Flourishing in the face of adversity

There were 12 nominees for the 2021 Sisters of St. Joseph Awards for Excellence and three recipients, including a team of 32.  

In a year like no other, at a time when so much is being asked, the 2021 Sisters of St. Joseph Awards for Excellence presented by St. Joseph’s Health Care London take on extra special meaning.

Throughout the extraordinary challenges of the past 12 months, the legacy of the founding Sisters of St. Joseph has been a powerful reminder that the path forward in adversity has been forged many times before – with excellence, respect and compassion. And it is the example of the Sisters that has played out daily across St. Joseph’s over the past year, with an unwavering focus on care and safety. 

Established in 1990, the Sisters of St. Joseph Awards honour staff, physicians and volunteers who share the remarkable attributes of the Sisters of St. Joseph - excellence, positive attitude, reliability, honesty, efficiency, creativity, respect, caring, compassion, empathy and appreciation for the work of others. 

With the pandemic as a backdrop, the awards, always a poignant and powerful tradition, were particularly hard earned this year and represent the exceptional commitment of St. Joseph’s many health care heroes. The 2021 recipients are: 

  • Cheryl Kaufman, registered nurse, Forensic Outreach Program, Southwest Centre for Forensic Mental Health Care
  • Janet Donais, occupational therapist, Stroke/Neurological Rehabilitation Program, Parkwood Institute Main Building
  • Occupational Health and Safety Services and Infection Prevention and Control teams

To date, there have been a total of 191 individual and team recipients – and hundreds of nominations. Individuals and teams are nominated by their colleagues, who have described each nominee’s acts of support, collaboration, caring and innovation. Without knowing anyone’s identity, an awards selection committee comprised of past recipients and representatives from across the organization selects the recipients. To be nominated and to be a recipient is a distinguished honour.

portrait of Cheryl Kaufman
Cheryl Kaufman

Cheryl has often spoken about making a choice to “live with joy everyday”, which is evident to both her team and patients. A positive presence with a soft, gentle and caring touch, Cheryl is known for spreading joy and appreciation in numerous ways. She is calm, curious, open, welcoming and present in the moment – never indicating she needs to be somewhere else, say colleagues. 

“The way she presents herself to clients is like a fine art which can only truly be understood when observed.”

In a role that can be challenging and emotionally draining, Cheryl, a registered nurse with the Forensic Outreach Program, is consistently available to lend an ear and offer support to co-workers. She took on a lead role in ensuring clinicians have what they need to provide care during the pandemic, and has jumped in without hesitation to take many additional shifts to support  colleagues needing time for their own health or that of their families. 

Despite a full outreach caseload, Cheryl recently took over as the lead for the in-house patient clinic, a demanding and complicated role during the pandemic that requires careful scheduling to ensure patients get to their appointments and receive time sensitive blood work without congregating. 

Cheryl’s positivity, say colleagues, fuels her advocacy efforts for patients who have  experienced  repeated hospitalizations. Supporting a fresh start for these individuals, she focuses on each patient’s potential, new possibilities, and inspires patients to push forward.

“Without Cheryl’s involvement and excellent nursing care, there are a number of clients who may not be alive today,” say colleagues.

Janet Donais 
portrait of Janet Donais

In her everyday interactions as an occupational therapist with the Stroke/Neurological Rehabilitation Program, Janet’s selflessness is a defining characteristic, say her colleagues. A giving heart who goes above and beyond, she is known to regularly supply toiletries and clothing to patients in need, providing reassurance at a vulnerable time. For colleagues, her encouragement, respect and appreciation “builds cohesive team dynamics and fuels innovation,” say co-workers.

Unafraid  to step outside her comfort zone to learn new techniques or technologies, Janet championed the use of the functional electrical stimulation bike for patients recovering from stroke. She promoted this new learning to colleagues, providing opportunities to train, observe and trial the new equipment. “Her passion for learning and sharing knowledge have improved the standards of care for patients with stroke,” say colleagues. 

Co-workers look to Janet for support and mentorship. Always willing to step in and help out, she “leads with a kind-hearted nature,” they say. Janet similarly empowers her patients, paying attention to individual needs and putting them at ease. “Nothing is too  much trouble for Janet,” says one patient.

A compassionate and tireless advocate for patients, “Janet is the foundation on which our patients build their hopes and skills,” say colleagues. For one patient who initially wanted to be discharged to the street, Janet built a trusting relationship and enabled him to accept that he deserved an easier life. She collaborated to find suitable accommodations and assisted with setting up his home environment. The team later learned that having a home gave this patient the courage to contact his family and initiate visits that would otherwise not have been possible. 

Occupational Health and Safety Services and Infection Prevention and Control teams

From the very first days of the pandemic, the Occupational Health and Safety Services and Infection Prevention and Control teams – 32 people in total – have been a pillar of support and guidance to staff, physicians and the Pandemic Management Team. 

mosaic image showing 32 portraits of the Occupation Health and Safety Services and the Infection Prevention and Control teams

Demonstrating  tremendous empathy, they have helped staff and physicians deal with very personal concerns  and fears, providing the best possible advice in these uncertain times with patience, compassion and caring – not just for illness but for the spirit as well. A new 24/7 COVID hotline was quickly established, which has become a well-used and much appreciated resource. They also established a system customized to each site for immediate response to a COVID positive case, new onset of symptoms that require monitoring, and the need for information about exposure through internal or external sources.

Immediately responding to new directives from the Ministry of Health and Ministry of Long-Term Care, the teams determine how to operationalize each new practice requirement and provide recommendations for ongoing pandemic management. They signal the need for greater vigilance and work to achieve alignment wherever possible between organizations for infection, prevention and control practices. 

These teams have continuously honed their talents while developing new ones to ensure health and safety. It has required drafting new policies, creating screening and contact tracing processes, advising on personal protective equipment for each work environment, ensuring the most accurate information is available for decision making, rapidly learning new skills such as nasal swabbing, and attending to the occupational and physio needs of a workforce carrying out their duties in new and different ways and environments.

As the pandemic workload and pressures grew, efficiency became a defining feature of these teams as they addressed each and every new issue needing their attention. With so much required to keep residents and staff at Mount Hope Centre for Long-term care safe, some team members moved their workspaces to Mount Hope to become part of an accessible and constant presence in this vulnerable setting. 

Tirelessly balancing multiple priorities, all members of these teams, through long days and nights, and with great persistence, have contributed to St. Joseph’s success in addressing corporate pandemic needs. 

To be nominated is an honour
Those considered for the Sisters of St. Joseph Awards are nominated by their colleagues. In addition to the three recipients, this year’s nominees were: 

  • Anna Maria Koo, speech language pathologist, Specialized Geriatric Services, Parkwood Institute Main Building
  • Bill Barnier, registered nurse, Forensic Treatment Unit (South), Southwest Centre for Forensic Mental Health
  • Dale Nikkel, Coordinator, Spiritual Care
  • Denise Kreutzwiser, pharmacist, Pain Management Program, St. Joseph’s Hospital
  • Infection Prevention and Control Team
  • Jill Bowen, social worker, Acquired Brain Injury Rehabilitation Program, Parkwood Institute Main Building
  • Lindsay Culford, occupational therapist, Forensic Treatment Unit (North), Southwest Centre for Forensic Mental Health
  • Marilyn Hill, psychologist, Pain Management Program, St. Joseph’s Hospital
  • Wendy Reed, Director, Infection Prevention and Control and Occupational Health and Safety Services
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