Stories - Community Champions

Thank You Doris

This August the end of summer also means the end of an era at Children’s Hospital as we wish a Happy Retirement to our incredible Clinical Nurse Specialist Doris Sawatzky-Dickson.

For more than 30 years Doris has been a fixture in the NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit) at Children’s Hospital, after being pointed in that direction years ago.

“I got into nursing because my father encouraged me to,” says Doris. “He saw that as a kid I took care of people when they were hurt. When my brother was hit in the head with a hockey stick I looked after him for an hour until someone came home. I wanted to go into medicine, but my dad pointed out that I may be better suited to be right at the bedside.”

Doris graduated from the diploma program at Grace Hospital and as luck would have it, her first full time job offer came from Children’s Hospital.

“I found out 2 days before starting that the job was in the NICU,” recalls Doris. “I had no interview, and I lasted 34 years! Over those years I have been a general duty nurse, senior team leader/clinical resource nurse, nurse educator, and for the past 20 years, a Clinical Nurse Specialist.”

Though many memories stand out over her lifetime of work, for Doris it always came down to keeping families together.

“My favourite memories are all about putting parents and babies together and helping a mom or dad hold their baby for the first time,” says Doris. “One time we took triplets to their very sick mother who had not been able to see them even though they were many days old. We put all three together on her chest and the look on her face was amazing.”

Doris’ devotion to the families in her care is something her co-workers will not soon forget.

“Doris has dedicated her career to improving the care provided to our most fragile patients,” says Nicole Sneath and Lisa Merrill, Unit Managers NICU. “She has continually pushed us to look to the evidence to guide care and challenged us to not accept the status quo but keep looking for opportunities to do better for our patients and families. Patient safety and quality have always been at the heart of everything Doris does. Her love for Nursing and Neonatology has made a lasting impact on countless families and staff and her contributions will not be forgotten.”

There is definite consensus that Doris, will be both remembered and dearly missed.

“Doris’ decision to retire means that someone whose name is synonymous with Neonatology is leaving our fold,” says Dr. Michael Narvey, Section Head, NICU. “She has always had a passion for improving the patient experience through their journey. The programs she put in place to that end in the last few years, whether they be parent group meetings or helping to bring back a coordinator for the NICU Veteran Parents Program, leaves us all with a lasting reminder of her touch for tending to the little things that make such a difference for the families in our care.”

For the many families that Doris has helped over the years, they too are filled with gratitude.

“We want to thank you for all of the care and compassion you showed us as we dealt with some difficult weeks,” says Stephanie and Timothy Wenger. “We were able to bring our tiny Simon home at exactly 3 weeks old, and he is now thriving and growing like crazy. Words cannot express how grateful we are to have met you.”

Doris herself carries feelings of gratitude as she says goodbye to her co-workers at Children’s Hospital.

“Some are like family, and I will miss seeing them every day,” remarks Doris. “Our teamwork has been my greatest accomplishment and I leave behind the tools and knowledge to give some other amazing nurses the chance to experience that too. Working at Children’s Hospital was a dream come true for me and I know that someone with new, fresh ideas will pick it up and run with it.”

Although retiring from her day to day involvement at Children’s Hospital, Doris has been a volunteer at the Teddy Bear’s Picnic for over 30 years, and shows no signs of slowing down.

“There are so many reasons to keep coming back to the Teddy Bear’s Picnic,” says Doris. “Tired volunteers who stay for an extra shift because they love interacting with the kids; tired parents who are grateful because you fit their child in for one last Teddy surgery; kids who had been patients at the hospital coming to show off how well they are doing. Every year I wonder if I can do it again, and every year as it gets closer, I can’t imagine not being there.”

It’s hard to imagine Children’s Hospital without you Doris. Great big bear hugs to you for all you have down for countless sick kids and their families. We will never forget you!