Jun 4, 2021 | Leadership, Community and Partnerships, Faces of HDGH
I was on a call today and found myself saying that “I’ve found my lost optimism.” I didn’t realize until the words left my mouth how true they were. I don’t know if you all are starting to feel more “regular you” and less “COVID all the time you” but I am. I spent some time this past weekend thinking about the shift. Why am I feeling “better”? Why now? What’s changed given the world is still in the grips of the pandemic and all the associated illness, loss and death? And I think I have a couple of things that have led to my more optimistic outlook. It could have something to do with our provincial number today, June 1, being the lowest since October 2020 with 699 new cases. I thought perhaps I could share these thoughts with you all. Maybe something will resonate with you – maybe not. But I hope I’m not alone in feeling this way.
First it’s spring! The weather has been relatively unstable but the sun is shining in the morning when I get up (usually) and the birds (and their babies) are singing. Generally, it’s the time of renewal, hope and regeneration. I’ve always had a special affinity for spring and summer – not sure I can fully explain it but for me fall and winter signal darker times, and by definition for me harder times, so spring is part of my optimism being found.
Second many in my family are vaccinated and by my own definition safer. I don’t know if I shared with you all how scared I have been that someone I love would get COVID…. specifically my hubby BK. BK has a number of health issues and I’ve worried a lot about him through this past year and a bit – this past week he got his second dose of AZ and for the first time in a long long time I didn’t have a nightmare about him contracting the virus. My family is everything and I’ve been incredibly worried (as many of you have been) about bringing the disease home or him getting it shopping, managing our household while I was consumed with working and keeping the hospital moving forward. The vaccination is key to this lightness I’m feeling.
Keeping with the vaccination theme, the third and final reason I thought of is my volunteer experience at the WECHU vaccination centre. I will tell you it fills me with great joy to have a part in administering the vaccine to some of the 245,782 (as of May 31) W/E residents who have received at least one dose.
It is a big reason why attend my volunteer shift every 2nd Saturday on my days off and I love every moment of it. From the older folks who are so excited to be getting closer to hugging their grandkids to the essential workers who have been living and working in fear – every conversation is a jewel of hope and optimism. Just like COVID, joy and happiness is contagious and I come home on Saturdays exhausted with incredibly sore and sometimes swollen knees – but I sleep deeply and happily knowing I’ve done a small part in making our part of the world a little safer. I’ve been asked why I volunteer when I have such an “important” job as a hospital CEO – but I’ll tell you that there is nothing more important than helping others to be less worried, less scared and more secure in living their lives right now.
I spoke with one lady who told me she hadn’t been out of her home since the pandemic started and she came out to get her vaccination so she could see her friends again. One young man who was an essential worker told me that he has been so anxious to get the vaccine so he would not worry about taking COVID home from his retail job to his mom who is sick. One young woman told me she got it to protect her kids … so many stories and so many conversations. The common denominator is relief of anxiety, fear and a need to take back their life on their terms for themselves and for the people they love. For me I feel that this is something concrete that I can do for them, for us all and for myself. I am a nurse after all first and foremost (since 1984) and I’ve always believed that part of the reason the public trusts us so is that they know we are there for them always – not just when it’s convenient – but always.
If you haven’t got the vaccine please do so – not just for you but for more so for the folks who love you and who you love. If you are looking for some helpful information on vaccines our Windsor Essex County Health Unit’s www.WEVAX.ca is a great local resource.
As always if you want to talk about any of this just reach out. I’m here.
Thanks all and be safe.
May 4, 2021 | Mental Health, Research and Innovation, Community and Partnerships
Hello and welcome to another month and a busy one at that. This month we celebrate our Doctor’s on May 1, our nurses the week of the 10th and our ongoing Mental Health this week during National Mental Health Week.
The theme of this year’s mental health week is #GetReal with how we feel; recognizing the importance that naming our emotions has on our mental health. It’s a hard thing for most of us to do. In my many discussions with our teams, my friends and my family and loved ones, I often notice that we adults don’t always have the vocabulary or the right words to attach to our emotions. Think about it? When asked “how are you” how quick are we to respond “good” or “ok”?
Good isn’t an emotion, folks.
Part of our work as a hospital specializing in mental health and addictions is in promoting good mental health and talking about it honestly. Further more thriving in an uncertain world means that we have to start putting the appropriate words to our feelings and understanding what they mean. That’s what this week is all about; encouraging us to do this and that is what I am hoping you all will do.
So, you may ask how do I feel? Well, I read a really good article a few week’s back that sums up pretty accurately how I’ve been feeling off and on over the past few months and perhaps will introduce a name to an emotion that is a bit unfamiliar to you as it was to me.
