Luminaries among us

There were 10 nominees for the 2020 Sisters of St. Joseph Awards of Excellence and four recipients.

A dynamic duo of compassionate housekeepers whom patients can’t wait to see every day. A physiotherapist who excels in the most challenging situations and motivates patients and staff alike. A registered nurse with a “fierce dedication” to her team. And an occupational therapist whose grace, respect and empathy embodies what it means to be a team player.

These are the 2020 recipients of the Sisters of St. Joseph Awards for Excellence presented annually by St. Joseph’s Health Care London. While their roles are very different, it’s what they have in common that make them standouts in their care areas. The 2020 recipients are:

  • Carol Leitch and Darlene Keating, housekeepers, 4AE, Parkwood Institute Main Building
  • Krisztina Huszar, physiotherapist, Community Stroke Rehabilitation Team, Parkwood Institute Main Building
  • Sarah Trenker, occupational therapist, Spinal Cord Injury Rehabilitation Program, Parkwood Institute Main Building 
  • Maria Ghattas, registered nurse, Stroke Rehabilitation Program, Parkwood Institute Main Building

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

To date, there have been a total of 178 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 representatives from across the organization selects the recipients. To be nominated and to be a recipient is a distinguished honour.

Carol Leitch and Darlene Keating

Carol L

Always on the lookout for where their help is needed, Carol and Darlene are an efficient and intuitive team of housekeepers who are “always right there” to take care of any situation. 

As exceptional team players, this dynamic duo adjust their routine to accommodate both the clinical team and patients. They change their break times to have rooms ready for new admissions, make themselves available, and are always easy to find if needed - all of which support for the clinical teams to move seamlessly throughout the day.

Always keeping patients top of mind, Carol and Darlene often go above and beyond to accommodate the needs of those receiving care, such as folding laundry and putting it away if a patient is unable to do so, adjusting their cleaning schedules to accommodate the patients’ therapies and rest periods, and bringing in decorations at Christmas to decorate a patient’s room and lift spirits at a difficult time. Astute and aware, if they see something that doesn’t seem right, they immediately ask nurses to check on the patient. When physiotherapy staff are walking patients in the hallway, they move things out of the way to ensure therapy is safe and can be conducted easily. 

Darlene K

Innovative and caring, Carol and Darlene recognize when their help is needed before being asked. When clinical staff could not convince a patient with challenging behaviours to leave a lounge, Darlene suggested she clean the floor in that room to give the patient a reason to move. The strategy worked – the patient was able to understand and accept that the floor needed cleaning and staff could move the patient out of the room successfully and safely. 

“They give the best of themselves each day to assist patients and staff in a personable, genuine and heartfelt way,” say colleagues. “They are valued and loved members of our team, both by staff, and by our patients and their family caregivers.”

Krisztina Huszar

Krisztina Huszar

As a physiotherapist with the Community Stroke Rehabilitation Team, Krisztina’s “tenacious commitment” to ensuring each client receives the full potential of therapy services holds no bounds. Colleagues remark on Krisztina’s openness to new ideas, innovative spirit, adaptive problem solving, and creative solutions to ensure patients receive therapy best suited to their needs. Combining professionalism with a deep compassion, she makes the most challenging or complex situation seem effortless. 

Krisztina brings team members together to integrate care for a patient needing extra support, advocates for patients when service needs arise, ensures patients are fully supported when discharged, and pays attention to the experience of family caregivers. Taking the time to address concerns of both patients and families, she earns the trust and respect so crucial to fostering recovery. When a patient’s daughter was at risk of burnout, Krisztina lined up supports to enable the daughter to gain respite, which in turn allowed the patient to remain within the home and continue receiving crucial support.

Traditional physiotherapy roles do not confine Krisztina. She goes above and beyond “to ensure complete and holistic care where gaps in service might otherwise exist,” say colleagues. She inspires, encourages and fosters the same innovative spirit among her team. When a colleague had an idea to introduce low level laser therapy as a new therapy modality, Krisztina provided passionate support, linking the colleague with the right people and contributing to a proposal for capital equipment funding to secure low level light therapy as an optional therapeutic tool for client’s experiencing pain.

Dedicated to sharing the most recent evidence-based information through a wide variety of workshops she offers in-house and to community partners, Krisztina is committed to empowering colleagues by expanding their knowledge and skills. The result is higher quality care offered to each and every patient served by the team. 

