recipients to make the most of their gift of life.  

“COVID-19 has been difficult for all, but especially those who are immunocompromised," says Darko Zlatanoski, a heart transplant recipient and creator of the challenge. “Other than following instructions from our transplant team, exercising is one of the few things we can control."

Known as the HeartLinks Step Together Challenge, the competition is hosted by the HeartLinks Heart Transplant Support Group, comprised of post heart transplant recipients and LVAD patients at Toronto General Hospital (TGH). 

There are more than 90 participants in the four-week challenge, forming 11 teams of 8-10 people. Each team submits their total step count at the end of the week.  

At the two-week mark, the entire group has achieved more than 13 million steps – almost 10,000 kilometres, or a walk from TGH to Dubai.  

“This challenge has allowed our medical professionals to be part of our teams, recipients to meet one another virtually, and push our limits to get outdoors and stay active in an energetic and fun way," says Darko, who received a new heart at UHN in 2019.  

From walking and running, to dancing and playing tennis, exercise can be in any form. As long as you're moving, it counts. Teams are also able to win other prizes in categories like Best Team Name, Most Individual Steps and the Team Spirit Award. 

“Every week we can see our cumulative steps, and what's so exciting is that our recipients step count usually out-number the staff step counts," says Stella Kozuszko, a nurse practitioner at UHN's Heart Transplant Program. 

“It's motivating to see that heart transplants work, and it's a great way to stay connected with our patients." 

HeartLinks would like to thank all team captains for helping run the challenge. If there are any heart transplant recipients that would to take part in events such as the HeartLinks Step Together Challenge, follow the Heartlinks Heart Transplant Support Group on Facebook or email heartlinksgroup@yahoo.ca to stay informed.  

 Princess Margaret Cancer Centre celebrates Oncology Nursing Awards 

Wide shot of winners
Congratulations to all of the winners and nominees of this year’s Oncology Nursing Day Awards at the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre. (L to R): Dr. Keith Stewart, Carmen Jones, Jennifer Harris, Mark Jasinski, Dr. Joy Richards, Nicole Sommerville, Sabeena Santhirakumaran, Meaghan Fleck, Claire Kelly, Anet Julius) (Photo: UHN)​

Every day, oncology nurses at Princess Margaret Cancer Centre and across UHN deliver excellent patient care, demonstrate leadership in cancer education delivery and participate in quality or research-based initiatives.  

On June 10, the 12th Annual Oncology Nursing Awards recognized oncology nursing excellence at UHN. Throughout the pandemic, nurses in oncology have been at the forefront, bringing the best of themselves to provide safe, compassionate and high-quality patient care. This year, there were 32 nurses nominated for five awards with 76 interprofessional nominators.  

“The Rising Star Oncology Nursing Award" is presented to an oncology nurse who is new to the field of oncology nursing – less than five years since graduating, less than three years in oncology. The recipient of the award is recognized for their contributions to excellence in nursing practice and patient-centred care. 

This year's recipients are Mark Jasinski, 16P Palliative Care Unit, described as unwavering in his calm and patient-centred approach to care, and Meaghan Fleck, Malignant Hematology Inpatient Nurse, who has demonstrated incredible flexibility throughout the pandemic by working across various units in the hospital, including the COVID surge unit.  

The “Preceptorship/ Mentorship/Teaching Award" is presented to an oncology nurse in recognition of an outstanding contribution to the overall growth, development, and education of nurses and nursing students in oncology through preceptorship, mentorship, or teaching. 

This year's recipients are Sabeena Santhirakumaran, 15A Malignant Hematology Inpatient Unit, who is known to create a safe and open space with her students enabling them to approach her with questions or concerns and support them in finding their voice, and Claire Kelly, Ambulatory Care Head and Neck, who demonstrates the attributes of an exceptional mentor, as shown through her commitment to continuous professional development, advancing practice initiatives, and dedication towards training new team members.  

