Four GTA hospitals are combining recruitment efforts to create a special team of critical care nurses who can be deployed to help fill staffing gaps, and provide additional patient care capacity.

North York General Hospital, Michael Garron Hospital, Scarborough Health Network (SHN), and Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, received support from the Ministry of Health to launch the pilot project, which will recruit and orient nurses to work across the critical care units of the four partner hospitals.

“Nursing vacancies continue to be one of our greatest challenges across the system and in critical care, in particular, where vacancies continue to be high,” said Susan Woollard, VP, Clinical Services, Quality and Long-Term Care & Chief Nursing Executive, North York General Hospital.  “Critical care is one of the safety-nets of our health system and we cannot afford to have this area short staffed. The specialized critical care team across our four hospitals will be one of many solutions we’re implementing to ensure patients have access to life-saving care during this extraordinary time.”

Each hospital will recruit five nurses for the team, for a total of 20, who will receive training and orientation to the critical care units across the four organizations. Staffing levels on the units are monitored daily and when a need arises, members of the team can be assigned to work at whichever hospital needs help.

“We are pleased to collaborate with our fellow partner hospitals who share a one-team vision and approach to caring for patients and their loved ones during their greatest time of need,” said Kevin Edmonson, Director of Michael Garron Hospital’s (MGH) Critical Care and Emergency Departments. “As we navigate increasing pressures and demands on Ontario’s healthcare system, we recognize that it takes the collective efforts of all our inter-professional teams and health system partners to care for our communities and each other. We look forward to the opportunity to expand our exceptional critical care team together with our partners.”

When the nurses are not needed in other hospitals, they will work as a member of the critical care teams in their home institution, where they were recruited initially.

‘This is a tremendous opportunity for nurses to get a wide range of experience working with other teams and hospitals,’ said Ru Taggar, EVP and Chief Nursing and Health Professions Executive, Sunnybrook. ‘An important part of the program is the hands-on mentoring and career coaching that will be provided for every member of the team. There is also an emphasis on wellness for the team that ensures there’s not only a focus on skill development but also, the emotional well-being of each nurse is a key element of success.’

“Our patients are acutely ill. Proper staffing levels ensure we can provide a level of care for patient conditions that can change rapidly – in a matter of minutes, in most cases,” said Sam Michael, a frontline nurse at SHN’s Centenary ICU. “The complexity of the patient’s condition also must be considered when determining appropriate staffing levels and how impactful it can be when even one team member is missing. The ICU depends on a full team environment for exceptional, life-saving care.”

Recruitment for the team began in November and interested applicants should refer to the Human Resources department of the participating hospitals. The pilot will run for a period of two years and it is hoped this model could be replicated for other professions.