ACE: A Special Touch

The past year has been a turbulent one for all areas of the hospital, even the steady-as-she-goes Acute Care of the Elderly (ACE) unit. ACE went from treating frail older adults to handling ill COVID-19 patients — forcing them to become experts at caring for people of all ages. The switch happened almost overnight.

Zainab, a Registered Nurse (RN) working within the unit, can’t help but feel beaten down by the grimness of the situation, with no clear resolution in sight:

“I’m more aware of the uncertainty surrounding us,” she says, “how fast things change; one minute the patient is holding their own, the next minute, you’re the one trying to keep it together while informing their family of critical changes.”

She’s also been able to see the pandemic through her patients’ eyes since her mother sadly fell ill with COVID-19 and had a close call. Zainab experienced what it was like from the other side; desperately seeking hope in the voices of her mother’s healthcare workers, anxiously waiting for calls bearing updates, and wishing for a miracle. Illness makes even the most steadfast of us irrational and afraid at times, though it can also bring about a certain clarity. “When my mother got sick, I realized how fragile life was. I found I related more to my patients and their families.”

Catharene Smith, the Care Facilitator on the ACE Unit, agrees that they have had some tough cases, and sometimes can’t help but feel defeated at the end of the day. “But more often than not,” Catharene adds, in a tone that speaks of silver linings, “we have been lucky to have some happy times when we have been able to get our sickest patients home.”

The devoted staff of the ACE unit rely on each other for hope and comfort.

“We need to take care of each other,” says Zainab. “These are unusual times, and everyone is dealing with it differently – but we are stronger together.”

Despite the challenges of our times, the true superpower of QCH shines brighter than ever: teamwork and support for one another.

Zainab, Registered Nurse, QCH ACE Unit.


by Melanie Hammond, Proud Administrative Control Clerk (ACC)

When I look back to when it all began, I will never forget the feeling when the government made the first announcement. I had to escort a wife away from her husband as we went into our first lockdown. As she kissed him goodbye, she held his face and said: “I love you”. My heart sank as I walked her to the doors knowing that she was seeing her husband for the last time.

The sadness, the fear, the unknown just overwhelmed your body, but you still had to do your job. The ACE unit was now the first COVID-19 unit at Queensway Carleton Hospital (QCH).

As time moved on, each day was different. New rules and new protocols were put into place. We wondered if we would have enough Personal Protective Equipment, enough staff, and enough energy to make it through each day.

ACE proved to be nothing short of amazing. With each challenge, the team faced it head-on. Fearless, brave, strong. That’s what the team was and still is.

There were days of tears, frustration, tired faces, and sometimes defeat. But the ACE team rose above it all. They came together, and no matter what — they pushed through. They never gave up on their patients or each other.


This week, in celebration of National Nursing Week, we are asking you to support our nurses and QCH team to help save lives in our community by making a donation to our hospital. Thanks to an anonymous donor all donations will be matched up to $30,000, which means your gift will go twice as far!