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Thinking Forward: Empowering and Uplifting Nurses in 2023

May 11, 2023

It’s Nurses Week this week and the Caring Support Podcast got the chance to have a conversation with three amazing nurses who are using their abilities to empower and uplift nurses. We are joined this week by Dionne Sinclair, Mildred Ababio and Sara Fung to talk about how the last year has gone, their hopes for the profession going into 2023 and about nurses with side hustles.

Tell us about yourself.

Dionne Sinclair: I am the Vice President of Clinical Operations and Chief Nursing Executive at the Center for Addictions and Mental Health. I am a registered nurse, but I always start off by saying, do not let my youthful good looks fool you. I graduated in 1986 from nursing. I also have a 34-year-old daughter who is also a registered nurse. I started out as an RPN when I graduated in ‘86. I did my diploma from Fanshawe College in ’88, graduated with my Bachelor of Science from Western in ‘98, and in 2008 I finished my Master's in Nursing from York University. I'm currently a Ph.D. student at the University of Western Ontario, completing my thesis in nursing leadership. Looking at the strategies and characteristics of black nurse leader needs to survive and thrive in a health care system that is systemically racist.

Sara Fung: I'm Sara Fung. I'm also a registered nurse, coming on 16 years now in nursing. I also went to Western University for my undergrad, so that's where I got my Bachelor's of Science in nursing, followed by my Master's of nursing at the University of Toronto. I spent about eight years at the bedside, all in maternal child health, I did labour and delivery, postpartum, level three NICU, then moved into nursing leadership. I worked for a while as a clinical nurse specialist and in professional practice, both in hospital and community care settings. I'm also the founder and CEO of The RN Resume where I help nurses with their careers as well as co-host and co-founder of the Gritty Nurse Podcast. We're all about mental health awareness, health equity, and sharing stories of those who are vulnerable or have been silenced. I'm really glad to be here today and, you know, celebrating Nurses Week and all that it stands for.

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Mildred Ababio: Hello, everybody, and Happy Nurses Week to all. My name is Mildred Ababio. Very similar to the lovely nurses that I have with me today. I bring close to 16 years of nursing experience and expertise. I think I'm the odd one here, I'm a Quebecer native, so bonjour a tous. I relocated to Ontario when I came here to do my post RN nursing degree as the education system for nursing in Quebec is a little bit different than Ontario, but I furthered my studies, went on to complete my post RN education and then I went on to doing a couple of different little things in between that, the friend leadership certificate. I'm very driven towards leadership and then I chose a little bit of a different route and I went on and furthered my studies and obtained my MBA. In terms of clinical practice, I've worked everywhere from rural places in Quebec as well as in Ontario, and I've worked in different nursing departments from neurosurgery to emergency, psychiatric surgery. But I did a 360 after an encounter in one of the small villages that I was working with the Cree population, where on my third day going to the emergency to do my shift. It was a little house that was on the road there and on the third day to my shift, the light was on. I decided to go in. When I went in and I checked, I introduced myself. That's when I saw that there was an elderly man that had fallen, that was unconscious and wasn't able to call for help. At that point. That's when I realized how vulnerable this population was, and I decided to do a whole 360 in my career, and I decided to become an advocate for the seniors care. So that's what I've been doing so far. And another unique skill set with me is I bring a strong business acumen as well as strong clinical expertise as I believe that in nursing, the two go hand in hand. So that's me, thank you.

What the most exciting thing is that happened to you guys in your career over the last year?

Sara Fung: I'm going to name a few things, but I promise it'll be really brief. The first is just getting back to seeing people in person has been really great. I think just to get the energy and actually connect with people face-to-face. I had the privilege of doing some speaking engagements with the Canadian Medical Association, the Canadian Nurses Association, so sharing and trying to uplift nursing because we all know it's been really difficult over the past few years and really just connecting with nurses and understanding where the struggles are and how we can best support them. I think even with helping nurses with their career paths, it's come to a point now where I can see on the other side clients are coming back to me and saying, ‘Hey, I landed my dream job. I'm so much happier now. I feel like I have work life balance again’. It's been great just to see those rewarding follow ups that we hear from nurses that are really struggling and not feeling like nursing is for them and seeing them become passionate again about their career. That's been exciting. The other thing is that with the Gritty Nurse podcast, Amy and I are in the process of publishing a book about nursing with HarperCollins, so that's going to be coming out sometime in 2024. That's been a really exciting process to think about all of the experiences that we can share with not just nurses but the general public.

