May 7, 2018
CALGARY — Tracy Wasylak was a fledgling nurse in grad school at McGill University back in 1981 when she won her first award for nursing research. She never dreamed there would be a top national honour like she’s just received as one of three Alberta Health Services (AHS) nurses being recognized at this year’s Canadian Nurses Association (CNA) Awards.
At the June 19 awards ceremony in Ottawa, Wasylak will receive the Order of Merit Award for Nursing Policy, in recognition of her role as Chief Program Officer for the Strategic Clinical Networks — provincial teams designed to increase collaboration and drive innovations towards better healthcare for Albertans.
“To receive an award that recognizes the impact of the work being done in Alberta is very exciting and rewarding,” says Wasylak. “I work with some amazing people, so to be singled out is a true honor.”
At the time of the program’s most recent evaluation, there were 12 clinical networks in operation across Alberta, credited with saving $43 million in provincial healthcare. Today, there are 15 SCNs actively seeking to improve the system.
“One area of the Strategic Clinical Networks that’s important is the Stroke Action Plan,” says Wasylak.
Edmonton and Calgary have achieved some of the best stroke-recovery outcomes in all of Canada — yet traditionally, if you were to travel outside major urban areas, the rate of death from stroke jumps 30 per cent.
“We worked to create more accessible stroke-equivalent care services in rural regions — and our morbidity rate dropped significantly. These teams are providing better care closer to home,” adds Wasylak.
Stacey Dalgleish, a Neonatal Nurse Practitioner at Foothills Medical Centre since 1998, will receive the Clinical Practice Award. Over her lengthy career caring for newborns, she’s driven quality improvements to ensure the best outcomes for her tiny patients.
“The babies I work with are fragile and a lot could go wrong,” says Dalgleish, who points out that many of her quality improvements have been adopted both nationally and internationally. In 2016, the College and Association of Registered Nurses of Alberta (CARNA) also bestowed her with a Nursing Excellence and Clinical Practice award.
“In terms of peer recognition, there’s nothing bigger than receiving an award from CNA,” says Dalgleish.
Brenda Huband, Vice President and Chief Health Operations Officer for Central and Southern Alberta, will receive the CNA Order of Merit for Nursing Administration award in recognition of her extensive leadership experience in Alberta’s health system including remote, rural, regional and urban health settings. Her nomination stems, in part, from her leadership and actions taken during the 2013 Southern Alberta floods and the 2016 Fort McMurray wildfire.
In 2005, the University of Alberta also recognized Huband with an Alumnae Honour Award by for her instrumental role in Veteran’s care, notably commissioning and opening of the Carewest Colonel Belcher Care Centre in Calgary, and the establishment of Western Canada’s first operational stress-injury clinic.
“Nurses are not recognized as often as many other health professionals, so to receive an award like this is humbling and exciting,” says Huband. “Being nationally recognized by one’s peers is a huge honour. I have been a nurse for a long time, looking back, I could not see myself doing anything else except for being a nurse.”
While awards are much appreciated, it’s the pride and satisfaction of caring for patients that drives nurses like Dalgleish to strive for excellence daily.
“When a family comes in to show me pictures of the kids I helped over the years, and how much they’ve all grown up, that brings me to my knees every time,” says Dalgleish. “Clinical work is hard, but all of us are here share the same desire to do better.”