"It's hard work, but I love my job," says Lorna Mendoza, an aide in Environmental Services at Toronto Western Hospital. "It's easy when you work with nice people." UHN is celebrating Environmental Services Week Sept. 11 to 17. (Photo: UHN)

UHN celebrates Environmental Services Week

For Environmental Services Week, which runs Sept. 11 to 17, UHN is celebrating its 625 Environmental Services (EVS) aides and cleaners across all sites, including those such as Lorna Mendoza, who is known for keeping Toronto Western Hospital's Orthopedic Inpatient Unit spotless.

After 12 years in the Facilities Management – Planning, Redevelopment & Operations Department (FM-PRO), she has the job down to a science. At 7 a.m., she starts the day by cleaning the ninth floor's common areas, including staff break rooms and the nursing station. Then, she starts to collect garbage and work her way through patient rooms, sweeping, mopping and cleaning washrooms.

With patients recovering from hip or knee replacement surgery, they often stay a few days in the unit, so Lorna gets to know them. She'll learn about their interests, whether it's a love for beaches or movies and chat with them as she works.

By 11 a.m., patients start to get discharged and the pace picks up.

In order to get a room ready for a new patient, she cleans it from top to bottom: disinfects the washroom, removes the bed linens, sweeps the floor, wipes down and cleans the bed – from the head and footboard to the mattress and beneath it – disinfects the drawers, walls, all other high-touch surfaces, puts on fresh bed linens and mops the floor on her way out.

Cleaning after a patient discharge can take a half hour to 45 minutes. She does at least six each shift.

"It's hard work, but I love my job," says Lorna. "It's easy when you work with nice people."

She also goes out of her way to ensure the supply closet is cleaned and organized for her colleagues.

"I'm always thinking ahead and not only thinking of myself – I want to make sure my colleagues on the weekend are set," Lorna says as she opens a new box of gloves and re-stocks the shelves.

Lorna is passionate about healthcare and putting the needs of patients first. In her free time, she fundraises for ALS research – often donating to Krembil Research Institute – in honour of her late nephew who had the nervous system disease.

"I am so proud that I work here at Toronto Western and that Krembil is a part of us," Lorna says.

Be sure to thank an Environmental Services staff member this #EVSWeek and stay tuned for more stories celebrating Lorna's FM-PRO colleagues during Support Services Week, Nov. 21 to 27.

Vocera is live at UHN! Vocera is a hands-free communications device that allows healthcare professionals to call for assistance or supplies without leaving an isolation room or removing personal protective equipment. (Photo: UHN)

There's a Siri for healthcare, and it's here at UHN

There's a new line of communication connecting Toronto General's Intensive Care Units (ICUs), and it's as easy as saying: "Okay, Vocera."

The Vocera Smart Badge is a hands-free communications device that allows healthcare professionals to call for assistance or supplies without leaving an isolation room or removing personal protective equipment.

After a successful three-month trial in Medical Surgical ICU (MSICU), UHN Telecommunications expanded Vocera to the Cardiovascular ICU (CICU) and Cardiovascular ICU (CVICU) on Aug. 31.

"The project came to fruition at the height of the pandemic, when the need for staff to be able to communicate with people outside of isolation rooms was dire," explains Sylvia Welsh, Manager, Telecommunications, UHN.

"Virtual care has been around for 20 years, but the pandemic really pushed it into the healthcare ecosystem. Vocera is part of that push."

Sheryl Alexandre, Clinical Director, Critical Care and the Peter Munk Cardiac Centre, sees Vocera as perfect adjunct to UHN's existing lines of communications.

"If you're wearing your Vocera, you have access to anyone and anything in the ICU you might need, without having to leave the room," she says. "It allows you to really focus on the care you're providing."

In addition to improving patient care and staff communications, the smart badge includes a few staff wellness tools such as asking Vocera to "play mindfulness" for a five-minute guided meditation. There's also a number of hidden features, or "Easter eggs," many of them for Star Trek fans – try “beam me up Scotty!" or “call Captain Kirk."

With our third pandemic fall underway, embracing innovative communication tools such as Vocera is more important than ever.

"The pandemic pushed healthcare in so many ways," says Sylvia. "And there were some small wins that came out of that, specifically when it comes to tech and healthcare.

"I think that's how we survive these things, by looking at the positive."

KINSHIP is a mentorship program led by Drs. Sarah Munce, (L), and Tracey Colella, scientists at UHN's KITE Research Institute. (Graphic: KITE Research Institute)

KITE launches mentorship program for early career researchers

Dr. Charlene Chu, affiliate scientist at UHN's KITE Research Institute, is in the middle of one of the most nerve-racking times for any early career researcher — her third-year interim review.

On top of completing the review, Dr. Chu is navigating other challenges early career-researchers face, such as creating a fundable and viable research program, teaching obligations and more.

Without proper guidance Dr. Chu and others in her shoes could easily be overwhelmed by the taxing demands. It's precisely for this reason that the KITE Research Institute and Toronto Rehabilitation Institute (TRI) Academic Advisory Committee, led by KITE Associate Director-Academic, Dr. Jenny Campos, created the KITE Early Career Peer Mentorship Program (KINSHIP).

KINSHIP is a mentorship program led by KITE scientists Drs. Tracey Colella and Sarah Munce that pairs early-career researchers at KITE with Senior Scientists in order to support their career development.

"We want to ensure that our early career researchers are really well supported in all aspects," said Dr. Colella, who is also an associate professor in the Faculty of Nursing and Rehabilitation Sciences Institute at the University of Toronto (U of T).

"We want early career researchers to have the informational and emotional support for the various challenges they will inevitably face at the beginning of their career, as well as practical support," she says. "This can include information about funding applications, networks and programs, as well as receiving feedback on their progress and future plans."

KINSHIP launched at the end of May with a workshop outlining the structure of the program and the benefits of peer mentorship. Mentors and mentees are expected to meet at least four times throughout the one-year program.

"We know there's all sorts of good outcomes associated with peer mentorship — more publications, faster academic promotions, greater overall career satisfaction — so we really wanted to institute this program at KITE," said Dr. Munce, who is also an assistant professor at U of T in the Department of Occupational Science & Occupational Therapy. ​

Dr. Chu is already reaping the benefits of the program. Her anxiety over her review was alleviated thanks to sage advice and a vote of confidence from her mentor Dr. Nancy Salbach, a Senior Scientist at KITE and a professor in the Department of Physical Therapy at U of T.

"The prospect of having regular access to wisdom from someone who is very successful and who can provide an unbiased and honest perspective of where I am in my research and career trajectory is very beneficial," said Dr. Chu, who is an assistant professor at the Lawrence S. Bloomberg Faculty of Nursing at U of T.

This initiative has been in the works since 2018 after a survey by the TRI Academic Advisory Committee identified the need for a mentorship program. Drs. Colella and Munce were chosen to lead KINSHIP as peer mentorship is one of their research areas.

There are seven pairs of mentors and mentees in KINSHIP's inaugural cohort from a variety of disciplines, including psychology, engineering, health services research, nursing, and epidemiology.

"One of the things we're especially proud of is that we were able to match mentors and mentees from different fields," Dr. Munce said. "It creates new opportunities both within and outside of participants' current networks, as well as reinforces one of KITE's guiding principles — interdisciplinary collaboration."

Drs. Colella and Munce will be formally evaluating the program and hope to expand the program to include postdoctoral fellows in the future.

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