Mildred Ababio: Two great things happened for me. The first thing is, I've had the privilege to work with the Wound Ostomy Canada, and I had a great opportunity to be part of the panellists that was helping educate the population and healthcare workers when it came to how to better care in terms of wound care, how to better care for people of colour. My presentation was entitled Every Colour Matters and it was important to explain the intricacy and the nuances that comes with that, because the way you would nurse and the way you would care for a Caucasian person would not be the same way that you would care for somebody that comes from a European descent that have that olive undertone or somebody that's from South Asia that has a little bit of a darker undertone or somebody that's dark skinned like me, the symptoms do not present the same. The wound does not present the same. What are the challenges that could arise from that? I had the privilege to talk about that, present about that. Next Saturday, I'm presenting again at their 42nd annual conference and helping propel that forward. We need to create awareness and there's lots of education that needs to be done around that. The second exciting thing that happened is having the opportunity to do more advocacy work for ACB communities. Right now, one personal work that I've taken on board, which is a passion of mine, is connecting with the ACB communities and educating them and advancing knowledge mobilization when it comes to advance care planning because that's an area that's not really touched about. It's almost taboo in certain of these communities. So, that's something that I want to create awareness on because it is a need that I find that is happening in these ACB communities and that's something that I've been taken on board as a personal project and going out there and creating the awareness. Those are the two exciting things that happened for me upon reflection.

Dionne Sinclair: I want to say Happy Nurses Week to everyone, all the nurses out there. A lot's been happening. The biggest thing for the past year and a half, I'll say I competed and won this position here at CAMH as Vice President and Chief Nursing Executive. Out of all the nurses of African descent in this province and there's quite a lot of us there are two that I know of that are in acute care hospitals that are actually chief nurses. One is at Scarborough General and myself. In 2019, I founded the Canadian Black Nurses Network and we're on LinkedIn, we're on Facebook. It's just a place where nurses can come together, we support, coach, mentor, and help each other, but we also do what Sara is doing. I, myself, and other directors, we help with resume writing, we help with interview prep, and our goal is to put black nurse leaders into senior leadership spaces.  I am very proud to say in the last year we've had over six nurses either move from manager into director positions and we even had one other move from the position of director into a VP position and it’s VP looking after DEI, but it's still amazing that before you could not even get into the C-suite as they call it.

The other big thing that has happened is being in this position has given me the platform to go out and talk to many schools and many students about what it is to be a leader of colour, racialized leader, and that it is possible. When you can't be what you don't see, so I show up authentic to say, Hey, here I am. It is possible. Started as an RPN. Now I'm sitting again at that leadership table. For Western, the University of Western Ontario, I was their Alumni of the Year for the Labatt School of Nursing. Same thing with Fanshawe College. I received Alumni of the Year for the Health Science category. Again, it gave me a platform to go and share my vision of nursing and how nurses should be treated. I spent many years at the frontline, 11 years as a night nurse due to child care, and I can share that you want to feel valued and appreciated and you want to make sure where you're working is a place you feel a sense of belonging, you feel welcomed, and you feel that you have an equal opportunity to progress through the organization. Sharing all that with the different schools that I've gone to and all the different platforms I've spoken on.

At CAMH, in less than a year, we hired over 400 RNs and RPNs which is unheard of in this climate where people are saying no one's coming into nursing or no one wants to be recruited because it's such an environment in acute care hospitals. I consider CAMH acute care because mental health, we've got an emergency room, we've got acute patients, it's acute care, but nurses are drawn to CAMH because they see the type of nurse leader I am, they see the team that I've cultivated and they know how they'll be treated because I am present. I'm here in my office, I'm on the floors among the units. I speak to the staff, I ask them, How are you? And we put in many supports to help and I just have to share. One of the major support was this big change that we've done. Usually, you have educators Monday to Friday 8 to 4, 9 to 5. We have evening educators and weekend educators. When you're a brand new nurse on the unit, you have questions, you have concerns, and you're looking to your colleague for help. It's like, Listen, I got my own assignment. You better look it up. Well, now they've got resources and the nurses told us we want to feel comfortable and feel safe and we want someone we can go to. So we have people hired into the role to be that resource on the off hours when their manager and their advanced practice leader is away. So those are, I'm really proud of having supports in for the new staff, having all the new staff in, but to be recognized as that nurse leader that can go out and speak to the future nurse leaders that are coming up.

