Ontario Nurses receive oncology education and support at no cost

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When Anna Maria de Souza was treated for cancer at Princess Margaret Hospital in 2007, she was touched by the nursing care she received. As one of Toronto’s most distinguished philanthropists and founder of Toronto’s Brazilian Ball, Anna Maria raised over $50 million for various deserving institutions. After a courageous battle she passed away in September 2007.

“While in the hospital she often told me how she felt grateful for the caring and supportive nurses who treat cancer patients,” says Ivan de Souza, Anna Maria’s husband. “Anna believed these special nurses needed to be supported too.”

Anna Maria’s vision of supporting oncology nurses came to life in March of 2008 when the de Souza Institute was founded. Established with funding from the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long Term Care, the Institute provides education, professional development and career counseling to Ontario nurses who care for cancer patients in any setting; whether in the hospital, clinic or home.

The Institute offers high quality and diverse educational opportunities to nurses in every corner of the province at no cost. All 14 Ontario regional cancer centres have received $100,000 from the Institute to provide the space and infrastructure for nurses to learn. Using telemedicine, innovative technologies and live events, the Institute provides education to nurses in their local care settings.

Now in its third year of operation, de Souza Institute has provided support and continuing education to over 2000 Ontario nurses. This includes helping hundreds of nurses become certified in oncology or hospice palliative care through weekly study sessions for the national Canadian Nurses Association (CNA) exams.

“The certification exams are challenging and do require a lot of studying and perseverance,” says Mikki Layton, a de Souza study group participant and former Nurse Manager at Toronto East General Hospital, “But with the Institute’s study group and financial support, our team worked together to meet this important challenge.”

Over 46 nurses have also received scholarships of up to $20,000 to support their graduate studies (Masters or PhD) in an oncology or palliative care related field. The Institute has garnered overwhelming participation in its many courses and workshops, including those on pain and symptom management, chemotherapy administration, patient navigation and emotional care.

Building on its success, the Institute recently expanded its programs to support more nursing professionals. Now Ontario nurses caring for pediatric oncology patients can participate in continuing education tailored to their area of practice. The Institute has also launched the de Souza Nurse designation, an initiative that challenges nurses to fulfill the Institute’s educational and clinical requirements to achieve the highest level of specialized training. The Institute also provides career development and mentorship opportunities through the Oncology Nursing e-Mentorship Program.

Anna Maria’s dream of supporting all cancer nurses will continue to be possible through the Institute. Mr. de Souza adds, “The Institute is integral to improving cancer care and I know Anna would be proud to attach her name to such a significant program.”

Any Ontario nurses interested in participating in de Souza programs can visit their website at www.desouzanurse.ca.