Recognizing the Work of Wellness Nurses

Occupational Health Nurse Neda Kalan knows that being part of a great team is crucial to overcoming the COVID-19 pandemic.

“COVID is new and we weren’t ready for this pandemic,” said Kalan, who joined the Toronto Police Service Wellness Unit team last year. “Of course, there have been some challenges, but I enjoy working with great team members in a healthy working environment.”

Kalan started her nursing studies in Turkey before coming to Canada in 2012.

To mark Nurses Week and International Nurses Day on May 12, the Toronto Police Service is recognizing the nurses on our Wellness team who have provided guidance and support to Service members during the pandemic.

Prior to the pandemic, the Service employed one nurse – Judith Whitfield – in its Wellness unit. Whitfield is with the Medical Advisory Services (MAS) section of the Wellness Unit. Among other things, MAS, provides advice to members on long-term general health issues and counseling on personal wellness.

“When COVID-19 struck, Judith was our sole nurse. She helped us recognize how we should respond as well as build the team we have today,” Wellness Insp. Chris Boddy said. “Judith helped lead us through the pandemic and we all owe her a debt of gratitude for protecting our health and safety.”

With a constant need for members to be assessed and supported, nine more occupational health nurses – two of them in the last two weeks – were added.

“They are qualified to give advice to TPS members, their families and loved ones in relation to COVID-related issues,” said Sgt. Paul Jones, the Wellness COVID-19 Response Supervisor.

The nurses have been extremely busy, particularly in the last four-and-a-half months.

“I think the variants have been a big factor in the increase,” said Jones. “They are more contagious and we are seeing them spread more quickly. We have had outbreaks at multiple TPS locations where they have been two or more cases at one facility.”

A group of three women in an office
Nurses Pratima Chawla, Anel Hared and Neda Kalan work in the Wellness unit Photo: Handout

At the beginning of the pandemic, a COVID hotline was established, consisting of Service members who do the initial intake and assess members to determine whether they need to be self-isolated or go for testing.

“In some cases, they might just self-monitor if they had a low risk interaction with someone,” Jones noted. “The nurses will triage that. The individuals with the highest risk will be given advice ranging from how to self-isolate to going to a hospital immediately. We have had a number of members who have been hospitalized and who have needed long-term care because of COVID.”

“From the nurses standpoint, it has been a baptism by fire. They have come into our organization from other agencies and have had to adapt to our environment and understand the nuances of how our organization works and do everything they can to ensure our members are safe and get them back to work as soon as is possible.”

The COVID Nursing Surveillance Team is comprised of Neda Kalan, Cara Centillo, Evangeline Dacillo, Anel Hared, Anna Morawczynska, Verna Perdon, Jackie Pozenel, Ruth-Helene Semexan and Pratima Chawla.

Chawla is conducting the rapid screening tests for Service members allowing an extra layer of prevention of COVID-19 by screening asymptomatic members.

Jones said the team of nurses has been critical to moving the Service forward during the pandemic.

“They are conscientious, they really care and they are very professional. We are very lucky to have them and I can say we wouldn’t have been able to function efficiently as an organization without their support. They are an awesome group,” Jones said.

International Nurses Day is celebrated globally on May 12.

The day was chosen to pay tribute to Florence Nightingale, considered the founder of modern nursing, who was born on that day in 1820.

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