Hospital News congratulates Nursing Hero Contest Winners

    1st Place Winner – Larisa Barbour, RN, Surgical Oncology, Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre

    Larisa Barbour is the definition of a Nursing Hero. She consistently provides the highest level of compassionate, person focused care and inspires others to be better oncology nurses and health care providers. Throughout this nomination letter, you will hear firsthand the impact Larisa has had on the lives of those she provides care for and fellow colleagues at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre on the surgical oncology unit (D6). Larisa has been a nurse for over 25 years and an inpatient oncology nurse since 1991. This is where I had the gift of first meeting Larisa.  As a new graduate nurse, I was privileged to shadow Larisa over a series of night shifts. My first impression of Larisa was of her intense passion for patient care and her role as an oncology nurse. She always spends time making sure her patients were comfortable before bed and taking care of little details like washing the patient’s face, helping them brush their teeth, and rubbing lotion on their backs. Larisa also spends time being present with patients’ unable to sleep to put them at ease and help them to fall asleep.

    Larisa also plays an essential role in being present in the most difficult situations and taking action to collaborate with colleagues and ensure she did everything in her power to promote excellent care across the continuum. With a smile on her face, you will find Larisa supporting her fellow colleagues during a very busy shift, and assisting the oncoming teams with the transition into a day shift. On one night, a code blue had occurred over the night shift. Larisa had played a key role in helping with the code, and supported the family when they were extremely anxious. Larisa was able to provide comfort during this highly tenuous time and was able to convince family to go home and rest once the patient was stable enough to be transferred to an ICU bed. Larisa assisted in the patient’s transfer so that the oncoming day shift nurse wouldn’t be trying to catch up for the rest of the day shift – ensuring the patient’s safety and continuity of person centered care as she was able to address the major concerns that lead up to the incident.

    Larisa has a gift that encourages people to open their minds to the views of others. She takes the time to get to know the patients and families she is caring for through the development of the therapeutic relationship. It is within this relationship that magic happens. She learns what is most important to patients and families, brings that forward to the team and challenges others to think differently by sharing the perspectives of the unique individuals whom she cares for.

    Every night Larisa completes patient rounds, offering to freshen them up, rub lotion on their backs and feet. In today’s fast paced inpatient unit, this is a rare human touch that Larisa continues to provide. I have heard time and time again, patients calling her their “angel”, and families of patients expressing their thanks and sincerity to Larisa for all that she does. A comment from a fellow colleague that speaks to Larisa’s special human touches; “I was coming to a day shift and I thought Larisa had left from her night shift and was amazed that at 0900, she was walking a patient because she promised him she would walk him. Whenever I hear compliments from patients, her name is always mentioned. I would personally want her to be my nurse if I ever get admitted to a hospital. She gives patients a comfortable environment within the unfamiliar hospital environment.”

    It’s the little things that Larisa does to make a nurse, team member, or a patient feel special. Larisa remembers every nurse’s and staff’s birthdays and buys cards and gifts from her own pocket, making sure the rest of the unit signs the card before surprising the birthday nurse. She also does the same when a patient has a birthday on the unit. Shirley Armstrong, a PSP working on the unit, adds “Larisa is the person that comes to mind when you say humanitarian. She is the most caring nurse you will find and her only concern is the well-being of her patients. She is a joy to work with.”

    For the above reasons, Larisa is a great mentor for novice nurses, and sets the example of how nurses should strive to care for our patients and their families. A new graduate nurse currently working on the unit says “Larisa is the nurse I strive to become. I admire her compassion and patience, and her mere presence itself is therapeutic. She positively connects with her patients, their loved ones, and her colleagues almost instantly. I cannot think of anyone else more deserving of this prestigious award.”

