The World Health Organization declared 2020 the
International Year of the Nurse and Midwife. In Canada, National Nurses Week
takes place in the second week of May. During all the pressures and uncertainty
of COVID-19, we have relied on nurses at the front lines of healthcare more
than ever before – in these stories, we celebrate our staff, friends, and
partners who have chosen this heroic life of sacrifice and service.
“When I was in nursing,” said Chris Power, CEO of the
Canadian Patient Safety Institute. “I had the unique privilege of being in
people’s lives at their most vulnerable times. In their happiest moments, or to
hold their hands while they died, I was part of an inside look in so many
Chris Power graduated in 1977 with a four-year degree in
Nursing from Mount St. Vincent and started work immediately at the Old Halifax
Infirmary. As one of only three nurses there with a degree, she found herself
recommended for supervisory or management roles.
Eventually, that progress led her to her work as CEO of
Capital Health in Halifax for nine years. When that role ended, she took the final
professional position she will hold before retirement – the pan-Canadian,
patient safety advocacy role with CPSI.
While she misses the patient contact that was a priority for
her throughout her career – as nurse, manager, or CEO, she made sure she spoke
to a patient every day – there are so many benefits to her position. However,
when she is asked for her advice on career paths for young people, she always
“Nursing is the best training you can get,” Chris stated. “A
nurse learns but is also trained in resiliency. We problem-solve, juggle
tremendous workloads, figure out workarounds, and must display both leadership
and followership. It grounds you so much. I take my lessons in listening, collaboration,
and observation and still use them every day.”
This training, along with their position as the healthcare
providers who engage with patients more than any other, means that nurses have
enormous roles to play in patient safety. Whether in community care, hospitals,
or long-term care, their training is what keeps patients and themselves safe.
In fact, Chris’ nursing training helped prepare her for even
this unprecedented pandemic.
“As a nurse, you must be ever ready for a crisis,” she said.
“A patient gets sicker, a cardiac arrest – you have to be adaptive every single
day. I’ve also provided leadership through a number of crises – SARS, H1N1, and
SwissAir.” Her best advice, even during this global panic, is to not sweat the
small stuff. Stay calm, collect the best evidence, and apply it. “I developed a
plan for myself, for my family, and for CPSI,” Chris said. “There is a light at
the end of the tunnel and this too shall pass.”
The Canadian Patient Safety Institute honours the efforts
of all nurses – indeed, all healthcare providers – across Canada and around the
world. They are some of our strongest advocates for patient safety and patient
care. The safety of patients is absolutely essential to proper healthcare, and
we rely on nurses every day.