portrait of a 93-year-old volunteer

Introducing… a 93-year-old volunteer

Madeline Cook has been a volunteer at Hamilton Health Sciences (HHS) for over 20 years and has contributed over 3,600 hours of her time. Despite being visually impaired, she makes her way to St. Peter’s Hospital on a monthly basis. She plays piano for an interactive sing-along as part of the therapeutic programming for patients. Madeline recently celebrated her ninety-third birthday!

Madeline playing piano for the patients at St. Peter's Hospital

What do you do?

Over 20 years ago, a friend of mine had wanted to start volunteering at Hamilton Health Sciences and asked if I wanted to join her. We were looking for something to do where we could help people. When we went into the volunteering office, I was asked about my interests. I talked about how I love music. Ever since then I’ve been playing the piano in the hospital. I started at McMaster Children’s Hospital, but since the patients were so young and unfamiliar with the songs I was playing, I switched St. Peter’s Hospital.

I love knowing I can make an impact in people’s lives.

What do you love most about your role?

I love playing at St. Peter’s Hospital because the patients know the songs and can sing along. Although all music is therapeutic, it has a greater impact when you’re familiar with what you’re listening to. I love knowing I can make an impact in people’s lives. As long as one person is enjoying listening to me play or I’ve been able to make someone smile, it’s worthwhile.

Madeline playing piano as part of the therapeutic recreation programming for patients

Tell us about a gratifying experience at HHS.

A patient that I often see seemed particularly down one day so I told her how much I liked her hat that she’d worn the last time I saw her. When she left, I was worried I may have upset her, but next thing I knew she was back with her hat on and a big smile on her face. That was the first time I ever saw her smile and I’m so glad I could help make it happen. Those moments are what make volunteering so rewarding.

What keeps you motivated?

Music keeps me motivated. I sing in a choir and we meet and perform regularly. We are by no means professional singers, but we love what we do. I guess you could also say we motivate and inspire each other too. We not only love to sing, but we love to make people happy with music.

A prosthetics and orthotics hospital volunteer stands in portrait.

Introducing… a prosthetics and orthotics program volunteer

Penny Cormier is a hospital volunteer with Hamilton Health Sciences’ (HHS) prosthetics and orthotics program. She has been with HHS since 2007.

Penny is also a convener for our volunteer knitting program and she volunteers for the Design Centre at Ron Joyce Children’s Health Centre.

What do you do?

I speak with as many prosthetics and orthotics patients and families as possible to see if they’d be willing to complete a patient experience survey. The data collected from these surveys provides improvement opportunities for the department so they can better meet patients’ needs. I also collect patient experience data at St. Peter’s Hospital.

Patient feedback is important. I also encourage and mentor others in this volunteer role.

The data collected from these surveys provides improvement opportunities for the department so they can better meet patients’ needs.

In addition, I am one of four knitting program conveners. We work with over 50 volunteers who knit and crochet items for sale at our Give Shops. The profits from this program are donated to enhance patient care. I also assist the Design Centre team, which creates individualized visual learning aids for young children.

Who inspires you?

A former patient in the prosthetics and orthotics program, who was also my colleague and friend, Joyce, inspires me the most. As a way to thank the doctors and staff for their dedication, care and support, she enthusiastically signed up to be a volunteer.

Joyce encouraged me to volunteer as well. I quickly understood the volunteer role allowed us to connect even more meaningfully with the wonderfully caring doctors, managers and staff. They continually excel professionally and personally in their interactions with each other, volunteers, and patients and their families.

Joyce was recognized by HHS for the amazing work she did to create volunteer roles, which included providing introductory tours and demonstrations for other rehabilitation patients.

There are also many other volunteers and staff on the volunteer resources team who inspire me. Their efforts and achievements significantly enhance the patient and family experience.

Volunteering gives me unique and rewarding experiences.

What keeps you motivated?

The people who inspire me are the people who keep me motivated. I am also motivated by my interactions with HHS staff, patients, families and visitors.

My work with patient experience surveys provides patients with an opportunity to be heard and to have their feelings, opinions and experiences validated. It is just as important for those who deliver care to receive and respond to all degrees of feedback. Assessment, evaluation, reflection and review of current and future organizational goals and plans are critical in achieving success.