The word is languishing. Languishing is feeling somewhat joyless and aimless – feeling blah. I encourage you to give the article a read, you may even discover something in it that resonates for you. Key in the article is the suggestions on how to beat those languishing blahs – some of which I have already introduced into my life. An important quote from the article is this, “Even if you’re not languishing, you probably know people who are. Understanding it better can help you help them.” Isn’t helping each other what we’re about here at HDGH? So being real with how we’re feeling is the first step to us all helping each other to be healthier, happier and more productive team members. A goal we can all get behind.
With that, I am happy to introduce a very special guest blogger this month who gives us a real inside view into the rollercoaster of emotions that comes with being a caregiver to a loved one with mental illness. Clementa is a member of our Mental Health and Addiction Patient and Family Advisory Council, a stand-up member of this community and also a very talented writer (as you will see :)
Thank you Clementa for your honesty is this month’s blog and for all you do for our hospital and for our clients/patients.
When was the last time you experienced a strong emotion? I bet that intense feeling was tied to a person. You might agree that those closest to us – parents, partners, siblings, children – have the deepest impact on our emotions. That person for me is my sister. We will call her Simi in this blog. Simi was unlucky (could have easily been me) to inherit a mental illness from our late mother. She was diagnosed in her teens and I have been her sole caregiver since I was a 2nd year undergrad student. I’ll be 35 this August (at least on paper – I’m still 20 in my mind). So it’s been a long journey!
The best way I can describe what it means to be a caregiver is by using a roller-coaster analogy. Imagine you’re on a roller-coaster ride even though you’re terrified of heights. The ride is fast and turbulent. You’re in constant panic, your stomach is in knots, you feel nauseous, anxious, and worried all the time. Sometimes, the ride slows down, and you feel better but also uneasy as you know it won’t last and you’re in constant anticipation for another unpleasant trip. Your loved one is also on the same ride. Unlike yours, their seat is falling apart, their seatbelt is not working properly, and their fear of heights is even greater than yours. So, in addition to your own discomfort, you are concerned with the far worse situation your loved one is in. You want to help and to alleviate their fears, but most times you feel powerless. And the ride goes on and on…
As most caregivers, I have been, and will continue to be, on this roller-coaster of emotions. I’ve had ups and I’ve had downs. I’ve felt sad, overwhelmed, alone, anxious, worried, frustrated, and tired. Oh, and this is while managing a career, sessional teaching, and volunteering on top of being married and along with additional personal responsibilities. How have I managed all this? Through continuous learning, patience (lots of it) and resilience. When I reach those moments of intense negative emotions, I strive to remember an Ojibwa saying: “Sometimes I go about in pity for myself, and all the while, a great wind carries me across the sky” reminding me that this moment in time shall pass. I have also realized the importance of advocating, using lived experiences to support and encourage change. This is the reason (along with wanting to advocate for the outstanding outpatient programs the hospital manages) I joined Hôtel-Dieu Grace Healthcare’s Mental Health & Addictions Patient & Family Advisory Council.
Caregivers to loved ones experiencing mental illness are often an invisible group. The Council gives us a voice, a medium to advise on mental health and addictions care at the hospital. The Council is also leading, in collaborating with the Faculty of Nursing at the University of Windsor, a Caring for the Caregiver project. We have just concluded a community needs assessment where we learned about the needs and experiences of caregivers to adult loved ones living with mental illness or addictions in Windsor-Essex. I’m proud to say that Bell Let’s Talk featured our project on their social media and we also received a research grant! Now, we will use the data to inform the content of a Caring for the Caregiver Conference scheduled for this fall – stay tuned! We will also publish the research and share the findings with the hospital and its partners. The countless hours spent on this initiative and institutional support at the leadership level is evidence that the organization is committed to supporting caregivers and sees the value we bring to the healthcare space through our commitment to our ill loved ones. As the saying goes, “actions speak louder than words” and HDGH has certainly shown their support through their actions. As a caregiver this is heartwarming. Navigating complex healthcare and other government services is exhausting so it’s fantastic to see the amount of support this project has received. A huge shout out to Dr. Jennifer Voth, Patrick Kolowicz, and Erica Colovic! As well as to Dr. Edward Cruz at the University of Windsor.
Long term caregiving leads to increased stress and burnout which impacts the health of the caregiver as well as the amount and quality of support we can provide to our loved ones. The burden of care is on us (at least those of us able or willing) for numerous needs that our loved ones have and most of us are struggling with this immense but important responsibility. Coupled with challenges in accessing quality and continuous care for our loved ones, this can become overwhelming. For me, seeing an organization such as HDGH recognize this and do something about it is commendable. Which brings me to the last important emotion in this post: gratitude. As I continue providing support to Simi, I am grateful for the support that HDGH is providing me and fellow caregivers. It certainly makes the roller-coaster ride less bumpy.
