Cooking with the Q: National Nursing Week Edition

From left to right: Yvonne Wilson, Vice President Patient Care & Chief Nursing Executive with Registered Nurses Rudolph Dolo-Cooper and Shyni Varghese of QCH’s Acute Care of the Elderly unit.

When Yvonne Wilson started out in nursing some 30 years ago, it was at the bedside, caring for patients. It was challenging but incredibly rewarding and the reason why she is so passionate about nursing.

Yvonne joined the Queensway Carleton Hospital (QCH) family this past January as Vice President of Patient Care and Chief Nursing Executive and whole-heartedly believes “it’s the best secret in town,” — an organization that ranks as one of the top hospitals in Canada and a top employer.

“When I first came to QCH, what I really noticed was the warm, wonderful, friendly culture here,” she explains. “It’s been completely welcoming. It is focused on the patient and the commitment to quality, and I’m very blessed to be part of this team.”

“I love healthcare; I feel that nursing is the best career ever.”

Yvonne brings to her position as top nurse more than three decades of experience in a profession she cares deeply about. She views it as her job to support and enable all of the hospital’s frontline workers. That’s why she keeps an open door policy. “I advocate and work hard to ensure that we’ve got the resources to provide the best care.”

Yvonne says she’s been inspired by how the QCH team has stepped up during the pandemic, to “go above and beyond every single day”. There are nearly 800 nurses at QCH who work in medicine and surgery, critical care, emergency, childbirth, geriatrics, mental health, rehabilitation and ambulatory care.

“At QCH, nurses play such a vital role in the interdisciplinary team,” Yvonne says of their expertise as caregivers, educators, researchers, mentors, advocates and collaborators.  “I think nurses provide a versatile workforce. They can do so many different roles, which ensure that we’re providing the best care for our patients.”

One of the issues that’s top of mind for her is attracting and retaining the next generation of nurses. “It keeps me up at night,” she acknowledges. “We have a shortage of healthcare providers and we have a shortage of nurses. It’s not unique to QCH, it’s right across the world.”

Yvonne was always interested in science growing up. It was her discovery of a textbook devoted to the human body that probably had the greatest impact on her. “I read it cover to cover,” she recalls. “I found it absolutely fascinating.”

As a young woman, she also knew that she wanted to be part of a profession that helped others, which is why she decided to pursue a career in nursing. “I knew it was the right thing for me; it was what I was destined to be.”

Yvonne’s graduation photo from nursing school.

Yvonne received her diploma at Conestoga College in her hometown of Kitchener before moving to Ottawa, where she worked for many years in critical care. A back injury sustained on the job meant she was put on modified duties, working for a stint in the office of the Nursing Professional Practice. That’s where she got to know Micheline Jaworski, a well-respected nursing manager who provided her with “life-changing” advice by encouraging her to earn her Bachelor of Science in Nursing.

“She came to me and said, ‘You know, you’re a pretty smart cookie. You have got to go back to school and get your degree’.”

To be clear, Yvonne really enjoyed providing bedside care to her patients, but she was also aware that, because she was susceptible to injury, she had to consider other roles within her profession. “I needed to do everything I could in my power to keep nursing, one way or another.”

Yvonne not only completed her undergraduate degree in nursing, as Micheline suggested, but she went on to earn her Master’s Degree in Health Service Management — all while working full time as a nurse and raising kids (she volunteered as trainer of her boys’ hockey team, to boot). Fortunately, Yvonne was able to do her post-secondary studies through online courses. 

The days were long, but incredibly rewarding. She would rise at 4:30 a.m. and do homework until 6:30 a.m., when she had to get ready for work. Yvonne was an Intensive Care Unit manager at the time. She was in bed each night by 9:30 p.m. Not that she’d complain. “I love learning. I’ve always done courses, so it was great.”

She credits the hospital’s generous donors and community with helping nurses provide the best care for their patients through the upgrade of vital medical equipment and technology. “Many people are surprised to learn that we don’t have funding specifically for hospital equipment purchases,” Yvonne explains. “The donations really help to drive excellence in care and patient outcomes. They really make a significant difference.”

In honour of National Nursing Week, Yvonne is sharing a family recipe that is near and dear to her heart: rhubarb quick pudding. Passed down to her by her aunt, this dish was Yvonne’s favourite Sunday dessert growing up and now has become a favourite of her boys too. Over the years Yvonne has tweaked the recipe depending on the season and this one below is her favourite version for the springtime.

Enjoy! – Yvonne