Conestoga news

May 12, 2020 3:31 PM

In this together: College community joining the battle against COVID-19

Front-line workers in health care and essential services are making countless sacrifices to help our most vulnerable members and keep all of us safe and healthy.

The college community is proud to recognize some of the many Conestoga employees, students and graduates who have stepped forward to join in the battle against the global pandemic.

Amber Anderson-Lunn, Faculty, Nursing

Region of Waterloo Public Health

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During the pandemic, Anderson-Lunn went back to work for Region of Waterloo Public Health as a nursing manager.

Case management isn’t new for Public Health, but the scale has changed. Anderson-Lunn is supporting a team of nurses dedicated to case management for COVID-19. The team conducts regular phone check-ins with all positive cases in Waterloo region, this includes contact tracing where a nurse works with each positive case to determine whether any other individuals may have been exposed.

Anderson-Lunn’s day-to-day involves a lot of problem-solving, case complexities and working to help balance nurse caseloads. As a nurse, being flexible and able to readjust as the situation evolves is essential.

Jenni Bauer ’13, Social Service Management & Victoria Bertrand ’16, Practical Nursing

Cambridge Rivulettes Women’s Hockey

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As volunteers for the Cambridge Rivulettes Women’s Hockey team, Bauer and Bertrand coordinated a food drive to support the community during these challenging times.

On behalf of the Cambridge Roadrunners and Rivulettes Hockey Organization, over $500 and more than 840 pounds of food were donated to the Cambridge Self-Help Food Bank.

Bauer currently works as an International Transition Coordinator at Conestoga. Bertrand works as a nurse at two hospitals in the region.

Paige Bear ’18, BScN & Jacqueline Bradshaw ’18, BScN

P and J.jpg Grand River Hospital

Bear (left) and Bradshaw (right) are both working as part of the children’s program at Grand River Hospital in Kitchener, supporting families during this challenging time.

Veronique Boscart, Executive Dean, School of Health & Life Sciences

The Village of Winston Park

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As a nurse and Personal Support Worker (PSW), Boscart is committed to the community. Serving both long-term care and retirement residents at The Village of Winston Park in Kitchener, she is working as part of a team to provide instrumental support to seniors.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Boscart and others at Winston Park have been paying special attention to resident’s emotional and social well-being. In addition to supporting daily activities like bathing, dressing and eating, the care team is also ensuring residents stay connected to family and friends by assisting with phone calls and video chats.

The team is also focused on supporting each other through the unique demands of the pandemic, pitching in where needed and providing reprieve as they work to protect the most vulnerable in our community and help arrest the spread of COVID-19.

Deanna Clatworthy ’12, Practical Nursing

Deanna Clatworthy 2020.jpg ARCH Clinic

Clatworthy is a nurse and clinical manager at ARCH Clinic in Guelph. She continues to see patients that urgently need in-person care, and has adapted to offer virtual appointments for non-urgent health issues. She also shops for the clinic’s Food Hamper Program and offers STI testing to the community so that Public Health can focus on responding to COVID-19.

Clatworthy is also part of a larger community effort to provide homemade PPE to local hospitals and long-term care homes, dropping off supplies to local sewers making masks, headbands and surgical caps and delivering finished products to facilities in need. She also provides ARCH patients with cloth masks to wear in public, hoping to help prevent the spread of the disease.

Holly Clayson ’10, Woodworking Technology - Architectural Millwork

Holly Wood Drafting & Design

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Clayson, owner of Holly Wood Drafting & Design in Kitchener, has teamed up with Wood Workers Unite to produce face shields for essential workers.

Briana Cunningham ’18, Primary Care Paramedic

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Cunningham is supporting the community through her role as a paramedic for Guelph-Wellington.

Gino De Pinto, Faculty, Respiratory Therapy; Rachael McWilliams, Student, Respiratory Therapy; & Sarah Mohr ’20, Respiratory Therapy

Grand River Hospital

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De Pinto, McWilliams and Mohr are supporting the community during these unprecedented times. All three are working at Grand River Hospital in Kitchener.

