Meet Nursing Hero Catharine Petta, Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital

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Catharine Petta graduated with a Registered General Nurse Certificate from King’s College from the University of London in 1981. Since that time, she has dedicated her time in various nursing care positions before coming to Holland Bloorview in 2005. Here, she worked on the specialized orthopedic and developmental rehabilitation inpatient unit.  She is also a member of the Nursing Practice Council. In 2009, Catharine embraced a new position at the hospital in ambulatory care to focus her care with children with autism. In this role, Catharine has demonstrated enduring commitment to help children and youth with autism and their families live their most meaningful and healthy lives. Her role in the clinic is directly related to supporting clients and families at home. On any given day it is not uncommon for Catharine to receive numerous phone calls from parents who ask for her advice and expertise about situations they experience within their community.

It was one of these situations that prompted Catharine and a research colleague at Holland Bloorview to collaborate and respond to a parent’s request. This request was to educate bus drivers about autism and provide them with the skills and strategies they need to ensure the drive and transition to and from school is a success for their children. A key component of the education is to develop communication strategies and approaches, all which affect a child’s ability to have a successful bus ride and day at school. With the goal of autism awareness, these sessions provide bus drivers with effective strategies on how to best approach children with autism with understanding and empathy. The workshop has been delivered to over 200 bus drivers from two large school bus transportation companies in the greater Toronto area.

These sessions were so successful that they have been conducted across Ontario and the team has been invited to numerous speaking engagements throughout North America.  The education workshop uses a “train the trainer” model where leaders can now train drivers to reach an even broader audience.

Catharine is also very involved in educating parents about healthy sleep for children with autism.   The Autism Treatment Network completed research on sleep for this population with very positive results.  With this valuable research Catharine participated in the development of an Autism Sleep Education Program, which she facilitates for clients and parents.

When Catharine is not working in clinic, participating in research, working on her BScN at Ryerson University or educating families she is reaching out to other professionals in the healthcare community to build awareness for kids with autism.  She has completed sessions with the Toronto Catholic District School Board, Ontario Camps Association, parent groups, Pediatric Nurses Interest Group of the Registered Nurses Association of Ontario and Pediatricians, much on volunteer time.

Catharine is a strong, passionate and caring nurse who works collaboratively within an interprofessional team to ensure each client and their families are receiving the safest and most meaningful care possible.