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Peterborough, ON A 36-year nursing veteran Mary Wakeford, a registered practical nurse (RPN) at the Peterborough Regional Health Centre is the 2016 winner of the Ontario Council of Hospital Unions (OCHU)/CUPE RPN of the year award.

Wakeford began her nursing career in 1980 at Peterborough hospital, working in the chronic care unit for 15 years. Today she works in the hospital’s medical cardiac unit. Reflecting on her more than three decades in nursing, Wakeford says developing bonds with patients and their family and with co-workers is the most fulfilling part of being a nurse.

“I treat my patients like they are my family members. Even now, with the faster pace of nursing today, I still make the time to sit down with the patients or the family to reflect with them and make that emotional connection. This is really important when the diagnosis for the patient is not a good one. I hope that I’ve made a difference in people’s lives,” says Wakeford.

Registered practical nurses are regulated and licensed by the Ontario College of Nurses. Registered practical nursing is a 2-year nursing program at community college.

May 9 –17 is nursing week and Ms. Wakeford will be celebrated at a special recognition event at the hospital Friday, May 13 (2016) at 8:30 a.m.

“There were many very great nurses nominated for this award and we thank them for their immense dedication to the profession and to their patients,” says OCHU president Michael Hurley.

For her part Wakeford says she is “humbled and honoured to be given the award. Nursing has always been a calling for me and patient care a priority.”

In her long career in nursing, Wakeford says she has seen many changes, advancements in hospital patient care and new challenges under provincial government policies that short-change hospital funding. However, throughout all this there one thing that’s never changed, Wakeford’s dedication and commitment to her patients and her collegial attitude, says Roxanne McDonald-Brown, the co-worker who nominated her for the award. “Mary is the first to lend a helping hand and be by your side when you need assistance with a patient,” says McDonald-Brown.

“Nursing practice and skills education too have changed dramatically over the years,” says Laurie Hatton, President of CUPE local 1943, which represents staff at the hospital. “Mary has always maintained her competencies and skills through education and practice upgrades. Her patients reap the benefits of Mary’s life-long interest in education.”

“Regrettably, Ontario’s provincial government has cut hospital budgets in every year of the last 9 years. This under-resourcing of hospital patient care is particularly challenging for nurses because, like Mary, they are so dedicated. They will go above and beyond to care patients, often at great personal cost to themselves and their own health and wellbeing. We are very grateful to Mary for her commitment to care and our public health system,” says Hurley.

For further information:

Michael Hurley, President, OCHU

Laurie Hatton, President, CUPE 1943

Stella Yeadon, CUPE Communications