Healing hospitality

Before her hospital stay this March, Shawna’s* life had been on hold, her hands sitting idle. Severe anxiety and panic attacks had stolen her quality of life.

She decided she needed hospital care, and her doctor agreed. So paramedics  brought Shawna to emergency at the Grey Nuns Community Hospital.  

Shawna remained there for 48 hours, and then was admitted to the Mental Health unit for treatment. “I was not in a good state when I first got here,” she recalls. “I just sat and stared at everybody.”

Shawna was ready to begin her healing, but also worried. “What will a mental health unit be like?” she wondered. “How will they treat me?” 

But the gentle way Shawna was introduced to her new care team quickly put her mind at ease.


Unit Manager Janine Landry, RN, arrived at Shawna’s bedside in emergency. "My name is Janine,” she said. “We have a bed for you. I’m here to take you to the unit.” These simple words immediately raised Shawna’s spirits. “I remember feeling so heavy before that moment,” she recalls. “I was so tired of being in the ER and I just wanted a bed. And suddenly, I felt that everything was going to be alright.” 

Shawna’s hope continued to grow as she and Janine walked and talked, side by side, on the way to the unit. 

Unit Manager Janine Landry, RN

“Janine was so compassionate and talking about just me,” observed Shawna. “She did not treat me like a psych patient … I immediately felt safe.” 

Janine’s program manager, Suzanne Cardinal, introduced this new way of welcoming mental health patients in 2013. Before then, patients were transferred from the emergency department to the Mental Health unit by a porter, or escorted by Protective Services—sometimes after long delays. 

The old way wasn’t ideal for patients or her staff, explains Suzanne. Plus, it wasn’t very personal. “Sometimes we would expect it would take 10 minutes for a patient to arrive, but then it would take three hours,” she says, adding that it caused confusion and stress for everyone. 

Suzanne chats with Samir in emergency about pending admissions. Suzanne says the respectful attitudes of emergency team staff, and their shared commitment to continuous improvement, made the change in process possible.

This new approach is all about patient dignity and respect, and the golden rule, explains Suzanne. “I would like to be treated like this if I was a patient. So that’s where this practice comes from—my heart.”

For the care team, it is also good nursing and effective management. “By the time we arrive at the unit, the patient knows what is happening,” notes Janine. “I know a little bit about them and they know a little bit about me and my role.” Plus, her staff are ready to receive them with warm smiles and admission paperwork.

A recent drawing by Shawna. Drawing, a favourite hobby, had been put on hold until her recent hospital stay, which included art therapy.

These days, life is much more pleasant for Shawna.

She was recently discharged after a 28-day stay that included art therapy. It reawakened a once-favourite hobby that had been put on hold. Shawna’s hands are busy again, drawing pictures each day that express her artistic zeal and calm her mind.

Looking back, Shawna believes the warm welcome to the unit was an important first step in her healing. “It was just such a comfortable and calming experience,” she says. “The smiles, the hellos, the introductions, the welcome to the unit. These little things were all instrumental in my recovery. It was amazing. I  felt as if I was on steady ground.”

*Last name withheld to respect patient privacy

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