​​The DAISY Award winners and the colleagues who nominated them following the ceremony at Toronto General Hospital on Monday, May 6, which kicked off Nursing Week 2024. (Photo: UHN)

With video and photographic tributes, the latest instalment of the UHN Nursing Speaker Series and a ceremony honouring the winners of the inaugural DAISY Awards, the curtain has risen on Nursing Week 2024.

"Nurses are at the heart of all we do at UHN," Pam Hubley, Vice President and UHN's Chief Nursing Executive, told the audience at an event in the DeGasperis Gallery at Toronto General Hospital on Monday, May 6. "We need your specialized skillsets now more than ever."

Following a panel discussion – Nursing Career Pathways & Options – UHN for the first time handed out the DAISY Awards, which is an international program recognizing and celebrating the extraordinary clinical skills and compassionate care nurses display every day.

Nominations can come from patients, families and staff across UHN.

And the winners of UHN's inaugural DAISY Awards are:

Maria Chiera-Lyle, Lifetime Achievement Award – Highly regarded within the Collaborative Academic Practice (CAP) portfolio at Toronto Rehab, Bickle Centre, Maria demonstrates excellence in her role as an advanced practice nurse educator (APNE) teaching and mentoring colleagues, and supporting patients with her clinical expertise.

With a tenure at UHN spanning many years, Maria has navigated through various roles with expertise, culminating in more than a decade of dedicated service as an APNE. Maria is noted for being a boundless wellspring of resources, creativity and sociability. Her vibrant presence fosters an atmosphere of collaboration and innovation, making her a cherished mentor among her colleagues.

"Maria came into complex continuing care (CCC) full of energy and enthusiasm and just kept going," Gaby Golea, Director of Professional Practice at UHN, told the audience. "Armed with over 25 years of experience and contributions in neurovascular nursing care on the acute side of UHN, Maria dedicated herself to the new role of APNE on the rehab/CCC side of the house.

"She very quickly engaged her fellow point-of-care nurses to identify practice gaps and opportunities for learning. She also asked patients what they thought of their care."

(L to R), Maria Chiera-Lyle, advanced practice nurse educator (APNE) at Toronto Rehab, Bickle Centre, holds her DAISY Award for Lifetime Achievement alongside Gaby Golea, Director of Professional Practice at UHN, who spoke on behalf of Maria's nomination, and Pam Hubley, Vice President and UHN's Chief Nursing Executive. (Photo: UHN)

As the most senior nurse educator in CCC, Maria has been instrumental in providing leadership and insight to UHN-wide Vascular Access training for nurses and has been working in collaboration and partnership with her professional practice colleagues to develop and implement educational materials to support local on-boarding of nursing staff and create conditions where nurses can work to full scope.

Maria's leadership has also seen the growth of our CCC Education Simulation resources – where nurses and allied health members alike can practice different interventions or Code Blue resuscitation techniques on life-like mannequins in a simulated patient room.

"Through all her work, aside from nursing staff, Maria has never lost sight of the most important beneficiaries of her education – the patients in CCC," Gaby said.

"Through her 30+ year career at UHN, Maria has been a key driver in improving the patient experience in whatever program she has found herself."

Janice Lin, Nurse Leader – A registered nurse at Toronto Rehab, Lyndhurst Centre, where she cares for spinal cord injury patients, Janice is recognized for her exemplary leadership and commitment to excellence in rehabilitation nursing. This is a specialty where she deftly manages patient care coordination, oversees scheduling and ensures the highest standards of care delivery through interdisciplinary teamwork.

Fluent in both English and Mandarin, Janice bridges language and cultural gaps in patient care, which enhances the therapeutic experience and outcomes for her diverse patient base. Her dedication to nursing excellence was recognized twice last year, with the McLeish Orlando & Oatley Vigmond Continuing Education Awards, and an Education Excellence Certificate by UHN.

(L to R), Pema Dolkar Zela, Nurse Manager in the Spinal Cord Rehabilitation Program at Toronto Rehab, Lyndhurst Centre, RN Janice Lin, who won the DAISY Award for Nurse Leader, and Pam Hubley, Vice President and UHN's Chief Nursing Executive. (Photo: UHN)

A 2024 recipient of the Cindy Gangbar-Waisglass Award, which was also handed out on Monday, Janice continues to exemplify leadership and professional integrity in nursing. She is committed to advancing her expertise and leadership in nursing, aspiring to further impact patient care practices and health outcomes through professional development and mentorship.

Pema Dolkar Zela, Janice's Nurse Manager in the Spinal Cord Rehabilitation Program at Lyndhurst, read a heartfelt letter from the family member of a woman who was hospitalized with a spinal cord injury in an ATV accident.

