For decades health care professionals have known about the power of human touch in people’s lives. Physically, touch can relieve pain and stress, it can reduce blood pressure and even boost our immune systems. But its impact mentally is just as important, conveying to another person that they are not alone is especially powerful for those suffering from chronic diseases such as cancer and chronic kidney disease (CKD). Amongst feelings of anxiety and stress, it is true that human touch can provide comfort and ease suffering.
On April 23, 2015, Cancer Care Ontario and the Ontario Renal Network hosted the ninth annual Human Touch Awards, an event that celebrates the many committed professionals and volunteers across our cancer and kidney care systems who go the extra mile to help ease the pain and suffering of others and provide exemplary patient care. This year, those recognized included eight individuals and one team of front-line cancer and renal healthcare providers, professionals and volunteers. A selection committee, which included representatives from Cancer Care Ontario, the Ontario Renal Network, Canadian Cancer Society, the Kidney Foundtion of Ontario, regional cancer centres and patients, focused on nominees’ level of excellence, compassion, leadership and overall improvement of the patient experience, when selecting the award recipients.
“Compassion is an integral component of care that this year’s award recipients provide to patients every day,” says Michael Sherar, President and CEO, Cancer Care Ontario, “They not only exemplify and inspire excellence in patient-centred care; they also enrich the patient and family experience through their incredible commitment, untiring dedication and sincere emotional support.”
The Human Touch Awards were created to emphasize the importance of integrating empathy and compassion into a patient’s overall experience because it truly impacts their well-being. A diagnosis of cancer or advanced chronic kidney disease is life-changing, with both physical and emotional implications. Thus, it is essential that patients are treated not only for the physical symptoms of their disease but for the emotional ones as well. Winners and nominees recognize that this emotional support plays a significant role in a patient’s well-being and is an important facet of person-centred care.
This year’s winners exemplify the impact of the human touch. One example is volunteer Marjorie Brewster who has volunteered in Pediatrics for the last 26 years, currently in the Paediatrics Oncology Clinic at Southlake Regional Health Centre. Brewster’s outstanding commitment to “her children” has brought joy to the lives of so many children undergoing treatment for cancer along with their families. She personally purchases and donates a toy to every child that visits the Paediatric Oncology Clinic at Southlake Regional Health Centre to help transform an otherwise scary event into a little bit of magic for children and parents alike. Volunteer Randall Russell is another great example – a CKD patient himself – he works tirelessly to build awareness about what it means to live with the disease, from sharing thoughtful ideas and practical advice as a patient advisor for The Ottawa Hospital’s Renal Program to participating in a collaborative project with the Ontario Renal Network and the Canadian Foundation for Healthcare Improvement, where he spent countless hours with team members to develop a decision-coaching video to improve the skills of healthcare professionals coaching patients through decisional conflict. These are just two of our winners, each with their own inspiring stories of dedication to improving the patient experience.
These exceptional health care professionals, providers and volunteers from across the province have changed the lives of countless patients for the better. It is their relentless compassion that makes them stand out and bring to life the notion of person-centred care. To read more about these and other 2015 winners, please visit www.cancercare.on.ca/humantouch3 and www.renalnetwork.on.ca/humantouch3.
Human Touch Award Winners
Cancer care system:
- Marjorie Brewster, Volunteer, Paediatric Oncology Clinic, Southlake Regional Health Centre
- Jennifer Lounsbury, Acute Nurse Adult Nurse Practitioner Outpatient Oncology, Grand River Regional Cancer Centre
- Karen Biggs, Registered Dietician, Juravinski Cancer Centre
- Screen for Life Mobile Cancer Screening Coach Team, Juravinski Cancer Centre: Carrie Claxton, Elisabeth Silverthorne, Joanna Hakenberg, Leslea Boyle, Anne Hixon, Emma Catacchio, Karen Todd, Georgina Martin, Brenda Lumsden-Johanson, Cathy Chaput, Elizabeth Vandesompele and Alyssa Higginson
Kidney care system:
- Michael McCormick, Volunteer, Chronic Kidney Disease Program – St. Michael’s Hospital, The Kidney Foundation of Canada – Ontario Branch and the Ontario Renal Network
- Randall Russell, Volunteer, Chronic Kidney Disease Program and Nephrology Patient Family Advisory Committee – The Ottawa Hospital
- Connie Twolan, Clinical Director – Regional Nephrology Program and Regional Director – Champlain LHIN
- Julie Ann Lawrence, Nurse Practitioner, Kidney Care Centre – London Health Sciences Centre
- Shirley Pulkkinen, Renal Program Social Worker, Algoma Regional Renal Program -Sault Area Hospital