ER at North York General Hospital

Health-care heroes in the ER at North York General Hospital

Nearly 75 per cent of all health-care workers in Ontario are women, and every one of them is a hero! Here are just a few of their stories.

SIEW TANG | North York General Hospital

Siew Tang has been a registered nurse for 38 years and has spent much of that time at North York General, including during the 2003 SARS crisis. “We were providing care to patients in the emergency department as many of them were our own health-care workers. It was frightening and stressful watching your own being infected and suffering from the virus,” says Tang. Now, as she faces the COVID-19 pandemic, Tang says the number of patients is more than she has encountered or witnessed in her decades-long career. “The leadership team was proactive and engaged us, as front line staff, to create new pathways, training modules, and instilled a safety-first mentality with a serious focus on PPE,” she says. Wearing PPE for a full shift in triage is a big challenge for her — her throat is dry and her skin is cracking from the friction of the mask. “I have had to remove my wedding ring due to the skin breakdown around my fingers from the sanitizer and frequent handwashing,” she says. Another challenge is that she will not be able to fulfill her promise to visit her mom this Mother’s Day due to the travel restrictions. Tang pursued nursing after watching her mom and grandmother care for her dad who suffered a stroke in his 40s. “It was a very powerful image watching two very strong women unselfishly take care of others before themselves,” she says. She always reminds herself of the human side of this pandemic. “Every patient is someone’s mom, dad, brother, or sister.”

JENNIFER TOMLIN | North York General Hospital

ER physician Dr. Jennifer Tomlin says the influx of patients to North York General Hospital had increased substantially by mid-March. “During the initial stages of the pandemic, our volumes were incredibly high. We were seeing over 500 patients per day,” she says. Along with her ER colleagues, she was staying well past the official end of her shifts to manage the number of patients. “We face infectious challenges at all times that can put immense pressure on our department, but the COVID-19 pandemic elevates this to a whole new level,” says Dr. Tomlin. Many of her medical school clinical rotations and her residency program took place at North York General, and Dr. Tomlin says it didn’t take long for her to “get hooked on emerg.” The biggest challenge for her has been the anxiety over all the unknowns — the number of cases, the amount of PPE and ventilators needed — along with anxiety over her personal safety. “I worry about bringing the infection home to my family and not being able to see extended family as we take self-isolation and social distancing very seriously,” she says. She relies on her 14 years of ER experience that have taught her to be very adaptable to rapidly changing situations. “As ER doctors, we are used to not knowing what’s coming in the door,” she says. “We have a strong desire, likely a feeling of duty, to keep our population and community cared for and safe. Our job is to manage crises, it is what we do best.”

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