Apr 5, 2021 | Community and Partnerships
What a spring we are already having! The weather has been glorious with great temperatures, lots of sun and the prospect of a wonderful growing season for those of us who like to garden (or even those of us who enjoy others gardens because we’re too lazy or not terribly good at gardening ourselves). My thought is that this summer I want to create a raised garden bed in my back yard to break up the ugly lawn we have (hubby loves the lawn – me not so much). Up to this point, my dreams of garden-glory are merely that, a dream or an idea. I will definitely have to take some concrete steps to move it out of the idea phase and into reality. Truth is, there is no chance that I’ll be seeing some lovely flowers, butterflies and birds in my backyard unless I set forward a plan to make it happen. My garden will not just magically appear. It will require some thought, an action list and probably a few Home Depot purchases to bring this garden into a blossoming reality (pun intended.)
This notion of wanting something, dreaming of something, hoping for something being a wonderful time waster or nugget of optimism is great, but sadly this is nothing more than a time-waster if you’re actually wanting to experience it firsthand. The notion of turning hope into action, transformation and change is the theme of April’s blog.
I’ve been thinking a lot about what we all hope for as we begin to see the end of the pandemic and I’ve talked to our HDGH staff about this as well. Some common themes during these conversations have been:
Personally, I’m looking forward someday hopefully soon to bringing my grandchildren to the movies, taking my grandson bowling, my granddaughter to get her nails done and maybe a dinner with friends that I’ve missed seeing for this past year. I particularly want to have my extended family at my home this summer to finally have the celebration my mom asked us to have in her final instructions to us – we haven’t been able to do that for her or for us. We, like other families, need to close that chapter and come together to remember someone we miss terribly.
Hope – it’s a wonderful thing and the one feeling that is never final. We’ve all begun to let our hopes grow and talking more about what we will do when the pandemic is finally over.
But here’s the thing with hope – it’s not a plan folks. Hope alone won’t get us to the end of the pandemic. Hope won’t get us on airplanes. Hope won’t allow us to gather to say goodbye to those we’ve lost, to celebrate or walk into a grocery store without a mask. While important, Hope is NOT enough.
We need a plan of action. What can we do? What will we do? What will YOU do?
One thing we need to do is get vaccinated. I know that some of you will read this and say I have no business telling you what to do and that’s true. I’m not talking to you as a hospital CEO who, has quite honestly, had her fair share of professional and personal challenges over this last year. I’m talking to you as one hopeful, action-oriented person to another. I’m asking you to go from hoping for better times, to taking action into making those times part of our shared reality. We all need this to end and for those of us who are able to get the vaccine, this is one sure action to take for much more manageable day-to-day living.
If you have questions, ask them.
If you have concerns, raise them.
If you are afraid, talk to your physician or health care professional.
With so much misinformation about this virus out there, local partners, including HDGH, have come together to support www.WEVax.ca – a central source for all things vaccinations. Whether you want to find out if you are eligible, how to book an appointment, locations of clinics, parking, transportation, etc. you will be able to find it on this website.
On March 25, 2021, I was fortunate to be joined by three of our HDGH physicians, Chief of Staff, Dr. Andrea Steen, Dr. Jeff Cohen, Program Medical Director of Restorative Care and Dr. Don O'Neill, Occupational Health Physician to discuss vaccine hesitancy. The webinar is available here should you want to learn more about the vaccines and have some of your questions answered.
While there is always space for hope and optimism, those feelings must be met with our own inherent ability to makes choices and to act. We are not out of the woods on our COVID days. How we get to experience our tomorrow, will very much depend on our actions of today. As one of those actions, I write to you with an encouragement to get that shot, probably one of the most important shots you will have taken in a long while. Let’s together begin to heal from our shared experiences brought on by this virus – what an exciting tomorrow that will be.
Feb 3, 2021 | Leadership, Community and Partnerships
Well, we have officially made it through the first thirty-one days of 2021 after a year that already seemed never-ending at times. I am happy to be writing to you all today at the start of a new month in this new year that brings fresh opportunity, new insights and a hopeful perspective if we are willing to recognize it.
In this month’s blog, I welcome a new guest blogger who has been a big part of our organization for some time now. Mrs. Bethe Jarcaig, the Chair of the HDGH Foundation Board of Directors, is someone who you will read below is a loyal ambassador for our organization; a leader living and breathing the mission and vision of HDGH. It’s important for you all to learn more about Bethe and the role of our HDGH Foundation in order to begin to understand the adjustments, creativity, and unique changes that have been required from a fundraising perspective since the onset of COVID-19. More today than ever before, the funds raised through our Foundation are required to help support our patients/clients and their loved ones. Our community has supported us through the pandemic (and before) and in turn we support many in our community that need us now and into the coming year or more. Bethe along with the members of both our hospital and Foundation Board are incredibly dedicated volunteers. They give one of the most valuable gifts a person can give – time. This gift of their time allows us here at HDGH to have the potential to change lives and that is exactly what we do together. Thank you to Bethe, to our HDGH Foundation Board along with our loyal and dedicated donors for making this time in our collective history a little brighter. You truly are the gift that keeps on giving.