What do you think healthcare organizations need to do to win back the trust of their nurses? And what do you think they can do to lure or attract people to come back into the profession?

Dionne Sinclair: I'm a nurse leader and an executive in the organization. I am a vice president of operations, so I look after different programs. The biggest thing we can do is be flexible, be nimble, be adaptive. I've gone out there, I sit on the recruitment and retention committee and it's like if nurses need to work night shifts because of child care or whatever issues, we need shifts that are for nights and I'll be told Oh but the managers need to see them on days so they can check their performance. My response is that managers can come in on nights and see the staff and see the performance. We need weekend shifts if somebody can, they have other commitments and they need, they can work for us. Friday, Saturday, Sunday, 12-hour, in the own collective agreement those provisions are there. We need to be flexible because if we're not giving all night shifts or weekend shifts, there's a hospital down the road that is and people will exodus, they will leave. You have to be nimble that way.

The other thing is you've got to listen to the frontline. The frontline, they're the ones that know what's going on. They're the ones with the best and bright and most innovative ideas. And if you go and ask them, what do you think? What are your thoughts? And then we don't listen, it's like, forget it, you're not listening to me. I'll go somewhere else. I'll take a chance somewhere else where I'll be listened to. There's a lot that organizations can do, but in most hospitals, when you're sick and inside, you are there for 24/7 nursing care, 24/7. The person that's there 24/7, it's not all the others in health. Yes, there might be a duty doctor on, but is 24/7 nursing care that you're there for so you need to listen to the nurses when they tell you what's wrong, what needs fixing, you need to listen.

Organizations that want to attract and keep and retain their nurses listen a lot more and then do what they say because it's important and they need to see you do that. You build trust, you need the credibility and it won't happen overnight. It won't happen after you've listened to a few things. You have to continually go back and demonstrate. Yes, I'm listening, and then when you mess up or screw up, you say, You know what, I messed up. This happened. It shouldn't have happened. Here's what I've learned. Here's what I'm going to do differently. You got to be humble and say, I don't know everything.

I remember at South Lake during the middle of the pandemic, we had a WTF moment because it's we didn't know what was going on, but it was okay to say we don't know. One of the things I do when I go into organizations, I say, Listen, everyone in this organization, there are no problems, no concerns, no issues whatsoever, only opportunities where we can improve, change the language, opportunities for improvement. You're going to see them. You're going to hear about them. We need to know because we are not perfect. We're expecting you to bring those opportunities forward, bring it to your manager so we can learn and grow. That's the only way we're going to get better. No organization is perfect, so you'll go to another place. You're going to find opportunities and so help us out by sharing them with us.

Mildred Ababio: I echo everything that Dionne has says, and she couldn't have articulated any better. During COVID, I was gone for six months. I was at the forefront of the battlefield. Even within the leadership role that I had, I was there, boots on the ground, side by side with my PSWs, my housekeepers, my nurses. We were doing it all. With that being said, to answer the question, I realized that there's been a mass exodus after COVID and one of the things I believe is, you know, bring nurses to the table, start bringing your frontline to the table, and let's have an honest conversation where the leaders are actually practicing active listening, but more importantly, deep listening. I don't, like what the key element here is, Have you heard us? I know the leaders are listening. But the question is, have they heard the nurses? Because I really believe that if they have heard the nurses, then they will start implementing change and we're not looking for major drastic change. Change starts by small increments.

One of the changes is for the leaders now, Dionne is an exemplary leader, and she's the exception to the rule, but for most organizations, you want leaders to show empathy. You want leaders to show emotional intelligence, you want leaders to show authenticity, transparency, right? These are all things that nurses are looking for. Let's change the working condition.  It's important for the leaders, they’re the driving force behind policy making and decision makers and whatnot, but they need to come down to the frontline level. They need to take one day where, you know, don't come in your fancy suit, wear a scrub, put some sneakers on and just follow me, just shadow me and let me show you what my day-to-day operation is. Then maybe they will have a better in-depth understanding.

