In October, we welcomed Irene Andress as our new vice-president, programs and services and chief nursing executive, with 35 years of healthcare experience, the last 30 of which were spent at Michael Garron Hospital.
For this month’s blog, I invited Irene to write a guest post and share her reflections on her early journey as part of the Holland Bloorview community.
Well I cannot believe it but it is day 41 of my journey at Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital (Holland Bloorview). Though I have been here for just over a month, it feels like I’ve been here forever! It has been such a fantastic transition and that I know is not an accident. Let me tell you why.
Some will know that in my interview process, I was asked to complete a 30-60-90 day plan to demonstrate how I would navigate my onboarding time. This caused me to look at and reflect very deeply on all of the important parts of Holland Bloorview, from the care, the research, the education, to the governance and the philanthropy in addition to all the programs, services, projects and most importantly the strategic priorities and values that make this place so special.
On October 14, my official learning began. My love has always been in practice and leadership and in creating the context for the best care and service. So it is not surprising that it has been an easy transition for me. As I became familiar with the fabric of the hospital, I quickly realized that my personal values align fully with those already established: courage/resilience, compassion, excellence, equity and innovation.
Courage and resilience
Balancing a full-time career and raising three children (all under the age of two at one point) made my husband and I comfortable with “being out of control.” That was not comfortable most of the time but it taught me to prioritize, not take myself too seriously, and to be organized and outcomes oriented. I have learned that it is important to speak the truth, to be honest and transparent, and that this is an art that needs a lot of practice.
I love to ask “why” or as the QI exercise would describe it as “using the five why’s” as this is the path to true understanding. Of course, this always works better when one is well versed in emotional intelligence as the question “why” can spark all kinds of emotions. What I’ve learned is to tell people why I am asking the question or be clear about my intention and not assuming (we know what that can mean).
Excellence and compassion
Just this week I asked a lot of “why” questions while shadowing Sally, one of the excellent nurses on our Complex Continuing Care unit.
In the two hours I spent with Sally and two nursing students, I observed both excellence and compassion. Sally moved expertly between caring for her client, educating and mentoring her students, explaining the “why’s” to the Chief Nurse AND all the while communicating with care and compassion and role modelling “expert” care. The nursing students (one from McMaster and one from the University of Toronto) were outstanding – both able to execute on very specialized skills while never losing sight of the fact that they were caring for a human being with feelings, emotions, need for security and safety. I thank Sally and the students for the privilege of sharing in the bedside care and enabling me to learn their unique set of skills from the best.
Equity and innovation
I have learned to appreciate that no one person is the same or created equal and the more diverse our teams and environments, the stronger we will be to create innovation and to create a world of possibility for kids and youth with disabilities. This will be the “no boundaries” future that is the hallmark of Holland Bloorview’s strategic vision. There is a lot to learn and I am committed to being part of that future of possibility. Our work with clients and families and our commitment to inclusion, diversity, equity and accessibility will lead us to be system leaders in creating the best place to give and receive care and service.
I am committed to be grateful for the privilege to be invited into the Holland Bloorview community. I knew this place was special when I visited the Tim Horton’s on one of my first days. I ordered my usual coffee and was so impressed when Beverley (one of the food services employees) remembered my coffee order and had it ready even before I paid for it. What was more impressive was the next morning, when I saw my coffee waiting for me again, but before I could provide payment, Beverly waved off my money and acknowledged that she had given me the wrong coffee the morning before. I was flabbergasted. How could it be that someone would know that much about their customer? This is just one example of the magic – the “secret sauce” that makes Holland Bloorview so special.
This magic happens with hard work and a commitment to the values promoted across the culture. I am so grateful for the friendliness and the warmth of everyone that I meet. My commitment is to never forget these moments, to remain grateful and to carry that warmth into everything that I do.
I’m about half way through my onboarding and I have a lot more learning to do. We have a big year ahead of us, with ambitious plans, including (but not limited to):
- Resolution of the COVID-19 pandemic and getting back to a new post-virus reality;
- Preparation for Accreditation 2021. We all know the effort that it takes to show the accreditors how great we are;
- Embracing Caring Safely and all of the evidence based practices to ensure quality, safety and a high reliability organization; and
- Enhancing the strength-based and solution-focused philosophy and practice integration work.
My job will be to maintain focus, to synergize and simplify our work together.
Thank YOU to Julia, Diane, Golda and the senior management team for welcoming me and teaching me. Thanks to my program leads who have been patient (even when I ask crazy questions!). And special thanks to Claire Whyte – my life saver and partner. She makes my days simple no matter the circumstances.
So I will leave you with the words of Florence Nightingale …
So never lose an opportunity of urging a practical beginning, however small, for it is wonderful how often in such matters the mustard-seed germinates and roots itself.
Let us all be the fertile soil for growth, new beginning and endless possibilities.