Stay warm, safe, and healthy,
There is no doubt that hospitals are being put under increasingly unprecedented fiscal pressures. Recently, the Ontario healthcare sector has undergone significant modifications. One area that has not changed is the importance of philanthropy for hospitals, and how many hospitals use a separate fundraising foundation to implement their fundraising strategies.
The Hôtel-Dieu Grace Healthcare (HDGH) Foundation has adopted this model which allows us the ability to maintain local fundraising efforts. Together, we function as a bridge between the hospital system and the community. Our mission is to be “a trusted foundation transforming healthcare and cultivating a healthier community through generous giving.”
Our Foundation Board of Directors is comprised of diverse individuals, each with critical skills and knowledge, entrusted to care for the foundation’s philanthropic resources. We are the Ambassadors of HDGH, by sharing information, identifying donor opportunities and spreading the word about the hospital and foundation. As Directors, it has been some of the most challenging, most humbling, and most fulfilling work we’ve ever done. But mostly, it’s an incredibly rewarding experience. My role as Foundation Board Chair has allowed me the pleasure of working collaboratively with our Directors, leadership and stakeholder groups, bringing us closer to our community enhancing HDGH’s ability to serve the people of our Windsor-Essex community – YOU!
We have been so fortunate to have so many incredible Windsor-Essex donors. Their generous support has made a meaningful difference to the patients and clients of HDGH. I would be remiss to not mention some of these donors in this blog as they have been instrumental in not only helping us carry forth our mission but also in supporting us through a challenging year on so many fronts.
With that, thank you! Thank you to the Klundert Family of BK Cornerstone, who in the spring of 2020 supported our Foundation with a $190,000 donation from the sale of a home built exclusively to sell for charity. Along with the continued support from Anita Imperioli and In Honour of the Ones We Love, these funds will go to our mental health programs at HDGH.
Thank you for the ongoing active support on our campus from our friends at T2B. Not only have T2B been instrumental in supporting our palliative program for many years but they also donated 24 iPads before the holidays to ensure patients on this unit could stay in touch with their loved ones during the pandemic. They also went as far as recognizing our staff, who have continued to persevere, in gifting each nursing floor with a lovely Tim Horton’s gift basket.
In Honour of the Ones We Love, Anita and your team, we are grateful. Thank you doesn’t seem to suffice. You have been a supporter, a believer, and active members of our HDGH Family and Foundation since day one. You have gifted blankets, keeping palliative patients warm on their darkest of days. You have partnered on events and even designated funds from some of your own. You have provided our staff, visitors, patients and their loved ones a place to sit and nourish through the In Honour Café in the Emara Building and breakfast to some of our community’s most important - our RCC Children. HDGH is better, stronger and healthier because of you.
Dr. Lillian Mok and Family support our RCC programs in a profound way and we look forward to working closely with the Mok Family to help enhance the programs and services provided by their very generous support.
Mr. John Viecelli your passion to make Windsor-Essex and its residents just a little happier is contagious. You have gifted us with a generous donation where we look forward to sharing the details in the upcoming months. It has been a true pleasure getting to know you and your wife, Lia.
To the Solcz Family Foundation. Your grant in supporting the Breaking Free program and those struggling with substance misuse will change lives. Your legacy of giving to this community is one so deeply rooted that you have made a family affair. You continue to add to the story of Windsor-Essex written together, by us all. Our Foundation is grateful to be a chapter in this story.
Finally, to our community. As the Chair of our HDGH Foundation, I have watched you rise with compassion, generosity and love. From PPE, to meals, snacks, signs, and strength, you have amazed us.
To conclude, I would like to encourage the readers today to please visit the HDGH’s Foundation website to learn more about some of the upcoming ways you can help us build a stronger, healthier Windsor-Essex. It can be as easy as purchasing online 50/50 tickets (happening now!)
As a true ambassador would do, my hope is that you see the opportunity for change, for movement, to raise up and continue to strengthen our footing, base, foundation - together, as one.
Chair, HDGH Foundation Board of Directors
Jul 31, 2020 | Mental Health, Leadership, Community and Partnerships, Faces of HDGH
YAC Group Shot
The last few months have been a testament to the fact that the world is ever changing in unexpected ways. But, it has also been a testament to the great importance of connection, conversation and community that is so crucial to us as human beings. Even before COVID-19 began to sweep across nations, Hôtel-Dieu Grace Healthcare (HDGH) recognized the importance of including youth in the conversation of healthcare, their healthcare and the future of our community’s healthcare. I am incredibly proud of this initiative which adds a tremendously important voice to the healthcare conversation – one that frankly is not as “loud” as it should be. You will read two such voices today as you hear from Kaitlyn and Kat – two remarkable young women who are the future of our community in so many ways. Courage, compassion, collaboration and resilience have already been asked for from these young people and thankfully they answered the call with oomph J Enjoy this months blog from our Youth Advisory Council (YAC) that speaks to an important aspect of our individual and collective humanity; the desire and the need for togetherness – of supporting each other – of being vulnerable and being human.