Volunteering gives me unique and rewarding experiences.

Tell us your most gratifying experience.

My ability to connect patients and families with the prosthetics and orthotics team is my most gratifying experience.

I encourage patients, if they so desire, to include additional comments when completing the survey. They appreciate that we share their comments with staff as part of the decision-making process to make the patient and family experience better, including how to improve the registration process.

My most gratifying moments are times spent with patients and staff. It’s good to see the work I do with surveys will have a positive and meaningful impact on department programming across HHS.

Andrew painting a pumpkin with a patient

Young patient volunteers in stroke rehab clinic

Andrew Mathieson’s heart defect had to be monitored each year.

He was born with a bicuspid aortic valve instead of a tricuspid valve, which means there are two leaflets of the aortic valve instead of three. This reduces blood flow from the heart to the rest of the body. Doctor’s noticed Andrew’s aorta started to enlarge to the point of danger.

In December 2017 at 22 years old, Andrew underwent open heart surgery with Dr. Richard Whitlock at Hamilton General Hospital to repair the valve and the enlarged blood vessel.

Following the surgery, Andrew experienced a stroke which left him with loss of vision when looking to his right side and difficulty with concentration and memory.

Portrait of Andrew smiling

Andrew left the hospital near the end of January. Just six months after discharge, he wanted to give back. Through our Volunteer Resources program, Andrew began volunteering as a recreational therapist assistant in the Regional Rehabilitation Centre’s stroke rehab clinic where he received treatment.

“I’m helping out with the same nurses that helped me out. They all know me by name. They find it amazing I’m helping out at the same spot where I met them for rehab,” he says.

Andrew’s neurologist, Dr. Wes Oczkowski, says Andrew is taking his experience in stride.

“The biggest difference compared to most people with a stroke is that he’s only 22. That means his potential improvement – either with further recovery (healing), remediation (working on things to make them better) and the ability to compensate, all have the ability to be better than someone who is 72,” he says.

Part of Andrew’s weekly volunteer visit involves sharing his story with patients over hot chocolate.

“Seeing what I went through really makes them motivated. Every time I go out with them, they really light up,” he says.

They enjoy activities like playing Nintendo Wii bowling, abstract painting together, and even decorating pumpkins in time for Halloween.

Besides volunteering, Andrew runs six to seven kilometers daily to strengthen his heart and support his mental health. He is looking at different career options for his future.

“I hope my story can help connect with those who are going through a hard time and give them a little bit of support in the worst part of their life.”

A young hospital volunteer stands in portrait with text on photo

Introducing… a hospital volunteer

Johnathan Black is a hospital volunteer at Hamilton Health Sciences’ (HHS) Hamilton General Hospital (HGH). He has been in this role for two and a half years and wants to pursue a career in health care.

What do you do?

I participate in HHS’ Guiding People Services program, which helps patients and visitors find their way around the hospital.

I also occasionally volunteer in the student ward service program, where we comfort patients who have been admitted. Soon, I’ll get more involved with the emergency department, which I’m excited about.

What do you love most about your role?

What I love the most about my position is I have the opportunity to help ease the anxiety patients and visitors experience when they enter an unfamiliar place. By the time I finish guiding them to where they need to go, most of that stress has been relieved.

What keeps you motivated?

I stay motivated by seeing people have someone they can look to for advice in navigating the hospital. To me, this is incredibly important because it takes one more thing away they may worry about. I believe this can drastically affect how they feel about coming back to the hospital in the future.

Why did you decide to volunteer at HHS?

For as long as I can remember, I have always wanted to help people. As a child raised in the foster care system, I was always surrounded by workers in the public service and health care sectors. This experience had a big impact on my desire to help people.

When I started my volunteer position at HHS, I knew I wasn’t just doing it for my 40 hours requirement for high school. I knew I was furthering my interest in a career involved with helping others who need it the most.

How do you use social media in your role?

I use social media to occasionally share my experiences as a student and volunteer at HHS. I frequently use #myHHS in my posts to join the conversation with other staff members and doctors at all our hospitals.

You can find Johnathan on Instagram and Twitter.