As registered respiratory therapists, De Pinto and Mohr are an integral part of the health-care team, providing services like ventilation and airway management.

In the wake of the COVID-19 crisis, McWilliams, a second-year student, is working as a respiratory therapy aide, stocking and cleaning equipment so staff therapists can concentrate on patient care.

Nadia Dhiman, Student, Health Care Administration

Nadia D.jpg Lanark Heights Long Term Care

In response to the COVID-19 crisis and increased demand for front-line workers, Dhiman wanted to support the most vulnerable in our community. An international student, she is working as a resident care aide at Lanark Heights Long Term Care home in Kitchener.

From helping seniors with daily activities to assisting Personal Support Workers, Dhiman says she is grateful for the opportunity and feels that she is serving a purpose, especially when she gets to take the time to sit and talk with residents so that they feel less isolated and lonely.

Taylor Donaldson, Student, BScN

The Maples Home for Seniors

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Donaldson is helping protect our most vulnerable community members. The 2018 practical nursing graduate and current BScN student works as an RPN at The Maples Home for Seniors in Tavistock.

The community has also rallied to support Donaldson and others at the home, donating homemade gowns, caps and headbands. The items are a much needed and appreciated necessity -- the headband Donaldson is sporting has buttons on both sides to loop face mask elastics to prevent sore ears.

Photo credit: Tavistock Gazette

Mary-Jane Ducsharm, Practice Application Specialist, Nursing

Mary-Jane Ducsharm.jpg Grand River Hospital, HPHA-Stratford, Listowel Memorial Hospital

Since news of the pandemic hit the province, Ducsharm has been working in ICU at the Huron Perth Healthcare Alliance (HPHA) site in Stratford as well as at Grand River Hospital. She is also working in the emergency room at Listowel Memorial Hospital.

Ducsharm said every site brings a unique challenge, from stable patients to the very sick. The constant, however, has been the support found amongst her teams. 

“Supporting each other as team members is one of the most important lessons to come out of this pandemic,” said Ducsharm. “We are undoubtedly stronger together.”

Mike Farwell ’96, Broadcast Radio & Television

570 News

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When the pandemic hit, Farwell said he thought only for a moment about cancelling his ambitious annual campaign to raise funds and awareness for cystic fibrosis. Instead, the Kitchener broadcaster adapted Farwell For Hire to fit the new normal.

Instead of hosting in-person fundraising events and entering people’s homes to complete odd jobs for donations, Farwell coordinated a bottle drive, delivered meals to front-line workers on behalf of donating companies, and safely collected funds from those willing in the community.

Farwell has extended the campaign to support not only cystic fibrosis but community groups feeling the strain of COVID-19.

Read more about Farwell For Hire.

Andrea Ferguson, Student, Practical Nursing

Andrea Ferguson.jpg Freeport Hospital

When Ferguson was presented with a job offer to assist nursing staff in the COVID-19 unit at Freeport in Kitchener, she didn’t hesitate to say yes. Who knew when she started college that she would be fighting a pandemic on the front lines?

Although the COVID-19 crisis disrupted her plans to graduate this spring, Ferguson still saw it as her time to help people who truly need it. She shows up to work every shift with positivity, dedication and a smile for her patients and co-workers. Her hard work and the fight she has within are just what this world needs to combat the virus.

Pam Hall, Program Coordinator, Respiratory Therapy

Grand River Hospital

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In response to the COVID-19 crisis and increased need for front-line workers, Hall has taken a position as a respiratory therapist at Grand River Hospital. Her role is focused mainly on adult critical care where she supports critically ill patients, many of which have tested positive for COVID-19 and require airway management and mechanical ventilation.

Although a departure from normal for Hall, who has spent over 20 years working in neonatal critical care, she said her recent experiences, though challenging, will help enrich her teaching practice as we move forward and adjust to a new normal in health care.

Heidi Holmes, Living Classroom Coordinator

Heidi Holmes.jpg Guelph General Hospital

Holmes has been a casual registered nurse (RN) at Guelph General Hospital for more than ten years, in addition to her full-time role at Conestoga. She works in both the emergency room and as part of the sexual assault and domestic violence team.