    When I asked her colleagues if they would like to be part of this nomination, there was an outpouring of support and sense of unity that Larisa is very deserving of the Nursing Hero Award. Her fellow colleague, Lori Haywood, RN, had this to write: “I have known Larisa Barbour for over 20 years. I can truthfully say, I have never met a more remarkable nurse/person. Nursing in the oncology program is both a physically and emotionally challenging profession. In all the years I have known her, Larisa has never said unkind words or shown any frustration with any patient or family member that she has encountered. Nothing is too much for her. As she works exclusively night shift, she is given the opportunity to comfort patients when they feel most alone and vulnerable. If they need kind words, a shoulder to cry on, a back rub or a shower, Larisa provides it all with a smile. With my present specialty being a palliative care nurse, I have often met patients who have had the wonderful experience of being under her care. So many of them have said, “Larisa was my angel of the night”. Families have expressed their appreciation and all of them said they could go home feeling confident that their family members were in kind capable hands if Larisa was their loved one’s nurse. I don’t know if I can cite a specific example of her kindness off the top of my head but suffice it to say that every person she has ever cared for has received a special gift. I believe Larisa should win this award, hands down, because of her expertise, compassion and consistency in providing 110 per cent every time she comes to work.”

    Even a patient, Cat Ridout, who is currently in Australia wanted to express the care she received from Larisa: “Larisa took care of me when I was in the hospital for a bad case of salmonella poisoning. Her presence was like a warm hug during a time in which I was extremely nervous and feeling very unwell. She was beyond kind and very lovely. The time she took to care for me, meant the world to me.”

    Another patient who is currently an inpatient states “Larisa was with me every step of the way. Being in hospital is one of the scariest experiences – being vulnerable and not knowing what to expect. Larisa quieted my fears, her gentle and caring demeanour helped create a healing environment I will forever be grateful for.” And yet another current inpatient confirms the compassionate care Larisa provided to them: “I immediately felt comfortable with Larisa, her friendly smile and nonjudgmental approach. She was so patient with me, even though I was experiencing many problems that one night. I definitely support her nomination to this award, she is truly deserving. She is the definition of a nurse.”

    I have included in the next page further quotes supporting Larisa’s nomination for this award.

    Larisa not only has exemplary human touch for her patients, but also her colleagues, both registered nurses and allied health. I hope through this nomination letter the awards committee was able to not only read the heartfelt messages in support of Larisa for the Nursing Hero Award, but also feel the overwhelming compassion and passion that Larisa embodies as an oncology nurse and a role model for new graduate nurses. Thank you for considering Larisa Barbour for the 2015 Nursing Hero Award.


    Philiz Goh RN

    Here are some of things colleagues are saying about Larisa.

    Larisa is more than just an excellent nurse – I have never seen a nurse so committed to their vocation that whether she completed her shift or not, she would go above and beyond what is expected. For example, she asks all her patients if they want to freshen up, get their backs washed or at least wash their face and brush their teeth on top of offering and helping other colleagues with dressings etc. I would definitely want her as my nurse if I ever get sick because I know she will take very good care of me. She is definitely an excellent patient advocate, a great role model to new and experienced nurses, and someone who is caring and patient to those she takes care of. When patients get discharged from the unit, they always make sure a ‘thank you’ is passed on to Larisa and they always say how “unforgetful” the care she provided was.– Fatima San Pedro, RN

    Larisa demonstrates an excellent example of providing compassionate care, support and enriches the lives of the patients battling cancer. On many occasions she has stayed at work past her shift to sit silently beside the dying patient, play their favourite music or read to them. – Suman Iqbal, RN, former colleague

    While all of my oncology co-workers are inspiring, Larisa has that extra-special something: unwavering patience and boundless empathy. She’s the nurse we all strive to be and also hope to have if we ever found a loved one or ourselves in the hospital. – Melissa Keigher, RN

    I have had the wonderful pleasure to know Larisa as nurse colleague at the bedside, and now in my role as the Director of Interprofessional Practice. Larisa truly lives her values and brings her authenticity and compassion to the relationships where she impacts the lives of those she cares for, in the most meaningful way. Larisa is recognized as a leader in her clinical setting and her circle of influence extends far beyond the bedside. To know Larisa is to to feel her care, her personhood and know that thousands of lives have been changed by her human touch. Tracey DasGupta, RN, Director of Interprofessional Practice

    As the patient care manager for over 10 years on the unit that Larisa works, I am in a unique position to receive feedback from patients, families and her colleagues about the care she provides. I continue to be impressed about Larisa’s gentle unhurried approach to patients in giving care. She brings a sense of calmness appreciated by patients/families and staff. In seeing patients on Rounds when they speak of their positive experience during the night shift it is easy to know exactly who cared for them. Patients describe her as making them feel as being the most important person in her care. There is nothing too much for Larisa to do for patients and families. A back rub seems simple however for the patients this is highly valued and Larisa has consistently fit this into her patients care. It is not unusual on Rounds for patients to mention that they had a back rub by Larisa. She carefully listens to patients to understand their care needs and advocates on their behalf to ensure their needs are met. I am pleased to support Larisa’s nomination for this prestigious “Nursing Hero Award “and have seen no one that I have encountered more deserving of this award. I would like to ask your committee to seriously consider Larisa for this award. Mary Glavassevich, RN, Patient Care Manager

    The 2015 Nursing Hero Award would be a fitting tribute to one of our colleagues, Larisa Barbour.