Hospital clowns Dotty and Polly

Volunteer care clowns bring laughter to Hamilton General Hospital

They say laughter is the best medicine. That’s why a visit from Hamilton Health Sciences’ (HHS) therapeutic hospital clowns can make our patients feel just a bit better. Developed in 2002, the care clown program aims to bring warmth and happiness to patients, families and health care providers at Hamilton General Hospital.

“Children receive so much attention and stimulation as an inpatient to while away their time. Adults, on the other hand, must find ways to make their stay bearable, and so began the humour cart and therapeutic care clown program,” says Lorraine McGrattan, manager of Volunteer Resources, who believes the program’s impact on patients, visitors, and staff is immeasurable. Laughter is known to decrease stress and relax the body, triggering the release of endorphins, the chemical that makes you feel happy.

Hospital clown Dottie giving a patient a pretend haircut

Dressed in bright colours and armed with compassion, care clowns Dottie and Polly Pigtails visit Hamilton General Hospital about twice a month. They carry props like stuffed flowers to bring spring fever into the hospital room, oversized scissors for pretend haircuts and manicures, “boo boo” stickers to place on hurt areas, and a giant needle during flu season to administer the “flu shot.”

“We feel truly blessed to have shared this moment with them. Laughter does help heal and is a definite stress buster for patients, staff and visitors.”

Dottie says there is nothing more rewarding than seeing a sad face turn happy. “The reactions are almost always positive. People tell me I made their day just by walking through the halls, even when I haven’t said anything yet.” Suited in her funky polka dot attire and bright pink hair, one of her favourite things to do is to sing, which usually gets the patient joining in. She sings popular songs like “You are my sunshine” during a patient’s stay and “Hit the road, Jack” upon discharge.

Hospital clown Dottie giving a nurse a pretend flu shot

Dottie has been volunteering with HHS since 2013, while Polly, a former HHS Pharmacy Technician, has been volunteering since 2006. Polly recounts standout moments as a care clown, like when she was invited into a room when an agitated patient had to be transferred to another hospital by paramedics. “The patient happily transferred to the stretcher. We waved and sang goodbye. His wife was so very grateful. One year later we met her, and she reminded us of the stressful moment and her heart felt gratitude.”

Polly says it’s a gift to raise people’s spirits and help them smile, even through the most trying times. Quiet waiting rooms transform and fill with laughter and conversation when they drop by. “We feel truly blessed to have shared this moment with them. Laughter does help heal and is a definite stress buster for patients, staff and visitors.”

Hospital clown Polly Pigtails making a patient laugh

But between stickers and songs, their best trick of all is simply their caring personalities. “These two ladies are beautiful inside and out. I love watching the reactions they get as they walk through the halls,” says Nancy Hayes, coordinator for the Volunteer Resources department.

Volunteer resources organizes volunteers across HHS hospitals, including those who dedicate their time to helping visitors find their way around (known as our GPS – Guiding People Services), those who work in the gift shops, and other positions like care clowns.

Dottie and Polly crossing the street at Hamilton General Hospital

On a recruitment poster that hangs in the Volunteer Resources office is a quote from Patch Adams (you may be familiar with the physician that used humour to treat patients from the 1998 comedy starring Robin Williams).

The poster reads: “It’s fun to do and a jubilant thrill to help others.”

“It is certainly inspirational,” says Polly.

Watch Dottie in action on CHCH.

A volunteer resources managers sits at a table with her team.

Introducing… a volunteer resources manager

Lorraine McGrattan is the manager of the volunteer resources team and has been with Hamilton Health Sciences (HHS) for 36 years. She’s been in her current role for 20 years and is also the past president of the Professional Administrators of Volunteer Resources – Ontario.

What do you love most about your role?

Of course, the people I work with is what I love the most. Before I got this job, I had a funny dream where I was surrounded by hundreds of people like a celebrity. So I knew I landed my dream job when I was appointed director in 2000. I’m energized and inspired by our diversity, our people and their stories. I realized many years ago the power of influence I had over the younger volunteers especially when they come back and express their gratitude. It’s rewarding when they grow up to have a family and career. On the other end of the spectrum, we have many friendships with our volunteers including our older volunteers. We feel their loss when they leave, or worse, when they pass away. It is a privilege to influence the voluntary sector at HHS through collaboration, partnerships and community.