The Youth Advisory Council (YAC) was established in 2018 to provide all staff members of HDGH with feedback on hospital programs, services, new initiatives and community engagement from the perspective of youth of Windsor-Essex. Since its establishment, the YAC has grown to 14 dedicated members who all bring differing experiences, perspectives and knowledge to council discussions and initiatives.
YAC has been committed to volunteering within the community to build powerful relationships with other youth and organizations for youth. In addition to providing consistent feedback to all areas of HDGH and contributing to the social media channels, they are also currently in the process of beginning a new initiative, Wellness Through Grace. This initiative will allow students to have resources, knowledge and support to be able to better care for their own mental health, support their loved ones and guide others in the right direction when it comes to wellness.
Kaitlyn McCarthy and Katarina Kolobaric are the co-chairs of the YAC and have been members since its establishment in 2018. As co-chairs, Kaitlyn and Katarina share the role of oversight, guidance and organization for biweekly meetings, initiatives and community outreach. They feel very lucky to have the opportunity to work alongside the wonderful individuals that are their council members as they help build a better future for youth, by youth.
A Note from Katarina:
As an individual who is always going through life at full speed, the onset of COVID-19 was not an easy adjustment. Essentially everything that I had planned for the next six months, from concerts to conferences and all the extracurricular events in between, was cancelled. Life had come to an abrupt halt, making me skid from the speed I was going at and come to a complete stop.
In all honesty, the very beginning of the pandemic was the most difficult on my mental health. I didn’t really know what to do with myself or how to really comprehend the vast degree to which this virus was affecting the world. I felt very detached from everything and everyone and like I had lost my purpose. Without the hustle and bustle of in-person University, my lifeguarding job and my other various involvements, it came down to realizing I literally had no hobbies because I never had time for them. It took a little while, but I was finally able to start feeling like myself again. Though I intensely missed the ability to see my loved ones, to hug them and talk to them without it being through a computer screen, I made peace with what I had.
My mentality was always able to shift positively when I came back to the root of my gratitude - being so thankful for my health and the health of all those around me. Also, being thankful for technology and its ability to still give us some form of connection helped me get through the more extreme feelings of social isolation. What really helped me was establishing a routine. Making a list of a few things to do every day made me feel more productive and purposeful. Adding on other hobbies that I had dropped because of lack of personal time, like actually reading for pleasure, inspired me to seek other things that I could do, simply because they made me happy. Having hobbies and setting tasks for yourself is great, but doing nothing is fine too. I learned to be more kind and patient with myself when I just didn’t have the energy to do anything on certain days.
There is no right way to respond to a pandemic. It has been scary, frustrating and extremely taxing on everyone. Allow yourself to take all the time you need, give yourself credit for just getting out of bed. Appreciate the little things. If we can take away anything from this pandemic, it should be that we should always take the time to slow life down a bit. To not take for granted the things that we have and to spread more love and kindness to the people in our lives.
We will most likely never go back to the “normal” we had before. But, that doesn’t have to be a negative thing. We are most definitely capable of coming out of this stronger than ever - resilient and ready to take on the next challenge. Continue to become more in touch with yourselves and learn as much as you can. We are powerful beyond measure and will make it through this, together.
A Note from Kaitlyn:
In March 2020, I stood amongst 100 other nursing students waiting for a midterm to begin, shoulder to shoulder. I had just gotten home from Toronto where I shared a milkshake for dessert at a restaurant and watched a film at the theatre next to strangers. Days later, I said an indefinite good-bye to my closest loved ones and gathered with my family to watch the Prime Minister make his first address regarding COVID-19. In the beginning, it felt surreal, like normal would be back and I could pretend that nothing happened. But soon still hasn’t come.
In March I was prepared to care for my community in the midst of such uncertainty. As an aspiring nurse and a dedicated member of my community, I knew being on the frontlines was where I needed and wanted to be. I was hired in mid-March as a Patient Screener at Erie Shores Healthcare and then signed on to be part of their Migrant Worker COVID Outreach Assessment Team. While working, I finished up my semester of nursing practical experience and lectures, online.
Ever since the beginning, I have struggled immensely with things I never would have expected to struggle with. I miss not being able to hug my loved ones or be surrounded by people smiling, laughing and talking, in shopping malls or at school. I am the one to tell families that they can’t see their loved ones in the hospital and I am the one to give doctors and nurses their designated personal protective equipment for the day. I have held the hand of a young migrant worker through multiple layers of gloves as he was swabbed for COVID-19, pale with fear. I don’t handle all of it well, there are still many days I cry or shake with anger. However, there are also days that my cheeks hurt from smiling and my mind is at peace.
