At HHS, ‘you can have 10 careers here if you want to’
Between the ages of two and 15, Alexa Bistas was often a patient at McMaster Children’s Hospital, a Hamilton Health Sciences (HHS) facility. She credits the phenomenal care she received from the health-care professionals who treated her persistent abdominal pain from having two gall bladders as to why she decided to become a nurse at HHS.
Today, HHS has been recognized as one of Canada’s top employers for young people like Bistas. HHS is a community of 15,000 staff, physicians, researchers and volunteers serving southwestern Ontario residents. It provides specialized, advanced care and is a world-renowned hospital for health-care research.
Paid placements for students
While earning a bachelor of science degree in nursing from Mohawk College in her hometown of Hamilton, Bistas joined HHS in April 2021 as a paid clinical extern nursing student.
Her first placement was as part of a virtual care centre research project at Juravinski Hospital that was recruiting patients from surgical wards to be part of a follow-up program, with the goal of decreasing post-surgery ER visits. In June, she was transferred to the pediatric oncology unit and clinic at McMaster Children’s Hospital. “I love it there, and it’s where I want to work when I graduate,” she says.
“I feel very supported…this is a safe space to learn and grow in a welcoming comforting community.”
When Bistas joined HHS, she was given extensive training before she began working with patients, and it hasn’t stopped. “I feel very supported, and I can ask questions and learn skills just by watching others,” she says. “They don’t just throw you in and say good luck – this is a safe space to learn and grow in a welcoming comforting community.”
Learning how to nurse during a pandemic has been challenging, and caring for young cancer patients has its own stressors. HHS works hard to take care of all of its employees during tough times. Bistas has benefited from yoga and treadmill workouts at the children’s hospital gym and five-minute stretch breaks set to music at the nursing station, led by members of an internal wellness team.
World-class, leading-edge work
President and CEO Rob MacIsaac says Bistas’s nursing program is designed to bring in people to HHS who are still learning about the careers they’re considering so they can acquire the skills they’ll need for them. “We’re helping set them up for success by giving them good experiences and training them to be the next generation of healthcare workers,” he says. “As a large organization, we really get that employees need to be mentored and supported.”
Young employees bring “enthusiasm and new ideas that will help drive quality care now and in the future.”
MacIsaac believes young employees are also attracted to the same things that drew him to HHS in 2014. “If you’re interested in world-class, leading-edge work and caring for people with the most advanced technology and techniques, you can build a career here,” he says. “You can have 10 careers here if you want to, because we offer the training and support to help people expand into other roles.”
Senior leaders also recognize that young employees bring a spark to the workplace that’s essential to HHS’s culture. “Their enthusiasm and new ideas will help drive quality care now and in the future,” says MacIsaac, “and that is connected to building stronger, healthier communities around us.”
As Bistas prepares to graduate from nursing school in April, she is soaking up all of the new knowledge she’s acquiring in a vocation she’s passionate about.
“Working with kids and their families is my dream job,” she says. “Hamilton Health Sciences is really shaping me into the nurse I want to be.”
Join us. Explore a career at HHS today.
First published in a supplement to the Globe and Mail January 18, 2022
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