Volunteers are highly transitional with a commitment of one to three years. Much of our effort is to provide a positive and rewarding experience.

What do you find challenging?

One of my main challenges is to ensure volunteerism is on the radar screen at HHS. Staff and volunteers have a solid relationship today but this took years of building and we always want to improve. We regularly communicate with each other now and our volunteers are widely respected by many for what they do for patients and visitors. Another challenge is volunteer tenure. The reality is volunteers are highly transitional with a commitment of one to three years. Our younger volunteers build resumes while the older volunteers are busy with travel, grandchildren, physical activities and other commitments. Much of our effort is to provide a positive and rewarding experience. The volunteer role is different than it was in the past. It takes a special person to fill many of the requests we get. This takes time and with over 200 placements available, recruitment is always a priority.

Describe a typical day.

My job is unlike most at HHS and that’s what motivates me each day. I attend many meetings and get involved in initiatives to represent close to 1,400 volunteers. We have volunteer resources staff at all our hospitals and they manage our volunteers. I lead our group to standardize best practices across the sites and can be a touch point for any concerns. Whether planning, managing budgetary tactics, human resources issues, inquiries or daily operational issues, the people change the landscape each day. Basically, it is my responsibility to provide opportunities within our community, connecting programs with roles designed for mutual benefit.

I attend many meetings and get involved in initiatives to represent close to 1,400 volunteers.

Tell us about your most gratifying experience at HHS.

On a personal level, it was when I confronted my public speaking discomfort, which I needed to do to be heard and make a difference. HHS employs thousands of intelligent people who could make a significant impact if given a voice, but they may hold back due to fear or lack of opportunity. I started a toastmaster club at HHS because this fear was the only thing holding me back from advancing my career. I was tenacious enough to force myself outside of my comfort zone. My goal was to become more skilled at managing uncomfortable situations.

Professionally, I was most grateful for the work I did as a care clown. My name was Mary Go-Round. Years ago, I started a therapeutic care clown program. While training some of our volunteers, one of them got sick. Without hesitation, I donned my clown persona and visited her. Little did I know, my visit impacted the stroke patient sitting next to her. I gave her one of my juggling balls to pass from one hand to the next. She did that and we were both elated she could juggle. I will never forget this exchange.

What’s one thing people would be surprised to learn about your role?

People are always surprised to learn I oversee so many volunteers across multiple hospitals. Fortunately, in volunteer resources, the team dynamics are rich with diverse skill sets. We have a strong and supportive environment across all sites. My HHS colleagues are always amazed at our low turnover and sick rates. I’m very proud of that.

Helping volunteers ‘HELP’ patients

Anuj Patel is a busy student. He’s in fourth year at McMaster University studying Health Sciences. But between the demands of classes, homework and extracurricular activities, he makes time to volunteer with the Hospital Elder Life Program (HELP) at Hamilton General Hospital (HGH).

What is HELP?

HELP runs at both HGH and Juravinski Hospital and Cancer Centre. Hamilton Health Sciences was the first hospital in Canada to adopt the internationally acclaimed program and trains other local sites to help them implement it.

The program relies on volunteers to assist in preventing delirium in hospitalized seniors, which can be triggered by a number of factors including serious illness or recent surgery. Delirium affects a person’s cognitive functioning and can sometimes be misinterpreted as dementia. It can make patients confused and unaware of their surroundings. By spending time with patients and helping them to eat, go for shorts walks, or read magazines, volunteers can reduce the stress that hospitalization causes and prevent delirium. Christopher Gabor, an elder life specialist with HELP says that one of the major delirium prevention strategies volunteers focus on is cognitive stimulation.

“When patients are feeling sensitive or sad,” says Patel, “and you’re able to put a smile on their face by sitting with them or reading to them, it’s really rewarding.”

“That encompasses many interventions including addressing hearing and vision impairments, orienting the patient to time, date and location, reminiscing with the patient, and using therapeutic activities, like games and puzzles,” says Gabor.

HELP has been shown to reduce unplanned readmissions to the hospital, improve the patient and family experience and maximize a patient’s independence on discharge.