The Michael Kamin Hart Award of Excellence in Adolescent and Young Adults is presented to a nurse who has made an exceptional impact on the experience and care of adolescents and young adults with cancer. 

This year's recipient is Jennifer Harris, Ambulatory Care Lung and Sarcoma, who is described by her nominators as a compassionate and caring soul with incredible knowledge of oncology nursing and AYA care “par excellence".   

The Rose Dean Essence of Oncology Nursing Award is presented to an oncology nurse in recognition of an outstanding contribution to nursing within the cancer program aligned with the “best of nursing" themes: the power of the presence of nursing and the importance of truly “being with" patients and colleagues; the use of knowledge in providing excellent practice; and the ability to create and foster an environment that enables nurses to be their best. 

This year's recipient is Nicole Sommerville, Ambulatory Care Head and Neck, who exemplifies the power of the presence of nursing, offering support, guidance and using her expert knowledge and skills to ensure patients and caregivers receive the best of nursing care.  

“The 90/10 Professional Development Project Award" provides financial support to a staff nurse to develop and complete a project focused on: developing a nursing practice-based initiative to improve patient/family outcomes or that creates a quality work environment. 

This year's recipient is Carmen Jones, Ambulatory Care Gynecology, for her project on “Measuring and Qualifying Nursing Workload and Patient Acuity in Ambulatory Care.Carmen's supporters say she consistently demonstrates leadership both clinically and in the quality improvement realm. 

Congratulations to all of the Specialized Oncology Nurses who were nominated for the awards: 

Rising Star Oncology Nursing Award Nominees 

  • Oprah Black:  17AB Medical and Radiation Oncology 
  • Harsimran Multani: 17AB Medical and Radiation Oncology 
  • Stephanie Grzelak: 15B Inpatient Malignant Hematology 
  • Neel Choudhary: 14B/C Allogeneic Bone Marrow Transplant 
  • Carolyn Wong: 16P Palliative Care Unit 

Michael Kamin Hart AYA Nursing Award Nominees 

  • ​Kestral Danzmann: 15A Malignant Hematology Unit 
  • Zoe Evans: Nurse Practitioner Allogeneic Bone Marrow Transplant Program 

Preceptorship/ Mentorship /Teaching Award Nominees 

  • Samantha Scime: APNE Malignant Hematology and Bone Marrow Transplant Program 
  •  Laura Olmi: APNE Malignant Hematology and Bone Marrow Transplant Program 
  • Catherine Bergman: Surgical Oncology Toronto General Hospital, Head and Neck  
  • Cindy Murray: Malignant Hematology Day Unit (MHDU) 
  • Mary Jane Hamilton: 16P Palliative Care Unit 
  • Suganya Thambirajah: 16P Palliative Care Unit  

Rose Dean Essence of Oncology Nursing Award Nominees 

  • Jacqueline Savill: Ambulatory Care, Breast Cancer  
  • Nazlin Jivraj: Ambulatory Care, Gynecology  
  • Cindy Luu: 15C Autologous Stem Cell Transplant, Lymphoma and Myeloma 
  • Debbie Chan: 15B Malignant Hematology  
  • Clinical Trials Nursing Team 
  • James Smith: Clinical Nurse Specialist Wound Care 
  • Emily Kim: 14BC Allogeneic Stem Cell Transplant 
  • Monica Ku: Ambulatory Care, GI site 
  • Ana Luisa Costa:  Patient Care Coordinator Medical, Radiation and Palliative Care Inpatient and Ambulatory Palliative Care 
  • Nancy Gregorio: Ambulatory Care, Breast and Melanoma 
  • Sabrina Bennett: Manager for Inpatient Malignant Hematology and MHDU 
  • Dolores Dholah: Ambulatory Care, Brain Tumour Centre  

90/10 Professional Development Project Award Nominee 

  • ​Jermain Joseph: Clinical Trials Nursing 

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