    Larisa has been working in the oncology field for most of her nursing career. She initially started on the medical and radiation oncology unit. When she felt the time was right to grow and develop as a professional, she took up the challenge of working on the surgical oncology unit. Larisa has been on the surgical oncology unit for the past 16 years.

    When Larisa was a student in high school she volunteered to be a candy striper at one of the local nursing homes. Caring for others and engaging them in their care has been an integral part of Larisa’s professional growth.

    Larisa has been a caring individual her whole professional life. She cares for the patients and their families. Taking the time to explain to them what is happening and what the next steps may be. Larisa predominately works the night shift for the reason that she can spend time with the patient and help them to be comfortable and to listen to them.

    Many times Larisa would bring cream from home to use on the patients for a back rub. Spending the extra few minutes to ensure the patient is as comfortable as possible. If the patient has questions or wants to take a bit longer to go to the bathroom, Larisa is there supporting them to be independent and hearing their concerns about going home or being independent again.

    Larisa has been a supporter of her colleagues as well. Taking the junior staff under her wing and helping them to adjust to the uniqueness of working nights and the challenges as well as rewards that this particular shift may bring. Larisa has had the consolidation nursing students with her as well from time to time. Helping the nursing students grow and develop has also been a particular skill that Larisa is able to demonstrate.

    Larisa continues to seek out opportunities for her own professional growth and development through on going education. She encourages the novice staff on the unit to pursue excellence in oncology through their own growth and development. Anita Long, Advanced Practice Nurse


    2nd Place – Massey Nematollahi, RN, Clinical Educator, Southlake Regional Health Centre

    When I think of a nursing hero I think of someone who expresses their caring and commitment to their patients, their health care organization, to the community and the larger world.  It is an individual who has an urge to make a difference in someone’s life, their suffering, their healing and ultimately their quality of life.  It is with great admiration that I nominate Massey Nematollahi  for the Annual Nursing Hero Award 2015.

    Massey is currently the clinical educator at the Stronach Regional Cancer Centre, Southlake Regional Health Centre in Newmarket, Ontario.  Massey is an inspiring representative of the nursing profession.  She is highly skilled, a compassionate caregiver, a critical thinker, a collaborator who consistently evidences the highest ethical standards in her profession.  Her achievements epitomize nursing at its best for patients and their caregivers.  Her work and her vision impact the lives of patients and their families and give them hope as they face life threatening illnesses. Massey is not only active in nursing oncology here in Canada, but is a recognized international presenter.

    Massey has a passion for patient education – encouraging and supporting her patients to be actively involved in their health and education.  She provides an 8 week course for patients who are experiencing the symptoms of ‘brain fog’.  This evidence based course teaches both patients and their families the techniques and strategies to manage brain fog in an informative, fun and interactive way.  Patients and their families rave about this very successful program in helping them cope with daily activities. Countless numbers of cancer patients throughout her nursing career comment on her dedication in addressing their quality of life as well noting how she gives freely and endlessly of her time – even personal time to ensure their needs are met.  Patients write about her concern for not only their treatments but the quality of their life and how they progress through treatment.  Others say they  knew there was something special about her because she helped them face their disease with courage and love.   Many more comment on her ability to make you believe because of her compassion, integrity and unrelenting dedication to both her patients and her profession.    She works tirelessly in all aspects of caring for her patients.