Volunteers are vital

Without volunteers, this highly effective program wouldn’t be possible. HELP volunteers like Patel commit to working one shift every week. Each Sunday evening, he comes to HGH to visit patients in the program. He’s dedicated to his role because he sees the positive effects of his visits first-hand.

“When patients are feeling sensitive or sad,” says Patel, “and you’re able to put a smile on their face by sitting with them or reading to them, it’s really rewarding.”

“The HELP program offers such an impactful, rewarding and unique experience, which is why I believe we have such dedicated and committed volunteers.”

HELP was the recipient of this year’s Hamilton Health Sciences Volunteer Resources Partnership Award, which recognizes programs that engage volunteers in a meaningful way. HELP has been very successful at retaining skilled and passionate volunteers that evolve in their roles with the program. Patel, for example, has been volunteering with HELP for three years, and last year was trained as a team leader.

HELP’s volunteer workforce is diverse and includes everyone from retirees to students who contribute to HELP as part of an academic placement. Gabor says that a number of students continue to give their time to HELP even after their mandatory placement ends, because they build a connection with the program.

“The HELP program offers such an impactful, rewarding and unique experience, which is why I believe we have such dedicated and committed volunteers,” he says. “Since volunteers visit patients on a weekly basis and interact with them one on one, they naturally form lasting relationships and see the impact they are having on the patients’ lives directly.”

Volunteer Anuj Patel gets his log book from the nursing station

Finding value in giving back

Staff members like Gabor provide ongoing training to volunteers beyond the day-long orientation they each attend when they begin volunteering. They host information sessions on special topics throughout the year and provide handouts and quizzes to help volunteers brush up on their training.

“They are really supportive,” says Patel. “If you have any questions, they always give a quick response.”

Patel will be finishing his undergraduate degree this year and hopes to enrol in medical school in the fall. He anticipates his life will become much busier with academic demands, but he hopes he will be able to continue with HELP. He says that if he has any time to spare, HELP will be at the top of his list, because it makes him feel like he’s truly making a difference.



What have other volunteers said about HELP?

“My favourite memory from volunteering is last year’s Valentine’s Day. Valentine’s Day can be a hard and extremely emotional day for many of our elderly patients that no longer have their loved ones around, so I thought about them all as my valentines. I brought in roses for each patient and spent my shift learning and listening to them talk about their spouses, children, and grandchildren – the smiles across their faces from the time we spent together showed me the true meaning behind the day dedicated to love. They thanked me countless times for visiting and most had tears in their eyes because I spent my Saturday morning with them. It touched my heart so deeply that something so small and simple could have that large of a positive impact on another being.
Although HELP has specific aims at reducing confusion in hospital by keeping patients’ minds and bodies as active as possible, the program is so much more than that. I have made many incredible friends, have learned invaluable lessons when taking care of the elderly, and have come to know the Hamilton General Hospital as my second home. My positions as a volunteer and trainer with this program have also inspired me to pursue a career in the healthcare field. It has been an absolute pleasure being able to volunteer with HELP and I look forward to many new and exciting experiences.”

– Alana Camporese, HGH HELP volunteer

“Friday evenings are always the highlight of my week. Over the past couple of months, I have learned the ins-and-outs of volunteering at Juravinski Hospital. Admittedly, when I first started volunteering, I wasn’t sure of what my role would consist of, and I felt nervous and overwhelmed at the possibility of making mistakes in front of patients and other hospital staff. However, with time I was able to grasp what being a volunteer means to me. What exactly do HELP volunteers do? We lead therapeutic activities, engage in meal assistance and promote healthy sleeping patterns. Though these activities are critical for the well-being of patients, in my eyes, the most important role of volunteers is emotional support. I was reminded of this over the past Thanksgiving, when patients spoke to me of their family back home and how they celebrated this annual holiday. It made me happy that the patients had someone to talk to and share with during this time. This role has not only allowed me to give back to the community, but also initiated a process of self-development and reflection. This winter, let us continue taking care of each other and ourselves. HELP has truly brought a new meaning to Friday evenings.”

