Meet Patricia Woods: Hospital News’ Nursing Hero!

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A hero(ine) is a person…who, in the face of danger, combats adversity through impressive feats of ingenuity, bravery or strength, often sacrificing his or her own personal concerns for some greater good.

(Wikipedia 2017)

This story is about a heroine named Patricia Woods or “Pat” as her friends like to call her.  Pat works in the Trauma Therapy Program (TTP) and the Women Recovering from Abuse (WRAP) program at Women’s College Hospital (WCH) in the Women’s Mental Health Department.

To start this story, we begin with a few words from her clients to show the impact she has on her quest for the greater good.

“This ride has been a rough one and I am so glad that it was you that led me through it.  You have an ability to make me think and speak about events and feelings that I have always denied…You reminded me, in your quiet way, that I was sane and present.”

“You saw the unseeable, your boundaries were impeccable, your compassion grand, your skills sublime.  I felt seen, I felt known, I felt safe, I felt healing.  I will have you in my heart always.

Pat has been a Registered Nurse for 47 years.  She is a well-rounded skillful and knowledgeable clinician.  She also brings a creative depth to her work as an RN nurse with a degree in Fine Arts and a Canadian Nurses Association Psychiatric/Mental health certification, as well as a certification in Sensorimotor Psychotherapy—an innovative and profound Psychotherapy approach to working with trauma directly in the body.  She is a recipient of the PAC Group inter-professional Teaching Award from Peter Boyd’s Academy with her team in 2003 and a recipient of a teacher’s award from WCH in 2012.  In addition to her work with clients, she teaches in trauma seminars and supervises students from Ryerson and the University of Toronto.

Adversity

Pat works heroically day in and day out.  In her work as a mental health nurse and trauma therapist Pat works with the most vulnerable of clients—individuals struggling with significant sequelae of childhood trauma. In her 1:1 and group therapy Pat works daily with clients who lived through childhood trauma and often are challenged by symptoms consistent with complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder  (PTSD).  Pat has learned through 18 years of experience that PTSD leaves many individuals having difficulty functioning in many aspects of their lives. Pat sees clients struggle with severe depression and anxiety. As well they have difficulties with sleep and challenges sustaining work and relationships.  Pat knows all too well that many survivors live with daily flashbacks of earlier traumatic events, are visited with frequent nightmares and it is not infrequent for clients to live in states of dissociation so severe that some of them had difficulty using TTC and other forms of public transportation, or safely moving through the world.  Also, Pat would tell you that many of these clients engage in self harming activities, may be highly addicted, and it is not unusual to encounter individuals who move through their days chronically suicidal.  It is in this context that Pat comes to work everyday.

But Pat doesn’t just come to work, it is the way Pat comes to work that is the main message of this story.  Pat works in a multi-disciplinary team consisting of one other nurse, an occupational therapist, social workers, psychiatrists and an art therapist.  Pat is so valued by our team and here are some collective comments from them.

Impressive feats

Pat does so much for the team including working in WRAP, seeing individual TTP clients, developing groups, writing and research, speaking at conferences, and supervising nursing students. Pat also has her certification in Sensorimotor Psychotherapy (SP) and is one of the SP experts on the team. Pat never assumes she knows more and is always open to new ideas.  She is a leader in this field, within this organization, and in the community. She has participated in countless psychotherapy trainings, and has also disseminated her knowledge and wisdom to present at the National and International conferences, WCH grand rounds, at the University of Toronto and GTA hospital wide trauma rounds. She is also a published author and poet. Two of our groups in WRAP and TTP “The Living in A Mindful Body” and “Trauma and the Body” groups are definite legacies she will leave behind for this program and more importantly for all the women who cross our threshold in search of healing and wellness.

Pat is always the person that the clients gravitate towards and long to work with.  I have seen the care and compassion she shows clients, and the respectful way in which she interacts with each individual which leaves them feeling like they are unique, special and that they matter.  The resounding feedback she has been given on a consistent basis is that she is nurturing, compassionate and caring and how her manner of being allows for clients to feel safe and settled here. For many, she represents to them the care they wish they had received as children, and the possibility that it can exist for them now as adults. What a gift.

Pat provides individual and group therapy with grace, knowledge and great wisdom. Her commitment and engagement to her work are evident from her passion in sharing her work during supervision and providing others with support as well as clinical advice. She’s not afraid of challenging her peers as well as her clients in a caring and compassionate manner. She has the ability to use her sense of humour together with her experience and expertise to create a very pleasant atmosphere for those working with her. I also appreciate the time she takes to check in with the interdisciplinary team, to ensure that we are at our best emotionally and mentally, to do this work.

I see her mentoring students with wisdom and honesty – and as a preceptor she teaches learners that they need to pay attention to the impact of this work by utilizing supervision and support. She also models for students the importance of identifying and exploring countertransference issues in the work we do. She demonstrates professionalism and a highly ethical practice.  Pat is truly warm, approachable, and understanding and at the same time she balances this with being direct, honest and challenging.

Ingenuity, bravery, strength and beyond…

Her students admire her too for Pat is a leader in working with a modalities in trauma therapy including art based approaches and body based approaches to trauma. Here is a collage of quotes that current and past students say about her.

“You have so much very role modeled to me the endless bits and pieces of the therapist I hope to be one day become;”

“You have an incredible ability to make people feel as though they matter around you.  I felt like a human, not just another student passing through the building;”

“I feel that you are full of wonderful knowledge, creativity and experience that you deliver with empathetic honesty and humour.  Thanks for sharing some of your fullness with me;”

Greater good

Pat’s clients also have so much to say about Pat.  She has been nominated by her clients, many times, through the WCH foundation award’s program.  She also keeps and on her shelf in her office a medium sized paper bag full of cards from her clients.  One day, Pat let me look through her cards and these are some of the quotes from her clients that I found.

 “Thanks for Reality!” “Thank you not only for your kindness, but also for your attentiveness and genuine caring for me.  I appreciate your listening ear and heart and for your encouragement and helping me heal;”

“The best thing a mind can do is talk to the heart.  You do this in book and gesture.  It’s a great gift you have Pat;”

“This ride has been a rough one and I am so glad that it was you that led me through it.  You have an ability to make me think and speak about events and feelings that I have always denied…You reminded me, in your quiet way, that I was sane and present.  You truly are an “Angel of Healing;”

“Thank you tremendously for your guidance throughout my journey.  You emanate kindness, wisdom, gentleness, a true maturing ability, and there is an instant feeling of safety for me when I’m with you.  You have influenced my growth so positively and strongly;”

“Thank you so much for making a difference in my life.  When I came to you, I was so broken and hurt and confused, not knowing what to say or do.  You help me to heal and be able to speak out.  You are an awesome therapist;”

 Pat is a true heroine to trauma survivors.

Nominated by Sue MacRae on behalf of the Trauma Therapy Program clinical team.