Money is one thing, but another thing is recognition, empowerment and feeling heard. You can't entice nurses by saying, you guys have done a good job, here's pizza or here's a Tim’s card. All of those elements have been played out. We're at the level where, and I know I speak from both sides being in leadership and having been at the forefront and being on the battlefield, where we don't want that. We want a seat at the table, and we want to put our condition forward and we want to invite the leaders to come down to the frontline level, because at the end of the day, for any organization, the building block and the foundation of that organization is their frontline staff. Without the frontline staff, there is no organization. Senior leadership will not be there because you're the one that's really doing the work. It's important to really listen to the nurses and hearing them to what they have to say and revisit in their working condition.

Another thing that I would say that some organizations failed to do is what happened to the emotional support and the mental health aspect. We all know how devastating COVID was for those that were not working frontline. They have an idea of it and they have an image or they hear from their peers or they hear from their colleagues. Being somebody that physically worked around the clock. I remember one time I literally considered putting a leg bike on because I did not have the opportunity to go to the bathroom and it was just that bad. Our number one goal was better patient outcomes providing care to these patients, but it took a toll on us and nobody stopped to check in to say, How are you guys doing? But really how are you guys doing? Because it's one thing working, but after you finish working, there's a whole process that continues on. Some people, some staff were not even staying home. They were staying in hotels because they didn't want to bring that over to their families. I had to live in my basement and be excluded from my family. I have a child that's immunocompromised and I didn't want to bring that to my child. It was hard for me to be in my basement and not have that physical contact with my family and my kids. I remember my daughter would cry and my son would cry because they wanted to hug mommy. They wanted to be with Mommy, but Mommy could not be with them.

These are all of the other elements and aspects that I feel that sometimes leaders and organizations fail to realize. It's not enough to send us thank you cards. I know of one organization that what they did is they brought on a psychologist just for the staff to say, Guys, I know it's been hard. It's been a hard couple of months, hard couple of years. Let's just talk about what is going on and how can we support you. Nurses will come back naturally because we are caring people and we came into this profession because we wanted to help and we wanted to make a meaningful contribution, but the only way we could do that is by being the best versions of ourselves. So, we as nurses, we have the responsibility to take care of ourselves, but our employers also have the responsibility to accompany us and do what they need to do to support us in taking care of ourselves in order for us to be the best version of ourselves and impregnate our skills, our knowledge and our passion and our dedication back into the organization to render better patient outcome.

Sara Fung: I think you guys brought up so many great points and I think the only other things I can add is I do talk to a lot of nurses at all stages of their career, and there are probably three things that are really impacting them right now. I think first is lack of flexibility in scheduling. As Dionne said, we need to work with staff because we have lives outside of work and when we feel like we have no control over our schedules, that's a huge issue.

The second thing is bullying. Either from peers or from management, there's a lot of bullying that goes on that doesn't get talked about and doesn't get addressed and staff don't have the tools or the resources to address this. Sometimes they feel like the solution is just to leave and we lose a lot of great nurses that way. The other thing is, like you said, James, bad managers. What do we do about it? I think we all like to think that our organizations have great managers, but we know that's not the case, unfortunately. Some sensitivity training or really just being able to call out managers who aren't supporting their staff properly. I think that's really important.

I wish that we could follow in the footsteps of California and B.C. and actually enforce safe patient ratios. I think that is what a lot of frontline workers are looking for, just that reassurance that they will be able to provide safe care, be able to provide the high-quality care that we were all trained to do. It is morally distressing when healthcare providers feel that they aren't able to do so.

One last thing is just what I call feedback fatigue. A lot of times, even when I was in leadership, we would ask staff, what do you want to change? How can we make things better? But we weren't able to actually either make the change or we weren't able to get back to them about what changes were made. They feel like I'm sharing all this feedback about things that need to be improved and I'm not either seeing it or I'm not getting any updates as to where my feedback has gone and it just it doesn't feel like there's any reward for offering these suggestions.

Read More:

Empowering and Uplifting Nurses in 2023

How Recognizing Your Employees Can Lead to a Better Workplace

The Importance of Self-Care at Work

5 Steps to Land your Dream Nursing Job

What are your hopes for the nursing profession, for the next year or next year or two?

Mildred Ababio: Well, my hope is that we can bring back our nurses and that we close the gap that's happening with this mass exodus. I think all the system partners need to sit at the table, put their thoughts together and turn their decisions into action because we all know how important nursing is. At the end of the day, the population is relying on us, the patients are relying on us, the doctors are relying on us, the healthcare system is relying on us, so I really hope that we can come to some form of decision and conclusion sooner rather than later because it's needed and it is good that we're bringing on board all of these internationally educated nurses. We still have to address the problem that's affecting us here at home.