Driving past the supportive signs that line the roads on my way to work and seeing the posts on social media about community togetherness helps me get through the bad days. Having the time to connect with old friends over the phone helps me get through the bad days. Finally focusing on myself and doing things I enjoy like going for a walk, listening to old music, painting and being with those in my household helps me get through the bad days. However, what has helped me the most and what continues to help me the most is knowing that we are all in this together.
No matter what, we are all affected by COVID-19. It may be in different ways but, at the end of the day, we are all learning, we are all trying, we are all doing our best and we will recover from this, together. So, for those of you who are at a similar place as I am, my advice to you is to take each day one step at a time. Take this time to focus on yourself, reach out to others to encourage them and support your community. The world is not going to move on without you, we are the future of the world, we will move as it does. But, as you find yourself in the unknown; watch, learn and start to see how you can be the change as a generation of the future.
Jul 2, 2020 | Leadership, Community and Partnerships
I am 60 years old. Some days I feel every day of this age and others I wonder how it could possibly be that I’m the old lady my mom used to be. Some of you are asking “what is she talking about?” or/maybe (hopefully J) “wow she doesn’t look a day over 59.” lol
Age is relevant I think because this month’s blog is some advice for new grads from a mature, experienced, white haired grandmother and CEO – me. I’ve never written an advice column for grads before but this years’ graduating class (at all levels of education) is a unique one in so many ways. Graduates are setting off into a whole new, and somewhat uncertain, world. With this reality, we thought some advice might be helpful. To all the grads out there reading this, take what resonates and leave all the rest behind.
Be Bold. Wow profound eh? I know many say this but what does it really mean? For me it means have the courage of your convictions and stepping up and speaking out. It has taken me a long time to get to the place where I know that I MUST speak out on issues and concerns that hurt my heart. For too long I’ve felt that my job, my role, my profession, my own insecurities about being criticized or shut down was more relevant than speaking out for what I believe. Don’t be me – be you. Be bold and audacious. Speak out loudly and strongly. Find friends who believe what you believe and be part of a movement for change because we all know (even us old folks) that we didn’t do it well and you have work to do to make it better.
Be a change maker. This one is super important. The world is in a mess. We have children with no homes, families with no food, people with no hope, cities with no diversity, countries with no leadership and the world with no real plan to save ourselves. But everywhere there are people who are trying to change this and make it better. Be one of those. If all you can do is support, then support. If you can march – march. If you can be an organizer for change – organize. If you can lead a movement – lead. Whatever you find in yourself that can make the world a better place, share it broadly. We all need you to do that.
You’re all graduating and starting a journey. I hope you have a destination in mind but if not, don’t worry, life has a way of leading you where you need to go. Most of the building blocks of the people you will become are already there. Some of those blocks are strong and firmly embedded because of the love and support you have had from your family. Some of you however have not had that positive family experience and you will have to look to build that strength within yourselves and the people you choose to make your family. Choose wisely and be selective. The hundreds of “friends” you have on your social media channels are not the people that will help you as you build out your life and your future. Find the few that care – the few that love you no matter what – the few that will stand by you when you mess up – the few that know how to forgive. Those are the ones that will help you to build your foundation. The rest are entertainment.
Maya Angelou wrote that “people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” I try to live my life with this in mind. I didn’t always – for too long I felt that my words were important and my accomplishments mattered. I know now that when I die the people who will remember me will be the people who loved me and who I loved in return. That is what truly matters grads – loving and being loved in return.
Now go be the change I know you will be J
May 2, 2019 | Leadership, Community and Partnerships
Let me start this month’s blog with a story about my father-in-law - known in our family as Opa.
Opa is a little over 80 years old. He lives in the same community as my two brothers-in-law and their families- about four hours or so away from my hubby, BK and I. We talk with Opa weekly when he calls us for his ‘check to make sure we’re alive’ call on Sunday morning precisely at 10:00 a.m. Come rain or shine, he calls us at that time. It’s reassuring on many levels to hear the phone ring as it means he’s ok and on schedule. :)
Opa lives on his own, drives his own car, goes to the local mall regularly, does daily exercises and has an active relationship with his girlfriend. He is feisty, opinionated and stubborn (just like my hubby and my kids – it runs in the family) and has not required a lot of help or support to live reasonably in his apartment. He is capable of managing his life but it’s growing more and more complicated as he ages. Specifically, it’s growing more complex managing the multiple number of medical appointments and follow-ups he has.
About two weeks ago, Opa had a bout of pneumonia, with some cardiac involvement and was hospitalized for a couple of days in his local acute care hospital. It is an excellent facility and he received top notch care, however some things happened that illustrate this month’s blog topic. One in particular is helpful for understanding why the changes that are happening – as it relates to the new Ontario government – are necessary in my opinion.
On his last day in hospital, his hospital physician came in to see him while my brother-in-law was in the room, so he FaceTimed us into the conversation with the physician. This is how the conversation went: (paraphrased and edited:)
Doc: Opa I think you can go home today, so can you tell me when you will be seeing your doctor next?