    Not only does she organize and provide chemotherapy teaching on a weekly basis , but she has created tools to increase patient knowledge, for example a Pathfinder tool.  She has developed and implemented a patient education curriculum addressing after care, survivorship and management of low symptom scores.  She supervises a team of volunteers and manages and continues to develop the Patient Family Cancer Library in the Regional Cancer Centre.  Massey recently initiated a travelling library cart to take information to patients in the chemotherapy suite who may not feel well enough to visit the library.  This was presented as an Abstract at the joint meeting International Cancer Education Conference in Seattle WA, September 2013, co-organized by the American Association for Cancer Education, Cancer Patient Education Network and the European Association for Cancer Education. She  is an At-Large Member of the Board of Directors for the Canadian Patient Education Network.


    As a clinical educator, Massey is Project Director of the Nurse Led Small Molecule  Chemotherapy Patient Education Program for the International Society of Nurses in Cancer Care and is  responsible for ensuring the program follows the ISNCC guidelines.  This program is focused on providing international nurses with resource materials and educating them in effective ways to use evidence based patient education materials that enhance both adherence and self-care capacity.  As well, she has  the responsibility as Chair of the Advisory Group and managing the activities associated with the program.

    Massey not only provides leadership in patient education at the Stronach Regional Cancer Centre but has many leadership roles in building, fostering and maintaining quality patient activities at Southlake and in the community.  She sits on many committees for patient education.  She has created a series of cancer education for patients, family and the community in York Region, Ontario. Her achievements are many –  not only having published several articles in leading scientific and nursing journals but she is a nationally and internationally recognized speaker and presenter at conferences in Canada and worldwide.  She has received many awards for her passion and enthusiasm to meet the unique needs of the cancer patient.  And with all this she manages to continue to educate herself – most recently completing the Certification of Educators in Health Care Professions at Harvard University. Her urge to serve, her selflessness – how else do you describe an angel…a Nursing Hero.

    Please consider this amazing and inspiring individual for your Annual Nursing Hero Award.

    Nominated by:

    Kathy Dedrick


    3rd Place – CHRIS BURDEN RN, Markham Stouffville Hospital

    Nurses perform extraordinary acts of kindness, compassion and heroism every day in the hospital.  Many times, those acts extend far beyond the halls of the organization.

    Chris Burden is a nurse.  Whether he is on duty in the Markham Stouffville Hospital Intensive Care Unit or is just going about his daily life outside of the hospital, he is always a nurse.

    In June of 2014, Chris and his brother, a Halton police officer, were playing a round of golf under increasingly cloudy skies. When the sirens went off due to bad weather, Chris and his brother immediately went inside in the club house.  Moments later, a panicked golfer ran inside and yelled that some golfers were still on the course and had been struck by lightning.

    Without thinking of their own safety, Chris and his brother ran through the pouring rain, thunder and lightning and found the golfers who had been struck. There were golf clubs strewn on the grass and a few men stumbling around.  But there was one man who wasn’t moving. Chris immediately assessed the man and determined he needed CPR.  The smell of burning flesh and the site of clothes burned to his body didn’t deter Chris who immediately started CPR.  Eventually a pick-up truck was brought out to the course and the critically injured man was loaded on to the back and, accompanied by Chris, was driven through the storm back to the safety of the club house and an awaiting ambulance.

    Chris worried and wondered about the man whose life he had saved for many weeks until one day he received a call from the family saying that the man was alive and still recovering from his very serious injuries.  The daughter of the man told Chris that ‘….because of his actions, her father would be around to walk her down the aisle at her wedding.’  She thanked Chris and his brother for their selfless and courageous acts and said that ‘…they brought back to us what is most dear, the leader of our family, an important member of our community and a friend to many.’

    Chris was later honoured by St. John’s Ambulance for his heroics and was presented with an award from the family.  The family thanked Chris for his heroic act and for saving the life of their loved one.

    Chris remains humble and says the incident isn’t about him being a hero. It was about him doing what he was always trained to do.  Whether in the ICU or in the community, Chris believes it is his responsibility to help others.  He also used the opportunity to educate people about the importance of learning CPR.

    Chris’ colleagues at the hospital were amazed by his actions but not surprised.  Chris is a respected member of the ICU team who believes in helping others and giving back.  He is on the hospital committee that supports organ and tissue donation and continues to use his skills beyond the hospital in his role as a clinical instructor with George Brown College.

    Chris’ actions on that stormy day in June remind us that life can change in an instant and it’s how you react and respond that can truly make a difference.

    Nominated by

    Julie Sullivan

    Patient Care Director, Markham Stouffville Hospital