Baycrest builds a ‘supportive’ work environment for nurses


One of the biggest challenges facing health care organizations today is how to attract and retain what has become a shrinking resource – nurses.

Baycrest has responded to this challenge by creating a work environment that gives nurses ample opportunities to specialize and enhance their skills, participate in decision-making, spearhead projects, do collaborative research, and contribute ideas for improving client care.

“We have created an environment of enquiry that allows nurses to feel comfortable asking questions and pursuing ideas based on evidence-based research,” says Joy Richards, Vice-President of Nursing at Baycrest. “Our nurses feel more empowered to make a difference. They are changing the practice environment and changing the way care is delivered.”

Team-based, collaborative decision-making has replaced the old-style hierarchical paradigm. The result: increasing discussions are happening at the unit level.

“Our nursing leaders recognize that good decisions can’t be made without the input of clinical nurses,” says Richards. “It’s creating pockets of energy throughout the organization and it’s really exciting to see this happening.”

What attracted registered nurse Agnes Guglielmi to work at Baycrest was the importance the centre places on structuring the environment around the client’s needs, as opposed to the other way around. “It’s one of the best places I can think of to work with the elderly and have continuing learning opportunities,” she says.

Nurses who wish to pursue professional development are strongly encouraged by their mentors in the division and supported by Baycrest. There are tuition reimbursements, generous endowment scholarships available to pursue higher learning, and awards for individual nursing achievements.

Another crowning achievement for Baycrest Nursing was the launch of a Nursing Centre of Excellence in 2001. It’s a virtual and physical space that enables nurses to celebrate achievements, find out about higher learning opportunities, and share information (

All of these changes in the nursing environment have not gone unnoticed. In 2001, the International Coach Federation, Toronto Chapter, recognized Baycrest’s nursing leadership team for learning and embracing a new coaching style, and developing shared leadership in nursing.

This past November, the Canadian Nurses Association (CNA) honored Baycrest with the 2002 Employer Recognition Award for the CNA Certification Program. Baycrest was recognized for providing financial and other supportive measures to nurses who wish to obtain their gerontological nursing certification. This certification is relatively new (since 1999) and Baycrest is known nationally as the lead educator in this specialty.

Indeed, it was a talented team of nurses in the Nursing Clinical Resource Group who spearheaded the project to make Baycrest the first health care facility to put a prep course for CNA certification online. Now nurses across the country can access the prep workshop with the click of a “mouse”. Since 1999, 1,183 nurses have taken the CNA gerontological exam and been certified.

Baycrest has three other strengths that it can use to its advantage in the drive to recruit more nurses:

  • First, it’s an academic health sciences centre with a reputation for excellence in care, research and education. “At Baycrest you have the clinical practice and the research, and where the exciting part happens is when those two meet in a meaningful way,” says clinical nurse specialist/nurse practitioner Tiziana Rivera. Baycrest is part of a multi-hospital Collaborative Research Program: Rehabilitation and Long-Term Care, which provides a forum for nurses to participate in research.
  • Second, as a complex continuing care/long-term care facility, Baycrest is a place where nurses can rediscover the “heart” of nursing: relationship-building with the clients they care for. It’s what makes nursing personally gratifying and meaningful.
  • Third, Canada’s population is aging and people are living longer. The pressing need is not just for more nurses, but more nurses with a geriatric specialty. To this end, Baycrest is working with nursing schools in central and southwestern Ontario to integrate gerontological nursing into the curriculum.

“Acute care hospitals across the country are dealing with an ever-rising number of older admissions presenting multiple and complex health problems,” says Rhonda Seidman-Carlson, Director of Nursing Placement, Development and Practice at Baycrest.

“There’s no question this country needs to generate a capacity in gerontological nursing expertise. When it comes to caring for older patients, nurses with their gerontological certification are the knowledge leaders of tomorrow.”