New roles for hospital staff during COVID-19

By Julie Dowdie

New roles during COVID-19 bring challenges and opportunities for Markham Stouffville Hospital (MSH) nurses. They serve where they are needed the most.

When Francis Baguio logs into a computer at work these days, it’s for a very different reason than a month ago.

Instead of working with software and troubleshooting computer systems as an applications specialist at MSH, he’s entering vital information about the patients he cares for as a nurse in the hospital’s Intensive Care Unit (ICU).

Baguio – who worked as a registered nurse (RN) for nine years before joining MSH’s Information Technology Department with a graduate degree in health informatics – says he decided to move back to nursing full time in order to “do my part in keeping our MSH community healthy and safe during COVID-19.”

He explains that the ICU “is an environment of controlled chaos, unforeseen stressors, and shifting priorities.”

However, he also notes that it’s “an exceptionally high-performing interprofessional team with a collaborative, responsive, resilient and kind spirit. It’s an honour for me to be part of a team that can literally make a difference in a person’s life during their most vulnerable and critical moments.”

MSH nurse Hilary Eaton.

These sentiments are shared by Hilary Eaton, a nurse practitioner (NP) in the hospital’s Cardiology unit who now works in MSH’s COVID-19 Assessment Centre.

“There’s no place else I’d rather be right now,” she says. “I’m super proud of how the MSH team came together to develop the Assessment Centre and the incredible care we’ve been providing to patients.”

Eaton and another NP spend 10 hours a day outside in the Assessment Centre triage tent – the place where patients are first screened before being sent into the centre itself if need be.

“Some of these people are very sick and some can be sent home with the right resources and education, and it takes a certain level of clinical expertise to make these judgements and answer the tough questions that patients often have,” Eaton says.

“All the NPs who work in the triage tent have a background in emergency care – giving them the skills needed for this integral role.”

The job of keeping staff like Baguio and Eaton safe and healthy during COVID-19 falls to nurses like Sonal Kasim, who currently works in the hospital’s Occupational Health and Safety Department.

MSH nurse Sonal Kasim.

Kasim joined MSH seven years ago in the Cardiology unit before moving to the team who provides community-based primary care in the Hospital to Home program and Community Medicine Clinic.

When the need arose for nurses in Occupational Health and Safety, Kasim didn’t hesitate to make the shift.

“Our staff are working so hard to care for patients and it’s important that there are people there looking out for them,” she says.

For Kasim, who has completed her Masters in Nursing degree and is on her way to becoming a primary health care NP, the occupational health role was also a perfect fit.

“I’m able to use the clinical skills I’m developing to ensure staff who may have been ill for any reason come back to work at the right time doing the right job,” she says.

May 11 to 17 marks National Nursing Week in Canada. Recognizing the extraordinary contributions and sacrifices nurses are making during COVID-19 will be especially important.

“Ultimately, each and every one of us wants to serve wherever we are needed most,” says Sonal.

To learn more about how to help MSH combat COVID-19, visit


Main Photo: MSH nurse Francis Baguio in the ICU at the Markham site.

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