Wen Juan Huang, Pat Cotman, Katrina Lazo
(L to R): Wen Juan Huang, Pat Cotman, Katrina Lazo explain how training with the de Souza Institute has helped them improve the patient care they provide. (Photos: UHN)

No two days are ever the same for a nurse.

Although each individual has their own routine, everyday represents new patients, new challenges and new learning opportunities. Nurses are continuing to deal with the expanding traditional and non-traditional roles they are expected to perform on every shift.

There are about 4,200 nurses at UHN, making them the largest professional group in our workforce.

For National Nursing Week, three UHN nurses share their experiences on how de Souza Institute has helped them with their professional development to continue to do the exceptional and prepare for the changing nature of their profession.

De Souza Institute offers healthcare professionals online courses to enhance expertise to provide the best possible cancer and palliative care. De Souza Designates are well-regarded healthcare professionals possessing strong clinical and leadership skills in oncology or palliative care.

Wen's story

National Nursing Week
May 8 to 14​​, 2017

As a Registered Nurse on the surgical unit at Toronto General Hospital, Wen Juan Huang began her de Souza Nurse Associate Designation when she realized there was a gap in the amount of emotional care that nurses are able to provide to patients. Wen believes the designation program helped her learn and grow as a nurse, both professionally and personally.

On Wen's general surgery unit, the majority of patients are elderly and living with some form of cancer. These patients often stay on the unit for only three days.

"With sicker patients and shorter lengths of stay, sometimes it can be hard to get to know these patients, and answer their tough questions, like "what will happen after I leave?'" Wen says.

Wen's experience with elderly, palliative patients in general surgery has shown her the importance of continuing education, especially in the areas of emotional care, and as they pertain to cultural sensitivity.

"It is important to take the time to answer your patients' questions, talk to their families, and understand what their concerns are to be able to provide the best possible emotional care," she says.

Katrina's story

Working in the General Internal Medicine Unit at Toronto Western Hospital, charge nurse Katrina Lazo delivers treatments and palliative care to an increasing number of geriatric patients with cancer. 

Katrina credits de Souza for enhancing her communication skills.  She says she has quickly been able to implement the knowledge and techniques gained from taking the de Souza courses into her daily routine.

"I found it really boosted my confidence and taught me how to build a better rapport with patients," Katrina says.

"It's helped me become more comfortable engaging in sensitive conversations about death and dying. Although it can still be emotionally challenging to provide end-of-life care, you build versatility and a level of comfort with each patient that welcomes you into their life."

As a young nurse, Katrina is already offering mentorship and guidance to her team, and with the support of her colleagues, she has effectively led many unit quality and safety initiatives. More recently, Katrina has participated in the process of medical assistance in dying, and will be presenting her experience at this year's UHN Nursing Forum.

Katrina stresses the importance of continuous learning, especially for young nurses, as medicine is constantly changing.

"My advice for nurses looking to find the time for added training is to find a topic you are passionate about, and keep a work-life balance," she says. "I think when you're balanced and rested, learning is much more manageable."

Pat's story 

With more than 38 years of experience, Pat Cotman currently works in the Gynecology and Breast Cancer outpatient clinics at Princess Margaret Cancer Centre.

After working in clinical trials and drug development, Pat made the move to return to nursing and active patient care. Entering the oncology field later in her career, Pat credits her confidence and success to her de Souza designation.

"The complexity, variety and number of patients at the Princess Margaret makes it both a rewarding and challenging place to work," she says. "It's important to spend quality time with patients and have focused assessment and a strong knowledge base to provide quality care."

Her number one suggestion for nurses who are in the early stages of their careers is to work toward specialization and certification.

"Achieving the de Souza Nurse Designation is a manageable path and acknowledges your expertise in cancer care," Pat says.

The de Souza Institute applauds all of the UHN nurses for the extraordinary work they do on every shift and are proud to be a resource for their training, professional development and confidence. #YesThisisNursing!

Visit the deSouza Institute website to learn more about becoming a de Souza designate.​

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