– Kritika Seth, JH HELP volunteer

Introducing… a palliative care volunteer

Mike Xue is a palliative care visitor at St. Peter’s Hospital

Favourite colour: blue/ book: Kite Runner/ vacation spot: Bora Bora (one day)/music: whatever’s on the radio/ animal: dogs/ food: anything and everything/ holiday: Mother’s Day and Father’s Day

What made you start volunteering at St. Peter’s Hospital?
I started volunteering at St. Peter’s largely because of the relationship I had with my grandparents. They were always so happy when I visited them during summers. This became especially important to me when my grandfather passed away and my grandmother’s health began to deteriorate. No matter what condition she was in, she would always feel much better when I spent time with her. Having people around you that care about you makes a world of difference. I wanted to bring that to palliative care patients at St. Peter’s.

Describe the most challenging parts of your volunteer work.
The most challenging aspect of volunteering in palliative care for me has been dealing with the loss of someone you’ve developed a close bond with. The first time I experienced that was the most difficult. I had been visiting someone for a couple of months and we’d spend an hour or two together each week, walking around the backyard or chatting in front of the TV. Then over a couple of weeks, I saw that his situation was worsening. Soon he wasn’t able to get out of bed to come for a walk with me.  On the last day that I saw him his family was gathered around. Three or four people were standing there. A little girl was crying and a man was saying “don’t worry, grandpa’s going to be okay.” It was obvious he wouldn’t be and accepting that was hard. It was bound to happen but I never expected to be affected so heavily when the time came.

This was eye opening as it didn’t occur to me how important the small things I had done were to her.

What is one thing you wish patients knew about you?
I wish that patients knew that I enjoyed being there with them. A lot of the times I get comments from them like “I don’t want to waste your time,” and “sure if that doesn’t bother you.” The truth is I enjoy my time volunteering and wouldn’t be there helping them if I didn’t want to be.

When you tell people what you do as a volunteer, how do they usually react?
The initial reaction is usually, “that sounds sad.” In truth, it can be quite sad sometimes. But when it comes down to it you just have to think about the good you’ve done. You were able to be there for someone during their most vulnerable times.

Tell us about your most gratifying experience at HHS.
Last year I was visiting a patient that really loved coffee. Of course it made a lot of sense that I would bring her a coffee right? So that’s what I did for a couple of months. We’d chit chat for a bit while she drank her coffee. Then one day I mentioned to her that I was hungry and she told me she had these chocolate bars in her bag. I refused but she would not let me leave without taking a few. She explained how grateful she was for the things I had done for her and she wanted to do something for me in turn. This was eye opening as it didn’t occur to me how important the small things I had done were to her.

I still have one of the chocolate bars she gave me sitting in my pencil holder. I ate one of them as soon as she gave it to me and kept the other for later. The next week when I went to visit her, she was gone. I keep that chocolate bar as a reminder that the small things you do for others can make a big impact.




Do you know someone who should be featured in Faces of HHS? Contact us at share@hhsc.ca


An internationally trained nurse stands in portrait in front of the ICU

Introducing… an internationally trained nurse

Dreams do come true. Othman Mansour’s career as a nurse started 12 years ago but what he really wanted was to provide his family with better opportunities.

Starting out in Jordan before working in Saudi Arabia, Othman wanted to continue his path onto Canada. The next steps for him posed a challenge.

“Like many in my position, I worried about getting my credentials,” says Othman. “Then I knew I had to focus on developing effective therapeutic relationships with patients and their families that foster open communication and trust.”

Othman is an internationally trained nurse working in the intensive care unit (ICU) at Hamilton Health Sciences’ (HHS) Hamilton General Hospital. He cares for patients suffering from various forms of trauma, surgery and other diagnoses that require critically trained nurses for respiratory support on ventilators.

Othman is the first to come out of the Internationally Educated Nurse program and land in the ICU.

Internationally Educated Nurse project

Internationally trained nurses are part of a culturally diverse workforce at HHS. Since 2009, the Internationally Educated Nurse (IEN) and English as a Second Language Nurse Integration Project initiative helps nurses fully integrate into the Ontario healthcare system.

An internationally trained nurse works on an IVOthman is the first registered nurse to enter the IEN project and land in the hospital’s ICU.

