Nursing Hero Nominee Elli Clarke, Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre

My name is Jay Davis. On November 6, 2014, I had lifesaving and life altering triple bypass surgery at Sunnybrook Hospital. Following my recovery I decided that I wanted to give back to the hospital as a thank you to all of those who helped save my life. In May of 2015 I officially became a HeartPal, a volunteer position that allows me to come in to the hospital on a weekly basis and meet with patients who are about to undergo major heart surgery and share my experience with them. This program is the first of its kind in the Greater Toronto Area.

It was through this program that I met Elli Clarke, who is the current Cardiac Coordinator of this program and also a CV/ICU nurse. Working alongside Elli on a weekly basis has allowed me to see firsthand her incredible integrity, commitment, compassion and patience. Elli goes out of her way to make sure that all of her patients have a full understanding of their impending surgery and is always sensitive to their fears and their many questions. She follows up with all her patients to make sure they are recovering properly and checks in with families to ensure they are looked after as well.

Elli has also been instrumental in researching and championing the Sunnybrook Cardiac Surgery Support Group which much like the HeartPal program, is the first of its kind in the Greater Toronto Area. The group meets from 6-8 pm the third Thursday of every month and allows recovering heart surgery patients and family members the opportunity to share their experiences, concerns, fears and strategies for recovering in a save inclusive and respectful environment. It should be noted that Elli also heads up this group after hours and on her own free time.

For all her hard work and dedication and especially for her ability to stand out and make a difference, I would like to nominate Elli Clarke as my nursing hero.

Nominated by Jay Davis, a volunteer at Sunnybrook



I am respectfully submitting my nomination for the 2019 Nursing Hero Award.  Ms. Elli Clarke has been a nurse working full time for the past 12 years.  She began her career as a Cardiovascular Intensive Care Unit nurse at Sunnybrook Health Sciences, working in one of the most stressful and demanding environments for an early career nurse.

I had the pleasure of first meeting Elli during my tenure as staff Cardiac Surgeon at Sunnybrook.  I recall vividly Elli’s unsurpassed work ethic, her skill, and her unmatched bedside manner in dealing with critically ill patients.  But one aspect in particular which made Elli stand out from the others was her caring and compassion.  On one particular occasion, I remember the manner in which she cared for a dying patient.  The patient had suffered an acute aortic dissection, and had undergone emergent cardiac surgery.  Soon after the surgery, however, it became apparent that the patient was not going to survive, and had only hours to live.  The patient’s wife was called in to spend the last hours with her dying husband.  It quickly became apparent that the wife had no immediate family to support her during her time of grief. Elli put aside her paperwork, and spent the entire shift sitting beside the wife, holding her, and consoling her.   Elli even went on to forgo her break so that she could stay with the wife.  At the end of her shift, Elli stayed on until the patient passed.  In fact, she stayed hours past her shift to enable her to complete her paperwork.  This is not just the kind of person Elli is, but the kind of nurse  she is.  She epitomizes everything that nursing stands for: skill, excellence, caring, compassion.

Elli has since transitioned into a nursing leadership role.  She is currently the Head Triage Coordinator for the Division of Cardiac Surgery at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre where she manages triage, scheduling, and booking of all inpatients requiring urgent cardiac surgery.  Even in this role, Elli has gone beyond the call, working tirelessly and independently in her free time to establish the first ever Sunnybrook Cardiac Surgery Patient Support Group.  This initiative was Elli’s brainchild, established to enable patients and families of patients undergoing cardiac surgery to share their experiences, concerns, fears, and strategies for recovery, in a safe and inclusive environment.

As is evident from the above, Elli is one of a kind, and I truly believe that she is worthy of the title “Nursing Hero”.

Nominated by:

Dr. Gideon Cohen MD,PhD,FRCS(C).  Chief, Division of Cardiac Surgery, Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre.



I am nominating Elli Clarke in the strongest possible terms for the Nursing Hero Award. Elli has been at Sunnybrook for approximately 15 years – initially as a CVICU nurse, and then later as a Triage Coordinator for Cardiac Surgery.

I have been a staff cardiac surgeon for close to 30 years, former Divisional Head and Professor of Surgery at University of Toronto. I have worked alongside Elli for the past 15 years, i.e. during both roles.

I can attest that Elli was a very skilled ICU nurse, and her bedside care and input into the overall patient management was invaluable. In addition, she wanted to grow in her position- she was a George Brown clinical instructor for the ICU program, and also served as one of t he charge nurses in CVICU.

The triage role began for Elli about five years ago, initially as a part time position, and later full time. The position is challenging – it requires someone with excellent clinical knowledge as well as superb communicative skills as the individual needs to relate to health care teams both inside and outside the institution as well as the patients in a very timely manner. There are also pressures from the institution as cardiac surgery is volume funded. The stress level is high. There are frequently conflicts that need to be resolved; the operative schedule changes regularly, as patients’ conditions change, and new emergencies arise. Hence, the need for effective triage.

Elli however manages to work through these situations with equanimity. As well, during this time she has worked diligently toward standardizing the triage process through the development of an orientation process, communication documents, and restructuring of the pre-operative education through a revamping of the class and teaching material.

Most recently, she has identified a gap in post-operative treatment focused on depression and anxiety. This will be addressed in the form of a cardiac surgery support group. The Sunnybrook HSC cardiac surgical support group is likely the first of its kind in the GTA. The group will meet every third Wednesday of the month which will allow recovering surgical patient and family members the opportunity to share experiences, concern, fears and strategies to improve the recovery process. The idea of this program is supported by evidence to reduce infection rates, readmission rates, overall patient satisfaction and most of all improve outcomes.

I would be remiss if I didn’t also mention her baking. Elli routinely brings home baked goods from home for the team on H4, which are invariably extremely tasty, if not heart friendly. This is something that she clearly has done on her own volition. We are very grateful for this little something extra from Elli – we are very appreciative of her efforts, and this little something extra helps reduce the anxiety we routinely face treating patients with severe heart disease.

What is the Nursing Hero Story? It is of course everything I mentioned in this letter, but maybe in addition to all of her qualifications it’s the little something extra is what makes Elli so special. Please do not hesitate to contact me if there are any questions related to this letter of recommendation. Again, I strongly support Elli Clarke as the Nursing Hero.

Nominated by

Dr. Stephen E. Fremes