Meet Nursing Hero Contest winner Deb Davies

Debra Davies

Nurse Manager

Toronto General Hospital Emergency Department, University Health Network

On behalf of the nursing and interprofessional team of the TGH Emergency Department, we would like to nominate Debra Davies, Nurse Manager, for the Nurse Hero Award.

Debra Davies embodies a beautiful example of humanity in leadership.

Since long before COVID-19, Deb has demonstrated unwavering leadership by advocating not only for nurses, but all of the staff in the ED including ward clerks, hospital assistants, housekeepers and physicians, just to name a few.

As the manager and matriarch of our ED family, Deb supports her staff in every way, both as an exceptional leader and as a person with a huge heart. Whether she is hosting surprise grilled cheese or ice cream parties, Deb cultivates fun and an overarching sense of family within our walls and beyond. In times of personal tragedy or loss amongst members of our ED family, Deb’s ability to enable and inspire a compassionate response amongst the team is extraordinary, where she is instrumental in our ability to grieve, heal, learn, adapt, and excel through difficult times together.

While she leads from behind the scenes, she ensures she is visible and available on the forefront, with an eagerness to keep us informed, providing affirmation and encouragement to do our best work. She is thoughtful, kind and compassionate with staff and patients alike with gentle self-deprecating humour and shows us that strong leadership can shine through by being a team player and advocate for one another. Deb is not afraid to call upon us for our opinions or help and wholeheartedly those who demonstrate leadership to greater career opportunities. She inspires us to join her initiatives by motivating and empowering us to use our collective voices and is always the first to celebrate even the smallest of victories. Her actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, and become more both as individuals and as a team.

Throughout this COVID-19 pandemic, Deb has led by calm example. She has acknowledged fears and turned them into actions, continuously solicited input from all members of the team and personally ensured that these ideas were brought into timely fruition (for example, installation of plexiglass around the nursing stations, outside curtains for isolation patient privacy, portable sinks for handwashing and tv tray tables to promote physical distancing in the staff lounge). She is humble, ascribing recognition and improvements to others. Despite hardships faced along the way, she has been a warrior relentlessly dedicated to the safety and well-being of our team and the patients we serve. Through her exemplary role modelling, the TGH emergency department team has felt unified and remains positive throughout these unprecedented times.

For all of this and much more for which there are no words, we are eternally grateful to our strong yet humble leader, Deb Davies.


The TGH Emergency Department Team (Family)

Some snippets of the nominations for Debra Davies

To our Nursing Hero, Deb Davies:

From Emmar, RN:

For your unwavering leadership and guidenace during the COVID-19 pandemic. Your thoughtfullness filters down to us like a mother bird to her young fledgelings. The assurance you give to us at safety huddles is like food for the soul- we are all indebted to you for your wisdom, passion and protection. We salute and nominate you for this Nursing Hero Award.

From Ela, RN:

My name is Ela, I have been a nurse in the ER at TGH for approximately 20 years. I have been working with Deb Davies for all of these wonderful years.  Deb has always supported her staff in every way, not only as the best leader, but as a person with a huge heart.

My life story is very sad. I lost my only son Phillip two years ago then a year later lost my neice Wiktoria. My life lost any sense of purpose, there were days I wondered how I even got up and went on living. For about a year I was not able to function, lost any interest in life and did not even consider returning to work.

Through it all, there was Deb. Every step of the way, offering care and support that was crucial to me. Almost a year later I was welcomed back to work with open arms, an open heart, protection and guidance as I found my way back. Deb has made a tremendous impact and difference in my life for which I am forever grateful. She deserves recognition and appreciation for who she is not only as a person who is there for everyone in need, but also as a leader. I am proud to work under her leadership.

From Sarah McDermid-Flabbi (RN, APNE):

When Ela’s neice Wiktoria, who was a previous hospital assistant colleague in our ER, was hospitalized in the TGH ICU after a long battle with cancer, Deb ensured that on the day they removed Wiktoria from life support, that nurses and other hospital assistant staff working in the ED who wanted to give their condolences, hug our colleague tightly (both Wiktoria and Ela) and say our final goodbyes, were given that opportunity in small groups to do so in person and that their patient assignment was covered for that period of time. We greived together as a team, where Deb ensured to touchbase with each of us throughout the week, where she fostered a safe and compassionate environment for grieving, healing, adapting and moving forward as a closely connected team.

From Kim Mclease, RN:

A word about Deb,

Deb is my hero. She is like a mother to us all. She is dedicated and works tirelessly to ensure our safety. She always has our back and is our biggest advocate and loudest voice to the “higher ups”. She never stops fighting for us and helping us get things we need to improve our worklife and care of patients in the emergency department. Over the 13 years I have worked with Deb I have countless specific examples of how she has fought for us. In my own personal times of need she has always been there for me whether it was mentoring, a kind word, a warm hug, empathy, flexibility with scheduling etc.  She also tries to make work as fun as possible despite the busy and stressful environment we face, from hosting grilled cheese days, ice cream days, potlucks, she has always tried to do everything possible to support all of us in dynamic and unique ways.

She is a warrior and my true hero.

From Joyce Osei, RN:

Deb has been nothing short of amazing throughout this whole covid-19 pandemic. She is inspiring and exemplifies the meaning of true leadership. As a manager, Deb consistently treats us as team players. She is very approachable and makes herself available and visible throughout the day. She is always eager to give us updates, affirmation and encouragement to do our best work.

From Michael Ngyuen, RN:

When I was first introduced to quality improvement projects early on in my career, Deb coached me along the way. When people said that “you won’t be able to implement a pressure ulcer project here because no one cares for it,” Deb cared and she made it work with me, every step of the way! To this day, she still coaches me regularly in my leadership career even though I don’t work full time in the ER.

From Emma Gaylord, RN:

Deb does not just carry the nursing leader title in the ED, but she demonstrates what it is to be a leader. When she has a vision, she is determined to accomplish that end goal regardless of the hardship along the way. She is not afraid to call upon us for help and in fact she inspires me to join her projects by motivating and empowering me with her strong but humble voice. Lastly, if you demonstrate leadership within the department she will support and guide you to greater career opportunities and will always be there to celebrate the smallest victory!!!

From Dr. JoJo Leung, ED MD:

“Deb embodies a beautiful example of humanity in leadership. Since long before COVID has affected us, Deb has demonstrated leadership by advocating not just for nurses, but all the staff in the ED including ward clerks, hospital assistants, housekeepers, physicians and others. During COVID, she has led by calm example, acknowledging fears and turning them to action, soliciting input from all members of the team and seeing that these ideas are brought into being in a timely manner (eg. the curtains for patient privacy and installation of portable sinks for handwashing). She is humble, ascribing improvements to others. Through her excellent role modelling, the TGH emergency department team has felt unified and remained positive throughout these difficult times. She is thoughtful, kind and compassionate with staff and patients alike with gentle self-deprecating humour and shows us that strong leadership can shine through by being a team player. ”