Ardith Brebner
“I have loved being a nurse,” says Ardith Brebner, who after having distributed thousands of vaccinations in 51 years in nursing, is retiring after this year’s UHN Flu Campaign. (Photo: UHN)

She's such a people person, she can even make your flu shot feel good.

If you've walked by the Eaton entrance to Toronto General Hospital during UHN's Flu Campaign over the past few years, you've probably seen Nurse Ardith Brebner – administering vaccines, and always sharing a smile and a laugh with passerby.

Ardith, 72, has a knack for immunization and often gives out more than 160 flu shots on the first day of the campaign every year – an unrivalled amount.

"I go by the rules," she says, when explaining her secret. "I engage people with a greeting, I always stand, I look professional, and I make eye contact."

After 51 years as an Occupational Health and Safety Nurse – the past seven of which she has spent at UHN during flu campaigns – Ardith is planning to retire after the last day of UHN's Flu Campaign – this Friday, Nov. 25.

"We keep hoping she'll change her mind," Jane Sloggett, Senior Director, Occupational Health and Safety at UHN, says with a laugh. She has worked with Ardith for more than 30 years in different positions. "She has a way with the staff at UHN that we won't soon forget. Her energy is infectious."

Over the course of her time working in Occupational Health and Safety in cities across Ontario, Ardith has given out thousands of vaccinations. She was once responsible for immunizing all City of Toronto firefighters against influenza. And, in her work for the CBC, she vaccinated reporters and crews departing to chase stories around the world.

Ardith tried her hand at retirement once in the early 2000s but wasn't ready for all the free time, she says.

"I had too much energy. I had to come back," she says.

Now, she's ready to rest, and her only retirement hope is that she'll be able to sleep in past her usual wake-up time of 3:00 a.m. But she will miss the relationships she's built as a nurse.

Pisters flu shot next to Bob Bell
Over her time at UHN, Ardith has given the flu shot to two CEOs – Dr. Peter Pisters and Dr. Bob Bell. (Photo: UHN)

"I'll miss the people at UHN. I'm such a people person – I've got the gift of the gab, I always say.

"And I am always so touched when someone tells me that they were looking for me specifically to give them their flu shot," she says. "That has to feel good – that they value my work."

Five decades after graduating as a nurse from the Toronto East General School of Nursing in 1965, Ardith says she has always enjoyed her job.

"I have loved being a nurse. I don't know what else I could have done. How many people can say – after 51 years – that they are still so satisfied with their work?"

With only four days left in UHN's campaign and of Ardith's career as a flu shot nurse, she reminds everyone to roll up their sleeves for the flu vaccine.

"I always tell people – you're being responsible by getting the flu shot. It's one part of being responsible for patients who may be more vulnerable to the flu and any family at home as well."

Last call for the flu campaign

UHN's Flu Campaign is in its final week.

We've partnered with UNICEF Canada again this year for a shot-for-shot initiative. Every flu shot received by a UHN staff member, physician, volunteer, student or contract worker means one measles, tetanus or polio vaccine is donated to a child in need.

Want to qualify to win one of five $200 Cadillac Fairview gift cards being distributed at UHN? Take a photo with our #IFightTheFlu4 sign - located at every flu cart – and submit it through one of the following options:

  • Using Twitter: Tweet your photo with our sign, tell us who you are fighting the flu for, tag us at @UHN_News, and use our campaign hashtag, #IFightTheFlu4.
  • Using email: Email , attach your photo with our sign and tell us who you are fighting the flu for.

To those who have already sent in their photos, thank you for participating and good luck with the contest!

Have you received the flu vaccine outside of UHN?

Your number can still count in the UHN campaign – simply bring a card from the pharmacy or hospital where you received your vaccine to Occupational Health and Safety at UHN and you will be eligible to receive a candy bar and participate in the contest.

After the flu campaign…

UHN will continue to distribute flu vaccines after the Flu Campaign ends. You'll be able to receive your shot at Occupational Health clinics, where you will still receive a candy bar.

If you get your vaccine before the end of December, your shot will also count towards purchasing a vaccine for a child in need through UNICEF Canada. However, the social media contest ends with the Flu Campaign, on Nov. 25.​

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