Sara Fung: I think really, nurses need to be given more of a voice. It's been so common that there's a lot of fear and silencing in nursing, fear of speaking up. I think it's really needed because nurses, they don't feel comfortable speaking up. Sometimes they do speak up and it doesn't go well. We need to make sure that nurses feel safe to speak up, we need to give them the space and the opportunity to speak up. I also think without getting too political, I think that the government needs to put more resources and more funding into recruiting and retaining healthcare workers. I just think that there's been a lot of talk and not enough action, so I would like to see more action. I think what we can all do is reach out to your local politicians and see where they stand on health care and educate yourself. When it comes to the next election, make sure you vote for whoever does support healthcare workers and let them know what the issues are.

Dionne Sinclair: Empowering nurses to also, exactly what Sara said, they have a voice, they can step up because you're not there for all the tasks. There's a whole list of tasks like doing vitals, you’re giving meds, you're documenting, documenting, and then some more documentation. You're there because you've gone through school. You've got the knowledge, skill and judgment for your critical thinking. We need you for the times where there's something happening and there's no policy. We need your clinical judgment. A nurse looks at a patient in more than one dimension. They see them holistically. A nurse can walk in a room and look and see somebody is like, okay, this person deteriorating. How do you know that? Well, you don't know. Nurses have their own epistemology where it's like, we know how we know what we know. It's hard to explain to you.

We need to empower nurses to say, No, I'm here because of my clinical judgment and my critical thinking skills. Yeah, I can do vitals with my eyes closed, but you need me here to catch that deteriorating patient. In mental health you need me here to make sure we don't have successful inpatient suicides or make sure the patients, when they need someone to talk to, they know there's a trusted person there at 3 a.m. they can reach out and talk to and somebody who will listen and understand and say, You know what, we need to get you the whatever resource or service or programming you may need to overcome that. We are trusted as nurses. We need everyone else to know and understand that, but we need nurses to know and understand that.

There is this thing called imposter syndrome and I want everyone to take that and just throw it out the window because for nurses and organizations, a lot of it is imposter treatment. Do you really belong here? Do you really know what you're doing? Are you really qualified? Well, if you just showed up, guess what? You’re a novice nurse and your abilities as a novice is what I expect. Are you going to make mistakes? You better. Do not come here and say, Well, I know everything. I'm perfect. I don't make mistakes. When you're graduating to an expert nurse, there are also certain things I'm expecting from you as an expert nurse. But guess what? You are qualified, you are experienced. You took the hardest undergraduate program in any university in this country, that BScN program, do not feel like an imposter. You are a novice, and we need to treat you like a novice, but you're graduating to an expert. Those expert nurses have the knowledge, skill and judgment every hospital, every hospital should treasure.

The other thing we need to do is nurse leaders, they need leadership development. It doesn't happen overnight. You can't yank somebody from the front line, oh you've been five years. They're good enough to be a manager. Good luck. No, there must be development. There must be mentorship, there has to be coaching and there has to be sponsorship. And sponsorship is when I can speak Mildred's name in rooms where opportunity has been discussed. If the Premier says I need someone to sit on a provincial task force looking at nurse care and nursing retention, it's like, you know what? I know this nurse named Mildred, and I believe she's the best candidate for the position.

For the future, I want nurses to feel that empowerment. Own your space like Sara has been doing with her Gritty Nurse Podcast and really say no, I'm here because of the knowledge I have, the knowledge I received in school, but also the experience and knowledge I'm gaining through that experience. Don't expect a brand-new grad showing up to know that nurse didn't know everything is like, Well, I didn't expect her to. I actually expect you to make some mistakes. If you say, Well, I'm here ten years and I've never made a mistake, you're the person I'm more afraid of. You’re lying because the environment is too chaotic. The environment like we've seen how messy things get. You get distracted. Mistakes will happen. But what did we learn? What are you going to do differently?

We need a just culture, no bullying, but we also need an anti-black anti-indigenous culture also in organizations and I only say black and indigenous because we are the two most marginalized groups and until you feel safe, psychologically safe to show up to work, you're not going to have people coming back.