After completing his degree, Othman worked in the surgical unit at King Abdullah University Hospital while working on his master’s degree before serving as the charge nurse for eight years.

When Othman arrived in Canada in 2017, he participated in the IEN project while waiting for his nursing license to be processed that would allow him to work here full time. He worked as a health care aide with another organization to make ends meet in the meantime.

Mentoring key to ICU nurse’s success

His colleague Tami McKenzie was excited to work with Othman once he got his license. She was in charge of his training in the ICU at Hamilton General.


“Training Othman was a new experience for me,” says Tami. “He had the knowledge about critical care, but he lacked the knowledge base with respect to our equipment and IV medications.”

Othman’s many years of experience working outside Canada were beneficial to him.

After two shifts with his mentor, Ravinder Multani, it became apparent Othman needed more guidance. While very knowledgeable and an avid critical thinker, Othman found the equipment and some processes challenging. There were key differences compared to what he saw back home.

A brief introduction later and they both jumped right into IV infusions. Othman’s many years of experience working outside Canada were beneficial to him. But there were still early setbacks.

His team created a new strategy for Othman that would set him on the path to success, which he ultimately realized.

“He picked things up very fast,” says Tami proudly of her new trainee. “We had IV bags spread across the table and we systematically looked up IV monographs as we went down the line.”

“It’s hard to express how thankful and lucky I am for the IEN office and their endless support,” says Othman. “Tami and the rest of the team in the ICU were amazing throughout my long journey to this point.”

“They made my dreams come true.”


With contributions from Tami McKenzie

Is there a staff member, physician or volunteer you want to recognize for their outstanding work? Send an email to share@hhsc.ca with their name, role, site, department and why they should be recognized. We may feature them in our weekly series.

A home total parenteral nutrition coordinator administers a needle to a patient

Introducing… a home total parenteral nutrition coordinator

Jane Plant is a registered nurse and a home total parenteral nutrition (TPN) coordinator for our digestive diseases clinic. She has been with Hamilton Health Sciences for 14 years but is fairly new to this role.

The home TPN program accepts a certain number of patients from across the region each year. It sets people up to live at home with intravenous (IV) feeding, which is also called total parenteral nutrition.

What does a home total parenteral nutrition coordinator do?

My fellow clinicians and I care for 25-30 home TPN patients per day who all live at home. These patients infuse total parenteral nutrition every night through a central line.

We help patients decide what central line will work best for them and teach them how to start and stop IV nutrition safely. I also work closely with the radiology department to have lines inserted in addition to constantly communicating with other care providers.

What keeps you motivated at work?

It’s really easy to stay motivated at work because the impact of what we do is so significant for the patients. We have an amazing team who are all very supportive and encouraging.

I have a young family. Moving to a position within a clinic has really helped me to find a work/home balance. There is a lot of flexibility and understanding, which is key for a positive work environment for me.

a home total parenteral nutrition coordinator stands in portrait

Who inspires you?

I’m a very family-oriented person; I find inspiration from them.

My dad is a hard-working farmer in addition to having a 40-hours-a-week job outside the farm. I’m inspired by his work ethic and problem-solving skills.

My daughters, Ellie and Rosie, inspire me to keep learning and growing. I strive to be the person they see through their eyes.

What made you enter your field of work?

Nursing to me is way more than a career choice. It really feels like being a nurse is a huge part of my personality.

I love interacting with and caring for patients while facilitating therapeutic relationships. Nursing was also appealing to me because there is such a wide and varied scope of what a nurse does and flexibility to take a different path.


Is there a staff member, physician or volunteer you want to recognize for their outstanding work? Send an email to share@hhsc.ca with their name, role, site, department and why they should be recognized. We may feature them in our weekly series.

A labour relations lead stands in portrait

Introducing… an employee and labour relations lead

Tiffany Roblin is the employee and labour relations lead on Hamilton Health Sciences’ human resources operations and labour relations team. She has been with HHS for one and a half years.

Before she came to HHS, she spent 10 years in the post-secondary education sector.

What does an employee and labour relations lead do?

I work closely with a team of specialists, coordinators, business partners and our union partners to champion our strategies and collective bargaining initiatives.