As a casual RN, Holmes was used to working only a handful of shifts per month. She now finds herself working a couple of times a week and seeing patients with a positive or presumed case of COVID-19. She said the hospital has been well prepared, putting new protocols and processes into place to triage and care for patients, and practices have been adjusted to ensure mandatory personal protective equipment (PPE) is worn at all times. Like many health-care facilities, the hospital faced a shortage of PPE - Holmes said donations from the community have helped and are appreciated.

“It has been a surreal time,” said Holmes, who also remembers working during the SARS outbreak. “I appreciate being able to work clinically, especially at this uncertain time when nurses are so needed.”

Perry Koradiya, Student, Mechanical Technician - CNC


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Koradiya is using skills learned in his CNC program at Conestoga to support front-line workers. Using his 3D printer at home, he’s created face shield strip guides to help ease the strain of wearing PPE for extended periods.

So far, Koradiya has donated 500 strips to Cambridge Memorial Hospital.

Johanne Leveille-Schirm ’88, Nursing

Johanne Leveille-Schirm.jpg Grand river Hospital

Having retired from Karos Health a little over three years ago, Leveille-Schirm decided to “suit up" and lend a hand at Grand-River Hospital. She is working as part of the screening team during the pandemic. Her interaction with patients and their support network is brief but, she said it continues to be a privilege to be allowed into their circle.

Leveille-Schirm said it has been great to reconnect with former colleagues, meeting new ones and help wherever she can. She’s amazed at how quickly care providers were able to adapt to this new reality -- following the infection control measures that have been put in place is truly a question of life and death.

“My part is quite a small piece of the puzzle,” said Leveille-Schirm, “but everyone realizes that only the sum total of all those pieces will result in successfully managing and conquering this virus.”

Christine LoStracco, Student, Practical Nursing

The Village at University Gates

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Under normal circumstances, LoStracco would be halfway through her studies as a registered practical nurse. But these are not normal times. She and other students were idled when the spring semester was cancelled, meanwhile, staff are stretched thin in long-term care facilities where the COVID-19 pandemic is hitting hardest.

LoStracco is far enough in her training to qualify as a personal support worker, so in April, even as she was finishing up exams, she signed up to work at The Village at University Gates in Waterloo. She works several shifts a week, helping bathe, feed and care for residents in the home.

Despite the risk of potential exposure to the disease, LoStracco said she wasn’t afraid to take on the job.

“This is like an athlete’s Olympics,” said LoStracco. “It’s what we’re trained for. We have the education to help us work our way through, and that’s our job as nurses. It sort of feels like my duty, my responsibility to go in and help.”

Read LoStracco’s full story in The Record.

Photo: Waterloo Region Record

Jared Mendoza, Student, Personal Support Worker

Jared Mendoza.jpg Sunnyside Home

Working towards his PSW certification, Mendoza is a health care aide at Sunnyside Home in Kitchener. He assists the long-term care facility as they manage the COVID-19 pandemic and keep their residents safe.

As a member of an inter-professional health-care team, Mendoza provides supportive person-centred care to several residents, including companionship in a time when many feel even more isolated from family and friends.

Read more about Mendoza and his journey.

Andrea Miller, Faculty, Nursing

Grand River Hospital

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In addition to teaching students in the Bachelor of Science in Nursing program at Conestoga, Miller also maintains a clinical practice as a pediatric nurse at Grand River Hospital.

Within the children's program, Miller has the opportunity to work with a number of former students, many of them recent graduates. Humbled by now being able to call them colleagues, Miller sees their growth as practitioners first-hand and the impact faculty have on preparing nurses for the future workforce.

As a new nurse in 2002, Miller began her career just prior to the SARS outbreak and said she has a great deal of empathy for students venturing out to begin their career at this time. She never imagined seeing a pandemic in her career nor at the magnitude of COVID-19.