My hope for the future is the empowerment we're going to give nurses to say no. Reclaim your space. Reclaim your authority as the expert, the content matter expert when it comes to quality patient care. You're the one that’s there Christmas morning. Who else is there? Thanksgiving. Who is there any holiday when you want to be home with your children, but you're still there taking care, for a lot of people who have a lot of things to say about, well, I wouldn't have done that. It's like, really? Where were you? You should show up next Christmas and let's chat.

What do you think about this current trend of nurses having side hustles and what do you think would be something that people should consider if they are thinking about getting into having a side hustle business if they already are a full-time nurse and passionate about nursing as well?

Sara Fung: I think that it's something that never occurred to me when I graduated nursing. I was taught you’ve graduated nursing, go get a job in a hospital or work until you retire and that's your path. It took me a while to realize that this is something I could do or even something I wanted to do.

I want to encourage people listening to think big so it doesn't have to be a side hustle. It could be your main business. Maybe it starts out as a side hustle, but if you're able to grow it and you're able to make an income off of it, this could be your main source of income.

What I've seen over the past few years, and especially during the pandemic is the growth of online-based businesses. Selling digital products, coaching businesses, even doing what I do, which is basically over Zoom and sending people documents. I think that it sounds like not a lot, but it really is helping people change their lives.  I really think of nurses as my patients now. I think that it's just something that's really evolving.

One thing that I see a lot in nurses is the lack of confidence to do something different. I think this goes back to imposter treatment or imposter syndrome where we don't see anyone doing what we're doing, particularly nurses of colour. We think that, well, I don't know if I belong in this space, but you absolutely do. There is a place for everyone. There is a niche for everyone. You just need to start doing it. Essentially learning through trial and error is a big part of that process. It's not going to be perfect. I even put a post out yesterday or today where I said, Has anyone ever gotten an IV in on their first try? If the answer is no, it's because you needed to learn through trial and error, you needed to make mistakes in order to develop that skill. That's the same with being in business. I think that it's something that we just feel conditioned to as nurses, as women, as people of colour, that we can't do it because this is a world for somebody else. But you absolutely can do it. I want people listening to know that. Getting back to your question, it is a lot of online stuff, but there are lots of nurses, especially I think she's come on to this podcast as well, Barbara, who owns Your Nursing Educator selling things like nursing reference cards or lanyards like these are all things that we need every day and things that actually help us do our jobs better.

Mildred Ababio: I think it's a wonderful idea and I think we need to support the entrepreneurship and we need to support any nurse out there that wants to go into it, just like Sara said it might start as a side hustle and turn into your main source of income. The beauty about nursing and the beauty about nurses is that we have hidden gems, we have hidden skills, and as nurses, we see things through different dimensions, and we see things and we approach things from a holistic way of doing things. You might have a nurse that maybe is working in critical care, but she has a different set of skills in a different department, different areas. For us nurses, we are forward thinkers, and we are result driven. I think any nurse that embarks into an entrepreneur role or into some kind of business comes from the place of quality improvement.

As nurses, when we're working on the floor, everything we do, you know, we put the care inside, but most importantly, we're doing it because we want to improve. When we see that something is not working, then we want to fix it, right? There are lots of nurses just right here. You've got Dionne that is doing stuff in leadership and in academia and helping propel Black nurses to break that glass ceiling and get into the C-suite. You've got Sara that's helping nurses rebuild their confidence, coaching, mentoring, doing their CV for them to be ready and fit, with their armour guard on to target the workforce. So regardless of what the side hustle is, whether it’s in academia, whether it’s in coaching, whether it’s in consulting, I think it's great.

It's almost like it's funnelling up and it's contributing meaningfully to the overall systemic problem that we have in health care, because every nurse, irrespective of their line of business or whatever product that they're selling, whether it's e-commerce, it's a brick-and-mortar type of services or a consultant or mentoring and coaching, I think it impacts everybody. It impacts the nurse that's doing that business. It impacts the nurse like their target audience, and it also impacts the organization and the overall, which is the healthcare system.

I believe that if you know any nurse out there support their business. Support their business because that's the only way we will help reform the issues that we have in our health care. That's the only way we're going to help each other and, you know, each one in our own specialty, we are helping one another. If we're not helping one another, we are helping those behind us. We are paving the way forward for those behind us to walk through what we've walked through and actually to avoid the difficulty and the challenges that we've walked through.