At the same time, Krisztina’s appreciation for the work of others, words of encouragement, letters of nomination, and support of her teammates creates an environment of positivity and motivation to continue to strive towards excellence.

Sarah Trenker 

Sarah Trenker

Stepping into her role as occupational therapist at Parkwood Institute Main Building, Sarah understood she would be filling the position of a beloved co-worker lost in a tragic accident. She was compassionate towards her new team, knowing emotions were still fresh and tears never far away. It took grace and understanding to fill the role. Sarah seamlessly transitioned into the position to ensure spinal cord injury patients receive the best care possible, which would have made her predecessor proud, say colleagues.

Sarah sees everyone as equals. Always acknowledging the integral role of her occupational therapy assistant colleagues, she defers to them when their experience exceeds hers and consistently asks for their advice, which results in an exceptional quality of patient care.

Innovative and an educator at heart, Sarah has mentored staff across multiple programs to navigate wheelchair and seating processes from initial assessment to discharge. Her leadership in this area is not a formal role but is driven by her passion and enthusiasm for her work. This drive has led Sarah to spearhead and implement multiple changes that have significantly improved the team’s ability to serve patients’ seating needs. Collaborating with local vendors with whom she has built strong working relationships, Sarah organizes regular in-services for therapists involved in wheelchair and seating prescription to build their capacity and help them remain up–to-date with what is new and current in the field. Her efforts have led to vendors lending thousands of dollars of equipment to what is now known as the ‘Spinal Cord Injury Showroom’ where patients can see and trial equipment first hand.

For patients and their family members, Sarah’s work defines exemplary patient- and family-centered care. When one of her patient’s goals was to return to work as a surgeon, she purchased a suture kit for him to practice his fine motor skills during therapy. 

“She looks at patients as real people and is never in a hurry,” said the patient. “She understands that the disease process affects the spouse and always makes sure my wife is involved in my rehab and comfortable while she’s waiting.”

Maria Ghattas

Maria Ghattas

Maria’s appreciation for her colleagues is never in question. She makes a point of getting to know everyone who works on the inpatient stoke rehabilitation unit, greets everyone with a smile and a warm hello, and is known for her personal messages of gratitude that lets each individual know the positive ways they have contributed to the unit and the patients.

Maria has a fun way of showing her appreciation –  placing gold star stickers on a colleague’s ID badge. This simple act of kindness has a huge impact on staff and the work environment. 

A registered nurse and unit lead, one of Maria’s greatest strengths is listening, say colleagues. Five days a week, eight hours a day, someone is bringing their concerns, problems, joys and fears to her. She always takes time to lend an ear, give advice or help out.

A member of several committees and councils, Maria is voice for all staff and a valuable resource. She was instrumental in implementing the new patient care binders on the unit, teaching staff how to navigate the binders, and guiding them on how to introduce them to new patients. 

In a major development for the unit, Maria facilitated the installation of new shelving and electrical outlets in patient rooms – a renovation she long advocated for as a way to declutter and optimize the use of space. Staying late many days to go over plans and coordinate patient moves, she executed her goal and has left her mark on the unit for decades to come. 

This generosity of spirit extents to patients. She has rallied staff for clothing donations for homeless patients and has created a donation bin on the unit for when the need arises. Every Christmas season, meanwhile, Maria organizes the collection of gifts for a particular patient in need and their family members.  

Colleagues remark that “Maria has an innate understanding of her patients that touches their lives in lasting ways.”

To be nominated is an honour

Those considered for the Sisters of St. Joseph Awards are nominated by their colleagues. In addition to the four recipients, this year’s nominees were: 

  • Dan Kelly, volunteer, Mount Hope Centre for Long Term Care
  • Becky Orenczuk, speech-language pathologist, inpatient Stroke/Neuro Rehabilitation Unit, Parkwood Institute Main Building
  • Dr. Baraa Achtar, Geriatric Psychiatry Program, Parkwood Mental Health Care Building  
  • Linda Durham, administrative assistant, Parkwood Institute Main Building
  • Lisa Desjardins, registered nurse, Geriatric Psychiatry Program, Parkwood Institute Mental Health Care Building
  • Chelsey Roberts, therapeutic recreation aide, Veterans Care Program, Parkwood Institute Main Building
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