Lessons from the pandemic

Top row, from left: Adila Zahir, David Diachidos, Tung Tran, Caroline Wambere. Bottom row, from left: Lucie Tremblay, André Antoine, Dominique Dufour, Francine Dupuis, Dr. Mark Karanofsky, Dr. Soham Rej
Top row, from left: Adila Zahir, David Diachidos, Tung Tran, Caroline Wambere. Bottom row, from left: Lucie Tremblay, André Antoine, Dominique Dufour, Francine Dupuis, Dr. Mark Karanofsky, Dr. Soham Rej

Be kind. Count on your co-workers. And never take things for granted again.

It’s been a year since COVID-19 entered our lives and turned them upside-down, and few experienced the upheavals as deeply as healthcare workers. From long hours to ever-changing protocols to the grueling demands on the front lines, the staff of CIUSSS West-Central Montreal faced challenges as never before. But through the turmoil, there were lessons, too.

What has the year taught us? We asked staff from our CIUSSS to share their thoughts.

From a human relations point of view, never underestimate the resilience and dedication of the people you work with at this incredible institution. From a supply chain point of view, remember the old adage to hope for the best but prepare for the worst. And from a human point of view, Carpe diem. You never know what the future holds, so don’t take things for granted.

David Diachidos
Chief of Laundry and Linen Services

Be kind. Take the time to listen to others and support them when you can. This year has been difficult for everyone. One of our residents told me how alone and helpless he felt during the lockdown. “We are all in the same storm but not in the same boat,” he said. We are all living these experiences differently. We must acknowledge it and do our best to help others through these difficult times.

Jennifer Clarke
Program coordinator
Donald Berman Maimonides Geriatric Centre

The past year has been the most challenging as a family physician. I have learned the importance of a reliable supply chain, clear communication and flexibility. But the most important factor to make it through a pandemic is a heroic, committed and selfless team that supports its patients and each other no matter what. The kindness and generosity of strangers has brought us together as a family and community that I hope will be a silver lining legacy to the pandemic of COVID-19.

Dr. Mark Karanofsky
Unit Director, Herzl Family Practice Centre
Attending physician, Donald Berman Jewish Eldercare Centre

I worked on K8, a COVID floor. We didn’t know what to expect with COVID, but we were in it all together. We cried together, we laughed together. Patients couldn’t see their families, so we became their family. In the end, I experienced intense things that I never thought I would experience. The lesson is: ‘Don’t be afraid.’

Caroline Wambere
Housekeeping staff

The secret, in my view, is to always think of the patients. It makes me sound like a missionary. But that’s how you get through it.

Francine Dupuis
Associate CEO of CIUSSS West-Central Montreal, as told to La Presse

Everybody really made such a big a difference from Day One, when we received the first patient with COVID. Whether it was opening new COVID units, making sure we had enough capacity in the ICU, or ensuring we would be able to screen staff and the population—we changed so many things over the last year, it’s simply unbelievable. We were very well prepared to face the pandemic from an equipment and training point of view. But the thing that really made a difference was the involvement of every single individual working within our CIUSSS.

Lucie Tremblay
Director of Nursing

COVID-19 reiterated the importance of teamwork for me. The saying “United we stand, divided we fall” was crucial during these tough times. We had to support one another, not only as colleagues, but as managers and as an entire hierarchy. We came out stronger as a team.

Hetal Patel
Program Coordinator, SAPA-Long term Care

The pandemic allowed people to reveal their psychological state, despite the stigma attached to mental health. This should be encouraged because too few people do it, and it helps remind us that distress isn’t synonymous with mental illness. I learned that teams that developed resilience the best were teams where there was support, and where people were allowed to vent and debrief every day.

Tung Tran
Director of the Mental Health and Addiction Program

Life is short and you can’t take anything for granted. We all learned so much, like how to take precautions, how to handle utensils, how to keep everyone safe. It’s been incredibly challenging, but if there’s one thing we all learned, it’s patience.

André Antoine
Cashier, Food Services, Jewish General Hospital (JGH

As human beings we are more free than we think, and there are many possibilities, perhaps even more so in the most helpless of situations. As my colleagues from the Telehealth Intervention Program for Older Adults have shown me—with courage, determination, resourcefulness, innovation, beautiful teamwork and community spirit—we can move mountains together.

Dr. Soham Rej
Geriatric Psychiatrist, JGH 

What struck me is the dedicated work of my colleagues, both personally and professionally. People stepped up to the plate, which meant we could set up new services very quickly. Through all the changes in ministerial directives, the uncertainty and the fatigue, we maintained our collective strength, and it led us to success.

Dominique Dufour
Assistant Director of Frontline Integrated Services, responsible for local public health.

The most important lesson is not to take our health and our loved ones for granted. In the blink of an eye, we can feel the void and hardship of losing access to our friends and family. We have to enjoy life and appreciate these gifts, because they are so precious and fragile.

Anna Dimitrakopoulos
Chief of Food Services

The pandemic taught us how to be patient and creative. To appreciate the little time we had with our family. The value of reusing and not wasting. It pushed us to optimize the use of technology and learn the importance of routine practices like hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette. Last but not least, the pandemic was an opportunity for everyone to grow. The IPAC team gained credibility and trust across the CIUSSS and developed expertise, all while dealing with very challenging situations.

Adila Zahir
Chief of Service, Infection Prevention & Control (IPAC)

It’s been an exhausting year. Sometimes it felt like we were at war. But the pandemic taught us the importance of being positive. We always had a close team in the Emergency Department and it made us even closer. Sometimes it felt like we were being pushed to our limits, but I’m glad I was there on the frontlines. The pandemic taught me how much I valued being a nurse.

Jackie Boudreau
Emergency Department Nurse, JGH

Besides teamwork, resilience and innovation, the greatest treasure for me from the pandemic was the chance to meet new people. I’ve stopped counting the number of exceptional humans I’ve met in recent months. I’d have 1,000 stories to tell about lives that were changed, whether those of clients or colleagues, despite all the uncertainty and craziness we faced.

Geneviève Chabot
Associate Director of Rehabilitation

Practice gratitude. The past year has been a humbling experience. My job challenged me to always stay alert and vigilant. I’m thankful that I’m at the frontlines to help create a safe environment for residents and healthcare personnel. This pandemic has made me be grateful for the things I took for granted.

Anjum Afshan
Team Lead, COVID Agent
Donald Berman Maimonides Geriatric Centre