Yvonne Ramlall, RPN, Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre
Whether in real life or not, a hero is someone people look up to for courage and inspiration. And yet, the fast-changing landscape of the Canadian healthcare dictates that our system needs real heroes who are bold enough to be catalysts of change and brave enough to explore unchartered territories. From the health care standpoint, a real hero’s action, therefore, impacts not only patients at the elementary level but ultimately, the efficiency of the healthcare machinery.
My real nursing hero is a colleague working as a Registered Practical Nurse (RPN) at the Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre in Toronto where she has been working since 2000. Within that timeframe, Yvonne Ramlall has been receiving numerous accolades from both patients and colleagues. Her exceptional work ethic was recognized in 2009 when she received the Schulich Award for Nursing Excellence, the highest award given annually by Sunnybrook Hospital to outstanding and exceptional clinicians.
In the nomination package, colleagues commented that “while being a Registered Practical Nurse already demands much of her time, the nominee has extended her role far beyond the usual patient care routine at the hospital. With her many research and mentorship activities, she has not only brought the role of RPNs to great heights but has also strengthened the important role of this discipline to the healthcare team.” With 42 members of the acute team signing a letter of support for Yvonne’s nomination, they added that “Patients and families speak highly of the care that she provides…Yvonne contributes to an inviting work place and she demonstrates the values of Sunnybrook through excellence, collaboration, accountability, respect, and empowerment in her daily interactions with all team members.” And yet, Yvonne never rests on her laurels.
Recognizing the need to better understand and manage the pain experience of patients, she embarked another milestone in her career by engaging in practice-based research by completing a 2007 Registered Practical Nurses Association of Ontario (RPNAO) Leadership Clinical Practice Fellowship Research Study program at Sunnybrook Hospital. A naturally gifted thinker, Yvonne started her research journey by asking challenging and important questions and collaborating with experienced researchers who were both intrigued by her critical inquiry and showing support and admiration for an RPN who was going above and beyond her call of duty.
When her first research paper on pain management was accepted for publication in 2009 (to be followed by a second study in the same area published in 2010), Yvonne truly raised the profile of the RPN profession. As a result of her trailblazing career, she has been invited around the world to speak about her research work: Ireland (2010); London, England (2011); Malta (2012); Melbourne, Australia (2013); and Capetown, South Africa (2014). And locally, she has been invited many times across the province to talk about her work. But while being invited as a speaker in various countries may already be a huge achievement, I always think that Yvonne’s greatest contribution is being an ambassador of change on how the role of the RPN in Ontario can also be replicated outside of Canada.
Therefore, as an important catalyst of change, her commitment to patient care and pain research has brought the Ontario RPN at the forefront of the Canadian healthcare revolution. In an article about her from the Sunnybrook magazine entitled “Feeling Her Patient’s Pain,” Yvonne remarked, “By asking questions, we get answers. Sometimes those answers can tug at the heart. Not doing something about the negative outcomes will not improve the patient’s experience. Then, by not challenging yourself to ask the difficult questions, one will not be able to influence the change that is needed.” With these powerful words, it is no surprise then that she was awarded the 2014 Dr. Robert B. Salter Award from the Canadian Orthopaedic Nurses Association (CONA).
Outside of her clinical role, Yvonne’s commitment to the nursing profession was also felt at the RPNAO where she held a 2-year term as a member of the Board of Directors. Prior to this leadership role, she was appointed to the College of Nurses of Ontario Council. She is also actively involved as a member of the Executive Board of the Toronto Chapter of CONA where she helps in the planning of conferences. Within the hospital, she has been actively involved in a number of committees, including the Family Collaborative Committee; the Nursing Council; and was the Union Steward for RPNs at the Sunnybrook Holland Centre. Truly, the constantly evolving face of the Canadian healthcare landscape requires champions who are committed to make a difference in the lives of other people. But most importantly, our healthcare system requires innovative and bold leaders and practitioners who are brave enough to test the waters and explore the vast opportunities that await them. At Sunnybrook Hospital, we have in our midst a hero whose strength lies not in weapons but in wisdom; whose strength lies not in physical power but in the commitment to make other people’s lives better; and whose dedication to work is a far cry from being fictitious. As a real life hero, Yvonne’s dedication to patients and the nursing profession is not only outstanding: it is exceptional.