I’m also responsible for providing labour relations and human resources advice throughout HHS on both union and non-union issues. This typically includes labour management concerns and employee/labour relations issues that escalate to our department.

These can be either informal consultations or done formally through the grievance/arbitration processes outlined in our collective agreements.

I’m responsible for providing labour relations and human resources advice.

What do you love most about your job?

I love that my role gives me the opportunity to support front-line health care workers, support staff, leaders and others across the organization who can make an impact on our patients’ experience.

Our team is privileged to provide them with an effective and efficient means for dealing with their human resource concerns.

What keeps you motivated at work?

I am motivated each day by the people around me, both within my department, as well as our staff, leaders and physicians.

I always viewed HHS as an employer of choice.

Each level of this organization inspires me to learn new things and strive for continuous improvement in the way we deliver employee and labour relations advice to the HHS community.

Why do you choose to work at HHS?

Throughout my career in post-secondary education, I always viewed HHS as an employer of choice.

Being an academic teaching hospital and a world leader in health sciences research are huge advantages.

Getting the opportunity to join HHS, I thrive in knowing that a portion of what I do on a day-to-day basis supports our vision of best care for all. It enables our staff and physicians to provide excellent health care for those in the community I work and live.


Is there a staff member, physician or volunteer you want to recognize for their outstanding work? Send an email to share@hhsc.ca with their name, role, site, department and why they should be recognized. We may feature them in our weekly series.

An ICU nurse stands in portrait

Introducing… an ICU nurse

Tami McKenzie wanted to experience nursing beyond her regular role.

When an opportunity came to join Hamilton Health Sciences’ (HHS) Nursing Quality Council (NQC), she jumped at it.

“Last year, I felt an urge to see nursing through a new set of eyes,” says Tami, a registered nurse in the intensive care unit at Hamilton General Hospital. “What I love most about my role on the NQC is that I’m in a position to make change.”

The NQC meets regularly to see what processes impact the over 4,000 nurses employed at HHS and makes recommendations to improve the quality of care they provide.

The drive to learn and develop

It’s a group Tami was inspired by to help her grow as a nurse.

Learning, and the drive to lead in this area along with research and innovation, is a key pillar in HHS’ strategic plan.

“The chance to expand my role, while continuing my day-to-day activities is important.”

Last spring, a new committee was formed to educate nurses about palliative care, adding to the many communities of practice available across the hospital system. HHS also has long-standing partnerships with Mohawk College and McMaster University, which provide more opportunities for health care staff.

“The chance to expand my role, while continuing my day-to-day activities is important,” says Tami, who has worked at HHS for 12 years. “Outside of the bedside care I provide, I’m involved in many development initiatives.”

Tami’s focus on learning and development not only helps her as a front-line ICU nurse, but it also leads to experiences that motivate her to do more.

Recently, Tami became a clinical instructor at McMaster University and represented HHS at a career fair.

She also took advantage of a professional development workshop offered at the hospital called Grow Where You Are. This spring, she starts her master’s degree.

“What I learned about healthy work environments is that to be meaningful, recognition must be linked to specific accomplishments.”

With HHS’ new Continuous Quality Improvement (CQI) Management System, nurses at HHS are also encouraged to get involved in solving problems at the unit level to make things better for patients, families and staff.

A key part of CQI is a daily huddle amongst team members to discuss any improvement opportunities and recognize accomplishments.

Inspired to recognize her fellow nurses

During one of her shifts early in her career, when a patient suffered from a cardiac arrest, Tami administered chest compressions for the first time. The patient’s vital signs returned as a result.

The senior medical resident acknowledged her critical role, but it wasn’t until later she understood the true value of recognition.

“What I learned about healthy work environments is that to be meaningful, recognition must be linked to specific accomplishments, delivered by someone meaningful and timely,” says Tami. “This physician provided me with that level of recognition and it still resonates, inspiring me to recognize others.”

Tami continues to learn and develop through her NQC role, helping to select nursing excellence award winners at Hamilton Health Sciences.


Is there a staff member, physician or volunteer you want to recognize for their outstanding work? Send an email to share@hhsc.ca with their name, role, site, department and why they should be recognized. We may feature them in our weekly series.