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Provider; Public
5/11/2020 4:00 AM

Maureen Sullivan-BentzThe 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.

“I am a nurse,” said Maureen Sullivan-Bentz, Senior Program Manager at the Canadian Patient Safety Institute. “I feel so blessed and honoured to be in a career that has allowed me to care for patients and their families at one of the most vulnerable times in their lives. Never underestimate the value of being kind and taking the time to listen.”

Maureen graduated from Queen’s University with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing in 1986. Her first job – and true love – was working in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit at the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario in Ottawa. She continued in the PICU at the Montreal Children’s Hospital while completing her Master’s of Applied Science at McGill and spent most of her career working with critically ill newborns and children. She has worked in many other areas of nursing and has taught part-time at the University of Ottawa’s BScN program for 25 years.

“And now, at CPSI, I’m responsible for the Education and Capability Building portfolio,” Maureen says. “It’s a good fit and it’s been a fairly seamless transition. My clinical background, executive leadership positions, and nursing education experience all contribute to the projects I am working on. I love being creative in the delivery of healthcare education and this role has certainly afforded me the opportunity to do just that.”

However, this new role doesn’t change who she is.

“When the world was watching and waiting to see what would happen with COVID-19, and then the  World Health Organization declared a pandemic, my first thought was that I need to prepare myself to help,” Maureen says. “I can only describe my inherent desire to jump in and do whatever is needed in any given healthcare crisis as ‘once a nurse, forever a nurse’. It’s like an automatic reaction that just happens and then you take action to make it happen.”

She connected throughout her large, rural Ontario region, offering her help. As a result, she was part of the team that assembled the Renfrew County Virtual Triage and Assessment Centre in just 12 days. The program provides initial virtual assessments by family physicians and nurse practitioners, home assessment and remote monitoring capability by community paramedics, and escalation of care to a community acute care physician or a palliative care physician if required. It provides multiple layers of care designed to divert visits and transfers to local emergency departments. The program has received 80-100 calls, on average, per day and has assessed over 2600 patients in the past seven weeks.

As a nurse, Maureen feels that patient safety must be woven into every aspect of everything she does, every day. It must always be a priority. Which is why it makes her so frustrated when, during the pandemic we face, nurses don’t have the protective equipment to do their jobs.

“I’m so frustrated by people believing that frontline providers have all the support and supplies they need,” she fumes. “I know of people who have become positive with COVID-19 from having to wear the same PPE for days on end. Some being forced to work until their gowns tear or their N-95 mask fall apart, then having to go through three levels of approval before they could get another. My daughters work as RNs, in Canada and the USA – they both face the same issues with access to PPE on the frontlines. When all is said done, we must look at COVID as a national patient safety concern and work with policy makers, regulators, educators, providers, patients and families to be better prepared for the next pandemic. This situation must be prevented from ever occurring again. Working together to strengthen the presence of patient safety throughout the healthcare system will be key.”

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.

Thank you.