Learning is for Life Scholarships support staff to enhance their development

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Meeting the educational and lifelong learning needs of our staff is critical to ensuring we can continue to provide high quality and safe care for patients and their families.

At St. Joseph’s Health Centre, Toronto, the TD Learning is for Life Scholarship is one way that allows the organization to provide financial support to staff who wish to further their career and enhance their knowledge through formal educational programs.

Maureen Savoie, a nurse in the Health Centre’s Surgery and Oncology program for 22 years, is one of the 21 recipients of this scholarship in 2009. Savoie realizes the importance of professional development and life-long learning to be successful and feels that St. Joseph’s plays a big part in supporting all staff to further their education.

“Health care changes on a daily basis,” says Savoie. “As a nurse, I know I need to be at the cutting edge when change is happening and in my current role as a nurse educator, it’s even more important.”

Throughout her years of service at St. Joseph’s, Savoie has held a number of positions within the surgical program such as Resource Nurse, Clinical Care Leader and most recently as the Education Coordinator for the Short Stay, Day Surgery and Pre-admission units. She realized early on that while she loved providing direct patient care, she wanted to enhance her career to include nursing education and that expanding her knowledge base and constant learning was the way to do that.

Savoie has taken advantage of many internal learning opportunities provided by the Health Centre to support her growth while also participating in St. Joseph’s educational events such as the Annual Clinical Day and Pain Management Conference. Last winter, she made the decision and commitment to go for her Masters in Nursing.

Always wanting to achieve her Masters in Nursing, Savoie made the decision that it was the right time to go for her goal and applied for the TD Learning is for Life Scholarship to help her get started. “Knowing that there was an opportunity to apply for financial assistance through this scholarship helped me to really want to pursue my Masters even more,” says Savoie, adding that this financial support is so important because of all of the other financial commitments she has in raising four children.

She is currently enrolled in the Health Policy and Education stream of the Masters in Nursing Program at Ryerson University. “I researched the many different programs and found that Ryerson best fits my needs because I want to continue to work in an educational role in a clinical setting.”

“Supporting ongoing education for staff is paramount in achieving St. Joseph’s Vision to be Canada’s Best Community Teaching Hospital,” says Mark Vimr, Executive Vice President, Clinical and Professional Programs & Services, Chief Nursing Executive and Chief of Interprofessional Practice. “This additional support from TD Bank Financial Group is just one more opportunity we can provide as an organization for our staff to really have the chance to advance their skills, their knowledge and education. And this has a direct impact on the standard of care we can provide to our patients and families.”

Vimr also adds that, “While many people have the desire to continue their education, some may not have the finances needed to pursue ongoing education. Having this scholarship eliminates that worry and barrier so that staff can feel supported in their educational pursuits,” he says.

While the timing in her career (and life) together with the TD scholarship made a great recipe for pursuing her Masters, Savoie admits that balancing everything is difficult. But despite the difficulties, Savoie stressed the importance of making ongoing education a priority.

“It is our responsibility as health-care professionals to embrace the opportunity to enhance (our) education. And it doesn’t have to be with formal programs, there are many different ways to learn and upgrade your skills,” she says. “Continuing education enables me to provide better care and be a better mentor for my colleagues and new nurses coming to St. Joseph’s.” Savoie is also thankful to her manager and director who support and accommodate her learning needs by ensuring flexibility in her work schedule.

A total of 86 TD Learning is for Life Scholarships have been awarded to staff over the last three years. This continued education program has been made possible by the generous funding from TD Bank Financial Group, with scholarships ranging from $1,000 to $5,000, for a total of $50,000 pledged on an annual basis.

For more information on St. Joseph’s educational opportunities, please visit www.stjoe.on.ca/education/support.php.