Baycrest’s Nursing Centre of Excellence: Restoring the Heart and Soul of Nursing


Baycrest Centre for Geriatric Care is trying hard to take nurses back to the heart of what they love to do. That heart – relationships with clients – has been undermined by hospital restructuring in the province based on measuring tasks.

Joy Richards knows all too well how demoralized nurses feel. The new Vice President of Nursing Services at Baycrest has met hundreds of nurses and nursing students at job fairs across the province. The layoffs, job insecurity, long hours and stressful work environment have taken their toll on this noble profession.

Nurses are worried that the essence of what makes their job personally gratifying and meaningful – being with clients – has all but disappeared, replaced by the mantra of task efficiency. The pursuit of efficiency is all about performing tasks within a prescribed time frame.

One of Richards’ key messages to potential recruits is that a complex continuing care/long-term care facility such as Baycrest can offer the best opportunity to rediscover the heart of nursing – to develop and work within a relationship with clients again.

To restore morale among practising staff and to help with retention and recruitment of nurses at Baycrest, Richards is overseeing two major initiatives that were initiated by her predecessor, Dr. Mary Ferguson-Pare.

The first is to change the nursing management environment at Baycrest. With the help of professional coaching, Dr. Ferguson-Pare implemented a coaching style of management that moved away from the traditional, hierarchical paradigm to team-based, collaborative decision-making.

Both she and Richards believe a healthy work environment is one in which nurses make decisions about their own practice within a supportive environment.

Nurse managers are no longer considered “bosses” but coaches and mentors. Indeed, the new management style earned Baycrest a finalist nomination for the first-ever Prism Award, handed out by the International Coaching Federation (Toronto Chapter) last year.

The second major initiative Dr. Ferguson-Paré undertook was to create a space, both physical and virtual, which represents the spirit of nursing at Baycrest and beyond. After months of planning, The Nursing Centre of Excellence was launched last year.

The physical space is a room that nurses can use for learning, education, recognition and celebration. They can hold meetings, host students and visitors from other organizations, or meet to share ideas and frustrations about their practice.

Dr. Ferguson-Paré likened it to a “pied-a-terre” for nurses. “It’s a place for reflection on nursing practice, a place for sharing, truth telling, crying and laughing,” she said. “It’s a safe warm home for members of the nursing family, a resource centre and vehicle for collaboration and education.”

Dr. Ferguson-Paré and Richards note that this “pied-a-terre” is becoming a busy place full of activity and, most importantly, hope and joy.

The Nursing Centre of Excellence recently opened its virtual space at Although in its infancy, the web site has information about a career in gerontological nursing at Baycrest, upcoming professional development conferences and other educational events, nursing achievements and awards, and links to many other sites. In time, the site will be interactive with chat rooms and discussion groups so nurses can share perspectives and ideas.

The web site will enable Baycrest to reach out and share its expertise in gerontological nursing with the community. It’s an expertise that has traditionally stayed within Baycrest’s walls, but that is now changing and Baycrest is positioning itself to become a knowledge leader in this area.

The Nursing Centre of Excellence will hold its first major webcast on February 7 and 8 with a two-day workshop that prepares registered nurses to write the Canadian Nurses Association Gerontological Nursing Certification Examination 2002.

Last year, Clinical Nurse Specialist, Laurie Bernick, made history by delivering Baycrest’s first international telehealth conference with a nursing home company in Japan. She shared her expertise on preventing falls in the elderly.

Richards says The Nursing Centre of Excellence and the development of shared leadership in Nursing are important steps towards enriching the quality of work life and nursing practice of those who provide care.

“We’re focusing on retention of our nurses by making Baycrest a great environment to work in,” says Richards. “For those looking for a place to continue or begin their nursing career, caring for an aging population is a truly rewarding experience.”

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