Opa: Which doctor?
Doc: How many doctors do you have?
Opa: 7 – I think I have 7
Doc: 7 – oh your family doctor?
Opa: I don’t know when I go – I don’t remember – it’s at home
It went on from there. Opa was not clear on what the hospital doctor was looking for. The doctor wanted to communicate to Opa that he needed to follow-up with his family doctor in short order. All Opa heard though is why don’t you know this – although that clearly wasn’t the intent of the doctor’s questions.
So why am I telling you this story? Because change is underway in Ontario that will (if we get it right) change the above conversation to something more like the following:
Doc: Opa I’m here to talk with you about your plans at home. I’ve reviewed your file and I see that you’re due to see your family doctor in three weeks. I’ve called the office and your appointment has been moved up to the day after tomorrow and is confirmed. Your family doctor has your information from your stay here in hospital and is going to work with you to adjust your medications to ensure you stay healthy. I noticed you’re living on your own and wonder if you need any support at home for the next couple of weeks? Etc. etc.
See the difference? In today’s system Opa has to manage it all and remember it all. He’s more or less on his own. In the future state, the “system” is linked, connected and information flows across the “silos” so patients don’t have to manage or remember it all. This is just a small example of the promise of the new Ontario Health Teams which are the key component of the health system change that we have begun here in Ontario.
There has been a lot of conversation since Minister Christine Elliott’s announcement of this change in February. Is it good, is it bad, how will we ever accomplish a restructuring of this size? Is this the first step to privatized healthcare? Etc etc….
These and other questions are normal and are to be expected in a time of change. What should also be expected is some anxiety, some fear and maybe a bit of hesitation all mixed in with excitement, hope and enthusiasm. For all kinds of reasons including from the clear focus on patients and families to the requirement for connectivity and collaboration, our team here at HDGH believes this is a very promising change. We know that if this is done properly, we will have the opportunity to deliver a future where the Opas of our province are not left wondering where to turn next for their healthcare needs but are instead guided along the entire path by those of us who work in the system.
We have the chance to finally build a system that is patient and family centred, that works to ensure staff and physicians are supported to be their best, where costs are managed appropriately by ensuring the dollars we have are flowed to the most urgent and community focused priorities and where outcomes are managed and publicly reported. Wow … doesn’t that sound like something we all want to be a part of?
This is an exciting time. I know that many are concerned but I’ve also spoken to those who are excited and eager to begin the work. Here in Windsor-Essex our community has begun to come together to have the needed conversations on what will work for us and what we will need to do together to make this promise a reality. There is much to do and I’ll keep you all apprised as we go.
Like spring – change is in the air and it’s bringing hope for renewal.
Dec 11, 2018 | Mental Health, Community and Partnerships
Each month when the times comes around to write this blog, it is always an interesting and exciting experience for me. I get to talk to you all about the things that are happening here at our organization, share with you lessons in leadership and life that I have experienced over my career, or introduce some colleagues and friends in the form of guest blogs. Writing to you each month is a key part of my efforts to ensure that I’m exploring all the different ways to let you all know what’s happening. For December’s blog, I would not be fulfilling my responsibility as President and CEO of Hôtel-Dieu Grace Healthcare (HDGH), nor being an accountable member of our community if I didn’t continue the very public conversation our community has been having about the deaths experienced in Windsor on the weekend of November 10th due to drug related overdoses. As a leader in the provision of specialized hospital and community based mental health and addiction services, HDGH does indeed have a moral, an ethical, a human and an organizational responsibility to take action in this crisis, especially when action means saving lives. When we look at mental health and addictions programming the funding situation is clearly contributing to our community crisis. For too long now, our community agencies and partners have been forced to be as creative as possible with our resources (or lack thereof). We have combined, reallocated, redistributed, streamlined, held roundtables, hosted panels, formed and attended working groups and committees, all in response to the chronic underfunding to Windsor-Essex’s mental health and addictions sector. We are at the point now, where simply put, more is needed; more in the way of addiction treatment beds, more counsellors, more outreach, more youth interventions. Our Government needs to recognize that Ontario continues outside of Toronto and beyond London. Real people, with real families, with a lot of life left to live are having their lives affected – in the worst cases people are dying. Our problem is real. This is not ok. This is not doing the right thing.
So what action will you see from Hôtel-Dieu Grace Healthcare?
Over the next few months you will see a mobile unit in the downtown core. A recent study by the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit found that the greatest amount of opioid related emergency department visits comes are from residents in the downtown core. We also know that in the same location, we have high number of hard-to-reach homeless population. In collaboration with Assisted Living Southwestern Ontario, the Canadian Mental Health Association Windsor-Essex Branch, and Family Services Windsor Essex, you will see a Mobile Mental Health and Addictions Unit focused to this area and this population. While a pilot, this unit will address immediate needs, and provide linkages to already exciting existing support – The TSC, Crisis and Mental Wellness Centre for example. This mobile unit is yet another example of agencies finding efficiencies and creatively repurposing existing limited dollars. At this time, there are is no money to take the mobile unit past the pilot stage and ongoing funding will be necessary.