I would encourage everybody that's out there that knows of a nurse that has an entrepreneurial business or any form of business to encourage it, whether they could use those services, go out there and get the service from your fellow nurse. If it's services that is not necessarily meant for you, spread the word. Sing like a canary, spread the word, spread it in your network, share it, because everybody could benefit from services from a nurse, believe me.

Dionne Sinclair: I am an entrepreneur. I am a business owner. I lead with that because I do not believe that there is such a thing as job security as a nurse, depending on the government of the day. I was around when the Mike Harris government came to town and was laid off with a group of my colleagues. I've worked in an organization where the VP didn't like me, came in and said, you’re really not a good fit for my team, fired me on the spot. No matter where I'm working, even in this position, I do not sit here thinking, Oh, I'm comfortable. This job is secure. I always have a plan B, so any nurse out there listening to me is what is your plan B? What happens if you lose your ability to earn income? And I'm not even saying lose your job. What if you got sick and you didn't die?

One of my businesses as a business owner, I'm in financial services, I've got my license as an insurance agent. Now, with my busy schedule and my Ph.D., I'm not doing it and writing up policies, but I have a team of other business owners that work with me. If I refer someone to them and somebody does do business, I get 50%. For a conflict of interest, I've signed an agreement, I don't talk to anybody at CAMH that I work with. But I do have a lot of friends in other areas and I tell nurses, Listen, you need to be financially literate. I am very passionate about nurses understanding how money works and how they can save and grow their money. The other thing that I had to do when I came as a business owner is learn myself how money works. There are a lot of nurses out there without a will. There are a lot of nurses who are separated. They've never divorced, and they think that oh when something, if they pass, everything goes right to their kids. It's like, no, your ex-husband, that you didn’t divorce, everything goes there, your pension goes there, your kids may not see a dime. You must have a will, have a power of attorney, one for health care, and one for finances. What I do the last Wednesday of every month at, 8 p.m., there is a master class on financial literacy. We talked about how to save and do a budget yesterday. The next time we're talking about the cash flow quadrant and how you need to be a business owner and you need your money-making money for you while you were sleeping because if it is a job that involves lotion, potions, lipsticks or candles, you got to be there. How do you take a vacation? If you take a vacation, your money takes a vacation and so you need something that it'll come in whether you're there or not. That's something I set up myself. It is virtual. You're right across Canada. So if anybody is interested in learning more about it, they can hit me up on LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram.

Financial services is one of the businesses you can get into where you can make $1,000,000 and you can do it again while you're sleeping. Because everyone, if you have a car, you probably have car insurance. You probably don't know who's getting the commission every year that you renew that insurance, do you? It was one of the essential services, banks did not close during COVID. Everything else shut down. But it's an essential service. The government made sure of that. There are a lot of nurses. The other thing is I tell them, you need to be a business owner when it comes to taxes because I know nurses that work overtime, they work a lot of overtime and what happens? They went into a higher tax bracket and what the government do saying, hey, you owe more money because you're now at a 53.3% bracket. What did they do? They work more overtime to try and pay off the taxes. They're away from their families. They're working a 12-hour shift. They are tired. It's like 16 days in a row, which is ridiculous and dangerous.

Go get yourself a business because the Canadian tax code favours business owners. The Canadian tax code gives you tax breaks, tax benefits that you can bring your tax bracket down where you pay less. As a VP, it has helped me because I would be paying a lot more taxes than I do. But I'm a business owner and I've got a tax break. I'm also a landlord. Richard Branson said seven forms of income. You can’t have just one. You need a plan B, you need to get your financial house in order. You need to be a business owner so you can capitalize on all the tax breaks. The rich do not pay taxes, T4 employees pay taxes. If your side hustle involves a T4, there's another job somewhere. You're just putting yourself in another tax bracket. The government's going to get more of your hard-earned dollars. Why not stay home and have your money work for you? I truly believe in side hustles. I've got a few. I'm a public speaker, I'm a landlord. I'm also a business owner in financial services. I'm a licensed insurance agent and I have colleagues who write for me. I get half. 50% is not bad.

From all of us at Caring Support, and on behalf of Dionne Sinclair, Mildred Ababio and Sara Fung, Happy Nurses’ Week Everyone! We appreciate what you do!

About The Author
Cali Wiersma
Social Media & Content Specialist

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