COVID-19 Virtual Psychosocial Support Groups

March 24, 2020

Dear colleagues,

COVID-19 is a pandemic infectious disease that has created immense distress on the Canadian society. In health care, the number of patients will continue to increase and push the health care system to its limit. Our clinicians, educators, and managers who make up the majority of our learners are at the centre of the fight against COVID-19, and are facing unprecedented challenges and stress: increased work load, difficult clinical circumstances, and higher risk of infection. Thank you for your service, dedication and commitment to patients, families and our communities.

We are doing our part to help support your practices. As you know, last week we sent messages regarding upcoming deadlines and courses and our commitment to offering flexibility wherever possible. We will continue to deliver courses during this time as they provide a helpful distraction and allow you to continue to meet your personal goals. We also plan to continue supporting cancer patients through our therapist led support groups on Cancer Chat Canada. Please feel free to direct your patients to this resource for support if you find that they are unable to receive in person care.

As a new initiative to support nurses, de Souza Institute is organizing weekly virtual psychological support groups lead by Executive Director Dr. Mary Jane Esplen. These groups will provide a platform for nurses to discuss fear, normalize stress reactions, share solidarity, and learn about effective coping strategies to build resilience and enhance coping.

Each group session will accept registration until the group start time or until the group is full, for a maximum of 10 nurses. The sessions listed below are intended to support those working night shifts or daytime hours, but more will become available if needed.

For Ontario nurses (starting Thursday, March 26):

  1. Thursdays: 10:30am – 12:00pm
  2. Thursdays: 8:00pm – 9:30pm

For GTA nurses (starting Friday, March 27):

  1. Tuesdays: 3:30pm – 5:00pm
  2. Fridays 9:30am – 11:00am

If none of the times above work for you, or if you have any other suggestions, please email us at

These are challenging and stressful times, but it is important that we all aim to maintain our own well-being and resilience.

Thank you,
de Souza Institute

Course Extension Due to COVID-19

March 17, 2020 |

Dear colleagues,

Many of our learners are health professionals working at the front line and we express our gratitude for your dedication in providing care for patients and families. We are fully in support of this tremendous effort and will stand with you in this trying time. In light of the challenge to control the spread and impact of COVID-19, we recognize that many clinicians will be focusing their time and effort exclusively to direct care.

Course extension: All active de Souza courses will be extended for one additional month from the course close date. This extension is to give learners additional time to complete course requirements, including assignments and final exams. This includes all facilitator-led courses and self-directed courses. For example, for the Complex Malignant Hematology course, the new course completion deadline will be 16 weeks from the enrolment date. I.e. if you enrolled in the course near the end of February, your course deadline will be extended to June. For the Provincial Standardized Chemotherapy and Biotherapy Course that you enrolled in January (PSCB03JAN20), the new deadline for completing the course will be April 30, 2020.

For O-PREP learners in Alberta, all de Souza courses on the Learning Pathway will have extended deadlines, including the AHS Cohort Chemo/Bio Maintenance.
There are two exceptions in Alberta for deadlines:

  1. O-PREP ASCB – Provincial Standardized Chemotherapy and Biotherapy: Communication has been distributed to learners via the course News Forum and details will continue to be updated on the course as a plan is determined.
  2. O-PREP Foundations Part 1 & 2, learners are expected to complete modules as outlined by their educators for initial orientation.

For upcoming courses and beyond April 30, we will be evaluating each course and determining an appropriate approach that will allow for suitable course completion, including exams, where applicable. As there is not a “one-size-fits all” approach in this situation, we will be reaching out directly to you with specific plans for the course(s) you are enrolled in. For the time being, online courses will continue as planned.

de Souza Support Line 416-581-7887: Because all our non-clinical staff will start to work from home this week, our main support line will have no staff to answer your call live, but will accept voicemails. Our team will be checking these voicemails on an hourly basis during business hours and will answer your message within one business day. Our support email is attended to promptly so feel free to contact us by email at

Our emails have sometimes been incorrectly flagged as spam in some cases, so please double check your spam folder if you do not see a reply from us within one business day.

Thank you everyone, take care, and be safe.
de Souza Institute

WHO Year of the Nurse – de Souza Nightingale Series – Stephanie Ouellette

February 20, 2020

Introducing our second Nightingale series feature, Stephanie Ouellette from the Jack Ady Cancer Centre in Lethbridge, Alberta:

  1. Looking at all your accomplishments throughout your career, if you could go back in time what advice would you give to yourself after your first year on the job?
  2. I would tell myself that the “sky is the limit”! Nursing is so diverse and there are many paths a new nurse can choose to go down. I would say, don’t be afraid to experience these different areas of nursing. Ask to shadow for a day in the chemotherapy day care unit. Its only by experiencing different areas that you can then choose the one area that truly calls to your heart. Once you have chosen your type of nursing then become an expert in that field. It took me almost half of my career to learn this, but it was worth the wait because I absolutely love Oncology Nursing!

    Another important piece of advice I would give to new nurses, is to realize we are all leaders. I used to think only managers or nursing supervisors were leaders but after becoming specialized in Oncology I found I am a leader too. I can mentor new nurses, I can advocate for better patient care, I can make recommendations for a safer working environment, and I can encourage others to continue their specialty nursing education. Being excited and proud of what you do can cause others to join in!

  3. A career in nursing is diverse and nurses touch the lives of many including patients, family members and their peers within the interprofessional team. Is there an interaction that has been most memorable to you or what is the most rewarding part of your job?
  4. I have had many memorable interactions with my patients over the years, but there is one patient that will always be close to my heart. I had been taking care of Tom (not his real name) for many months in the chemo unit. Tom had metastatic colon cancer and was having chemotherapy every two weeks. Every time Tom would come in for a visit, I would learn more about his life. I learned that Tom had a great love for golf, he was happily married for over 50 years, his family had called him “Bunny” ever since he was a young boy because he was always “on the move”. Tom was retired from the army and had been stationed in many places around the world during his service. His army stories were quite vivid and exciting to hear. We found a shared love for traveling and we would spend hours taking about the places we had traveled to or places we would love to go to. Tom was a trooper when it came to his chemotherapy treatments. He never complained about side effects, but you could tell that he was becoming tired with having to come in for treatments. He would say that his cancer was interfering with his golf game! Tom gave a good fight against his cancer, but he passed away two years after we had first met. His wife came in to visit the staff after his passing and told us that having such a comradery with the chemo nurses helped Tom get through his treatments. I would say to Tom, that meeting him and learning about his life helped me become a better nurse. Sometimes being a good listener is the best medicine we can provide as nurses.

  5. They say that a picture is worth a thousand words. Share with us a picture that you feel best depicts your profession, your team or your work environment and tell us why that picture is meaningful to you.
  6. I took this picture while out hiking in the summer of 2018. It reminds me of when I first began working in Oncology. The learning curve is like hiking straight up the side of a mountain and while there were many times I felt like quitting and turning back around, I persevered to the top. What a reward and view once you reach the top of that mountain! I tell many new nurses who come into this specialty, to not give up during their training, because once you get up and over that mountain, it’s only then do you realize your accomplishments.

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