“I feel very blessed that I have a skillset where I am able to support others in a time of need, and I am proud of the work I do and the great team of colleagues I am able to work alongside at Grand River Hospital and Conestoga,” said Miller. “In the year of the nurse, I am sending best wishes and happy nurses week to all the nurses who work hard to care for our community.”

Troy Miller ’93, Business Administration - Marketing

Troy Miller.jpg Healthy Hands Company

Faced with unprecedented times, Miller and his business partner Ben Gunn challenged themselves to assist in any way could during the COVID-19 crisis. After connecting with a friend in Chicago who had started a hand sanitizer production site, Miller knew immediately he and Gunn could set up something similar here in Waterloo region. They located a site and began a weekly production of 25,000 litres of high-quality hand sanitizer, packaging, labels and everything else they needed to go to market.

Healthy Hands Company is focused on making hand sanitizer readily available. Miller and Gunn have also made a conscious decision to keep as much of the product as possible within Waterloo region, and for every 100 litres sold, 1 litre is donated to a local charity, not-for-profit or front-line service.

Jacqueline Reinhardt, Practice Application Specialist, Nursing

Sunnyside Home

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As a casual registered practical nurse, Reinhardt answers the call to pitch in when and where needed at Sunnyside Home in Kitchener.

The long-term care facility continues to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic with measures to keep their community safe. Reinhardt helps run a clinic to test staff and residents for the disease.

Matthew Ratcliffe, Student, BScN

Matthew Ratcliffe.jpg Guelph General Hospital

Ratcliffe works as a health care aide at Guelph General Hospital on a post-surgical floor. Since the outbreak of COVID-19, there has been an increased need to support nursing staff.

It was out of a desire to help that led Ratcliffe to the role, where he answers call bells, assists with activities of daily living, ambulation and transporting patients within the hospital. As a nursing student, Ratcliffe is grateful for the rare opportunity to help those in need during a difficult time.

Emily Reitzes, Student, BScN

Guelph General Hospital

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Staff at Guelph General Hospital are incredibly busy. Reitzes is an extra set of hands.

Assisting with patient care, the nursing student is diligent and positive as she helps meet the demands of working through a pandemic.

Anne Marie Rock, Faculty, Nursing

Anne Marie Rock.jpg St. Mary’s Hospital

Rock has worked in the emergency room (ER) at St. Mary’s Hospital as a causal part-time registered nurse (RN) for many years. Since the COVID-19 pandemic hit the province, her time in the ER has increased significantly.

Initially, Rock was covering shifts so that nurses exposed to the disease could self-isolate at home. Now she is working to provide extra coverage due to increased demands in the ER. Each day brings new challenges and new threats to Rock and her colleagues as they care for patients who have tested positive for COVID-19 or are showing symptoms. Because of their exposure, Rock and the rest of her team in ER must wear personal protective equipment throughout their 12-hour shifts to protect themselves and the community.

Although the number of cases, fortunately, hasn’t overwhelmed St. Mary’s capacity to treat and care for patients, Rock said she and her colleagues feel they will be dealing with the pandemic and this new normal for quite some time. She feels fortunate to have been able to return to the front lines.

“I feel as an RN it is my duty to help out,” said Rock, “and moving forward, the knowledge and experience I have gained from the front lines will benefit my students when we are back in the classroom.”

Lori Strauss, Faculty, Personal Support Worker

The Village at University Gates

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Strauss felt compelled to offer her assistance to the community after reading about struggles at a long-term care facility in Bobcaygeon.

Working as a casual registered nurse at The Village at University Gates in Waterloo, much of her role has been focused on infection control. In the true spirit of the organization, Strauss also pitches in where she can to ensure residents’ needs are met.

“It has been a true pleasure,” said Strauss, “to work side-by-side with dedicated team members and residents as they work through this exceptional situation.”

Saniya Vohra, Student, Global Business Management

Saniya Vohra.jpg Forest Heights Revera

Vohra is helping support our most vulnerable community members. When the pandemic hit, she took a job as a recreational aide at Forest Heights -- a long-term care home in Kitchener.

One of the hardest-hit facilities in the region, Forest Heights has been battling an outbreak of COVID-19 since April.

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