Colleen Young and Irene Andress stand in front of MGH's Emergency Department.
Colleen Young (left), registered practical nurse in the Emergency Department and Irene Andress (right), Vice-President, Patient Experience, Health Professions & Chief Nursing Executive.

MGH Pay it Forward: Irene Andress and Colleen Young – ‘Nursing fits me like a glove’

The #MGHPayitForward series highlights the many moments of thanks within our community. Whether it is for feedback, teamwork, or a small gesture of kindness, gratitude is everywhere. We follow the flow of gratitude at Michael Garron Hospital (MGH), Toronto East Health Network as our community shares stories about their peers.

It’s a sunny morning in late August. Colleen Young is wearing magenta scrubs; her long blonde hair gently rests over one shoulder. She smiles at Irene Andress and the two catch up like old friends. Colleen shares that her daughter, an interventional radiologist, received her first job offer today and her son, an engineer by background, is completing his third year of medical school. She humbly tells Irene that medicine runs in her family.    

Irene, Vice-President, Patient Experience, Health Professions & Chief Nursing Executive has invited Colleen, a registered practical nurse in the Emergency Department, to her office to talk about a recent patient compliment she received. 

Irene reads aloud the words that prompted today’s meeting – a letter from a patient describing a visit to the Emergency Department.

The patient writes: “I was admitted to the Emergency Room due to a personal health reason. Usually waiting to see a doctor can be so dreadful; this time it was not. A nurse by the name of Colleen was the most amazing, great and warm nurse. She showed a general heartfelt concern for the other patients and me. In a day and age where the world is filled with darkness and hatred, Nurse Colleen gives me hope and faith that there are still wonderful people present. She treated the other patients and I like we were family and knew each other forever. Nurse Colleen you are phenomenal and a great woman.”

Colleen is noticeably overwhelmed by the kind words.

“Nursing fits me like a glove,” says Colleen. “My goal is to make other people’s experiences of coming into the hospital less uncomfortable and painful.”

In a busy Emergency Department, Colleen cares for patients and families of all ages, in various situations – from bumps and bruises, to urgent medical care following a serious accident or fall, and individuals experiencing homelessness, mental health challenges or addictions.

Colleen explains that sometimes it’s the simple things that mean the most – for example offering a glass of water, shifting a piece of furniture so a patient can face their loved one or showing a visitor where they can charge their cell phone.

 Irene acknowledges that Colleen has a keen sense of awareness and gift for observation.

“Often times we are so focused on our day-to-day tasks – taking blood, filling out a form, giving medication – that we go through the motions and forget to really listen,” says Irene.

“Colleen pays attention to what’s important to patients and families in the moment. She’s creating an environment where people feel safe asking for what they need.”

Colleen anticipates needs by being proactive about clinical rounding and completing documentation at the bedside to increase face-time with patients and involve them in their care plans. This helps Colleen raise situational awareness, pick up on signs or cues that may otherwise be missed, and foresee potential health or safety issues that could arise. 

“I want to say thank you so much to Colleen,” says Irene.

“She is so selfless and humble. She does her job with such ease and proficiency that it doesn’t seem to be a burden – it’s just part of who she is.”

Colleen's patients agree with this sentiment. Michael Garron Hospital Foundation started the Grateful Giving Program to provide grateful patients the opportunity to show appreciation for the exceptional care they received at the hospital; since the program’s inception, Colleen has been recognized three times by grateful patients.

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