2021 Blog Post

My Learning Curve: My 15th day as CEO from Dr. Kathryn Nichol

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By VHA
Large diagram of Kathryn's Learning Curve

You know the feeling….

You have started something that you know will be a challenge and… the “easing in” period is over. My daughter says this is kind of like 2 weeks into a new grade or a new program and you realize that your first big assignment is actually due tomorrow and exams are a couple of weeks away. You feel slightly overwhelmed, and you wonder… can I really do this? Do I have what it takes?

Then you look around you and realize you can, and you do. What helps you to realize this? The great things in life… love from your family and friends, the support of your colleagues, team members and partners and because you believe in and are committed to the mission and have the utmost respect for those who never stop providing great care, even during a pandemic. An exciting learning curve is ahead, and you just have to jump on and start running.

So what have I learned in my first two weeks in this role? First and foremost, stay connected with clients and families. During my first week the mother of a child we care for responded to the announcement of my appointment and asked me to give her a call. She was worried that her daughter’s personal support worker wasn’t being prioritized for COVID vaccination. The first thing she wanted to share was how much she loved her PSW and how she wouldn’t have made it through the pandemic without her. While this doesn’t surprise me at all, it is so lovely to hear and to share with you. We talked about the process for prioritizing health care workers in Ontario and how vaccination was being implemented by Public Health Units. She was relieved to hear that home care staff and service providers are part of the highest priority group for vaccination. She went on to say that while she understands children aren’t approved for vaccination yet, that parents and caregivers of children receiving chronic home care should be included as a priority group, similar to caregivers of long-term care and retirement home residents. She is absolutely right. Last week I was able to carry her message to a home care policy table I have the fortune of being part of in my new role. My hope is this small action will lead to change. My conversation with this parent just reinforces the need to be constantly in touch with our clients and families to make sure we are focused on what matters most.

Another thing that has become clear is that while I am spending a lot of time learning, it is important to look for opportunities to make meaningful contributions. Last week, I had a chance to participate in my first VHA Anti-Black Racism Action Group meeting. VHA has a long history of valuing diversity and inclusion and this large and energetic group is working at full speed in the areas of education, data, policy and communication, and advocacy. It is clear that the group aspires to touch every corner of VHA including our volunteer Board of Directors and I was delighted to be able to offer to engage our Board Chair in a discussion about some of the group’s ideas. I am looking forward to learning and supporting the important work of this committed group in the months ahead.

In addition, these past two weeks have reinforced how critical it is to stay focused on the safety of our people. I have had the chance to speak with several staff who have recently tested positive for COVID – some who are ill and some who aren’t. While my intent was to check in on their well-being, the conversations often turned to their concern for their clients in having someone who doesn’t know them fill in, and their worry about spreading the virus to their families. While the progress on vaccination is promising, we are still in the midst of a pandemic and need to continue to put all our efforts into the safety and well-being of our team.

So – stay connected with clients and families, keep learning while looking for ways to contribute meaningfully and remain focused on the safety of our people. Got it!!!

On a personal note, I am delighted to share that my 89-year-old mother is scheduled for her first vaccine on March 25th. She is already planning her 90th birthday party to be a big in-person celebration!

Thank you all for your support during these early weeks and I look forward to writing to you again at the 1-month mark. I wonder where I will be on the learning curve then 😉

– Kathryn