"Janice's remarkable leadership, compassion, and empathy not only enhanced the quality of care but also deeply touched our lives," the family member wrote. "Janice consistently went above and beyond to make each patient and their families feel valued."

The nomination letter cited "a particularly memorable instance" in which Janice arranged a small birthday party celebration for the patient.

"Despite her busy schedule, Janice remembered her birthday and organized a surprise event, bringing a sense of home and warmth to the rather cold hospital environment," the family member wrote. "This thoughtful gesture profoundly impacted our family, making us feel recognized and valued beyond just being patients.

"Janice's ability to show deep compassion and empathy was evident in her daily interactions."

(L to R), Janet Pilgrim, Nurse Manager in the Toronto Western Hospital Emergency Department, and members of her team, the winners of the DAISY Award for Nursing Team: Stephanie Swailes, Pam Hubley, Berjae Officer, Maria Cruz (holding the plaque), Natasha McCulloch and Kory Langlois. (Photo: UHN)

Toronto Western Hospital, Emergency Department, Nursing Team – The TWH ED faces many complex challenges such as overcrowding, staffing shortages and high patient acuity. Despite these hurdles, nurses in the TWH ED team are committed to providing individualized patient-centred care and fostering a collaborative and valued relationship with patients and their families.

During challenging moments, the TWH ED nurses consistently display a deep sense of empathy, offering emotional support to patients and their families, acting with kindness and sensitivity, and listening – going beyond medical tasks, to address the emotional and psychological needs of patients and families, and to involve them in the decision-making process.

The team recognizes and validates the diverse cultural backgrounds and beliefs of patients, adapting their approach to ensure a culturally sensitive and compassionate care environment.

They go above and beyond for our marginalized populations and serve our patients with respect and dignity, providing compassionate care. The TWH ED Nurses live out UHN values day in and day out in the complex, challenging ED environment.

Mark Gravoso, in the centre holding his DAISY Award, poses with members of his team on 13ES, a General Internal Medicine Unit at Toronto General Hospital, after a surprise celebration presenting him with the award. (Photo: UHN)

Prior to Nursing Week, the inaugural DAISY Direct Care Nurse Award at UHN was presented to Mark Gravoso, a registered nurse on 13ES, a General Internal Medicine Unit at Toronto General Hospital.

Mark was nominated by the family member of a patient, who called him "God's gift to his patients."

"We consider Mark not only an amazing and exceptional nurse but also a very kind and compassionate person," they wrote of the impact he had during the stay of their family member at the hospital.

"He served and cared for his patients with sincerity and compassion."

The patient's family members wrote that they observed Mark performing dual roles as an attending nurse and a mentor to new nurses assigned to the unit.

"Despite the rigours of his job, I never observed him got irritated or tired," they wrote. "He always had a welcoming smile and a very calm personality.

"Not only is Mark a good person but foremost, he is a very capable and knowledgeable nurse."

The UHN DAISY team collaborated with Autumn Taylor, Nurse Manager on 13ES, to plan a surprise celebration for Mark on the unit and present him with the award.

Sheila Zhang, an RN at the Toronto Western Hospital Intensive Care Unit, poses with her teammates after receiving her DAISY Award on her unit last month. (Photo: UHN)

Also prior to Monday's ceremony at Toronto General Hospital, Sheila Zhang, a registered nurse (RN) at Toronto Western ICU, received her DAISY Award on her unit with her teammates.

A patient, who wrote about the "nightmare" of recovery from a 20-hour spine surgery, recalled their first memory post-surgery as being an initial interaction with Sheila.

"She went above and beyond and provided me with the emotional support I didn't know I needed," the patient wrote. "Sheila took extra time to brush my teeth when my mouth was dry, and even gave me mouthwash!

"She called my mom and asked her to bring shampoo and conditioner in, and they both spent an hour washing my hair and brushing it. It was my first hair wash in weeks and we chatted and laughed, and it was truly a magic experience."

The patient spent months in the ICU and wrote that Sheila would come to visit and bring gifts – including a crocheted sun with a smiley face – even when she was not caring for them.

"It wasn't just a gift, it represented Sheila's positive and caring spirit," the patient wrote. "In the midst of my medical difficulties, Sheila was like a ray of sunshine, not only for me but also for my worried parents.

"Whenever I look at that crocheted sun, I'm reminded of her as the embodiment of sunshine in human form; someone who not only cared for my physical healing but also nurtured my spirit.

"Sheila's bright light is a cherished part of my story, one that I'll always remember with so much gratitude."

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