We have submitted an application to Government for a Youth Hub. The Hub would focus on servicing the mental health needs of transitional aged youth in developing an access point offering a range of services. Again, this is in partnership with community partners who see the same needs and are prepared to take action.
We have advised the Ministry of Health that we are prepared to take action to establish a Youth Addictions Program in alignment with our Regional Children’s Centre. Additionally, we’ve identified enhancements in our Withdrawal Management program. With the temporary repurposing of $15,000 HDGH will add an extra part time community outreach worker who will support an additional 20-30 clients between now and March 31, 2019.
The time to act is now. We can no longer bring groups together to talk about what is happening in Windsor-Essex. Hiring consultants and waiting until February for completed reports is time wasted. We need action, we need investments, and we need them NOW. HDGH is committed to doing our part, but we cannot do it alone. We need our community to come together with one voice and ask for the help we need and deserve. We won’t rest – we can’t rest – until we know that the weekend of November 10th, 2018 was the wake up call this community and this government needed to chart a different path forward.
Apr 4, 2018 | Leadership, Research and Innovation, Community and Partnerships
Going Green. These two words have been part of our popular culture for more than ten years. From “green” celebrities and clean makeup, to political activism and green consumerism, the words AND actions that correspond with “Going Green” have moved from a catchy alliteration to a way of life for many.
In honour of April being Earth Month and the 22nd being Earth Day, I think it’s important to share with you some of our “green” commitments here at Hôtel-Dieu Grace Healthcare and how our vision of cultivating a healthier community extends beyond the human mental, physical and spiritual well-being, but also into the air we breathe, the energy we use and to the planet we all call home.
HDGH leadership has recognized the need to become more environmentally sustainable and responsible as an organization and also as a good neighbour to our West-Windsor community. As a result, our Environmental Services (ES) department has developed and championed the HDGH Green Initiative Program. This program consists of several phases and requires everyone – yep everyone - at HDGH to participate. The most integral phase of the program (Phase 1) focuses on increasing our waste diversion rate by reducing the amount of waste going to landfill. How will we do this? For starters, we have significantly improved our recycling program. The teams have also been more conscious on purchasing ecofriendly alternatives to current materials used throughout our hospital.
Theming 2018’s Earth Month is plastic pollution. Plastic, in all its varying forms, does so much harm to our environment from poisoning and injuring marine life, to clogging our waste streams and landfills. HDGH will do our part in minimizing plastic pollution by installing four new water filtration systems around our hospital to eliminate the use of plastic water bottles. It is our hope to encourage our staff, patients and guests to drink more water while helping our planet. Each time the system is used, it lets us know how many plastic water bottles we have eliminated from entering our waste systems. Pretty cool!
Last month, we held the kickoff meeting with our Energy Services Company, Honeywell, who will begin looking at our hospital to develop, design and build projects that renew our buildings and funding the costs through energy savings. These projects will look at everything, from how we heat and cool our patient rooms, lighting upgrades, potential renewable energy sources, and water system audits, to ultimately reduce our carbon footprint.
Our green commitments do not end there. In October of last year, HDGH along with partners Transition to Betterness (T2B), officially broke ground for the Dr. Lisa Ventrella-Lucente Memorial Garden and Greenhouse Project. The gardens will be a retreat for patients, families and staff to enjoy time outdoors and experience a sense of connection to our natural surroundings. They will also provide an opportunity for HDGH Mental Health and Rehabilitation patients to explore the therapeutic value of gardening. Some of my very best memories from my youth are times spent with my late father in the gardens … growing tomatoes and cucumbers and seeing my grandmother's irises come up in the spring.
Phase 2 of the project will include a greenhouse for the production of fresh herbs and vegetables to be used in the T2B family kitchen on our 20 bed palliative unit.
As leaders in the healthcare community, HDGH often partners with other organizations to further develop and promote best practices in a variety of capacities. As such, HDGH is now a member of the Canadian Coalition for Green Healthcare (CCGH) – a community of hospitals leading the way in ecofriendly and environmentally sustainable best practices. As a new member to the coalition, HDGH has submitted its first Green Hospital Scorecard for grading by the CCGH. This grade will provide HDGH with a baseline to measure all future progress, and can also be used to compare HDGH to other hospitals that are leaders in environmental sustainability initiatives.
Our movement towards becoming a more environmentally friendly organization isn’t just a good business decision; it is the right thing to do. Our vision of cultivating a healthier community doesn’t stop in delivering quality care for our patients, but also caring for our planet. I am looking forward to reporting out our progress to you on a regular basis and hearing your ideas and suggestions on how we can further our eco-initiatives!
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