Jessica Lam ’09
Lifelong Learner Making an Impact in the Healthcare Community
After graduating from HTS and completing a Bachelor of Science in Nursing, Jessica Lam ’09 worked as a nurse at the University Health Network (UHN) — consisting of the Toronto General Hospital, Toronto Western Hospital, The Princess Margaret Cancer Centre, Toronto Rehabilitation Institute and The Michener Institute of Education. Jessica’s first couple of years of nursing entailed working on roughly fifteen different medical and surgical in-patient units attaining knowledge and skills in a variety of specialties. While caring for many patient populations, Jessica always felt more connected to those living with cancer and at the end of their life. After her time at the Toronto General Hospital and the Toronto Western Hospital’s in-patient units, Jessica transferred to The Princess Margaret Cancer Centre where she currently resides and cares for adults living with cancer.
“It has been particularly tough working through the COVID-19 pandemic, seeing patients go from days to weeks without having their family visit due to visitor policies that are in place to keep the patients and staff safe,” Jessica says. “As a nurse, I have been at patients’ bedsides when they have received a diagnosis of cancer, through the ups and downs of cancer treatment, and at the end of their life as they take their last breath.” Unfortunately, due to the nature of her work caring for those admitted to the hospital, Jessica does not get to see the survivorship aspect of cancer.
In between clinical nursing, Jessica has also dabbled in education. She was awarded the University Health Network’s Collaborative Academic Practice Fellowship for developing an educational program on oncology to give generalist nurses a deeper understanding of cancer and the patient’s cancer trajectory. “Generalist nurses are those who do not specialize in cancer care, but may care for a patient with cancer on their assigned caseload,” she says. “An outcome of the fellowship was the development and implementation of the workshop Oncology 101 into general nursing orientation, such that every new nurse hired at UHN would receive basic knowledge about cancer and its common treatments and complications.”
Jessica has also had the rewarding experience of working as the Clinical Coordinator in the Medical Assistance in Dying Program (MAID) at the UHN where she helped coordinate MAID for patients from the time of referral to assessments and finally, intervention. A part of working in this role also involved Jessica educating staff about the MAID program. “It was not until I worked in the program that I really felt and experienced the impact of health policy in my day-to-day work,” Jessica says. “I encountered patients who were eligible and ineligible to receive MAID due to current legislation.” One of her most memorable experiences as a Clinical Coordinator was receiving an invitation to present about MAID at universities in the Greater Toronto Area.
Most recently, Jessica completed her Master of Nursing in Leadership in Healthcare Policy and Education at Ryerson University. Jessica chose to pursue her education at Ryerson because of the open house she attended. It was there that she noticed that the faculty really cared about their students’ success. “It reminded me of the teachers at HTS who put in the effort before and after school hours to help me in areas that I was struggling with, whether it was in academics or sports,” she says. As part of her Master of Nursing, Jessica did her practicum at the Institute for Safe Medication Practices (ISMP) Canada. During her time at ISMP Canada, Jessica helped develop a medication safety module for nurses in Canada, which included a literature review, quantitative and qualitative analysis of medication errors detected by nurses across healthcare sectors in Canada, and conducting a pan-Canadian learning needs assessment among nurses.
Jessica is hoping to influence patient care from a larger systems level in the future and to continue her passion for teaching and learning.