Some siblings may only be able to get together during the holidays, or chat during a phone call now again.
But sisters Colleen Backewich and Carolyn Wright have the special honor of working closely together at Grand River Hospital to support the care needs of patients.
The two were born and raised in Waterloo Region. While they started their health care careers in other provinces, they’ve worked together at GRH for the better part of the past three decades.
The two use their combined 60 years of experience to make sure patients get the right care in the right place. As manager of patient access and flow, Colleen is responsible for helping new patients find the most appropriate inpatient bed, and returning them to hospitals closer to their home community when possible. Carolyn is a resource nurse in the surgical program, helping to manage the unit’s bed capacity and also oversee patient care needs.
The two were close growing up. That good relationship helps patients at GRH get the best care, especially given how their entire family has benefited from the support of the hospital.
How did you both come to work at Grand River Hospital?
Carolyn: I’m a Conestoga nursing grad. When I graduated in 1981, there were very few jobs in the area. So I went to Winnipeg for a year. I wanted to come back to this area but there still weren’t any jobs, so I followed some friends to Toronto for three years. I kept applying here hoping that I could get back here. Eventually in 1985, I accepted a full time job on inpatient surgery. About 99 per cent of my time has been in inpatient surgery. I’ve been a resource nurse for five years.
Colleen: I worked at the Calgary General Hospital from 1980 to 1988, and then came back home. I started in GRH’s emergency room, and then went to the staffing office. From there, I went to be the lead in the patient registration area. Then Lynne Julius (former GRH associate VP) created a new position advocating for our patients, called the manager of patient access and flow. Now, I have two great teams… the patient registration team and the inpatient admitting team.
How do your roles interact on a daily basis?
Carolyn: as a resource nurse, we carry what’s called the bed board. So for all the patients who are coming and going from our floor, we identify admissions and discharges. Once a patient is discharged, we welcome new patients. Colleen and I are often on the phone discussing patients, what beds are they going to and what beds are available. We meet daily at the hospital’s bed meeting.
Colleen: Carolyn and her team and physicians identify a patient who could possibly go to another hospital closer to home. I then work with other hospitals outside of Grand River to support getting those patients care paths and getting them home. I also support patients who need to return to GRH after being out of the country who may still need care with us.
Did you ever think 30 years ago that you’d work so closely together?
Carolyn: No, never. It’s nice, certainly we enjoy it. I live an hour from here, so even if we don’t have time to talk because we’re dealing with patients and our roles in the hospital, it’s nice to see each other.
Colleen: I also have a spare room for her because Carolyn lives an hour away on her family farm. Sometimes, the roads will close due to bad weather which will not allow her to get home after work. So she has the room if she needs to stay over.
Did you get along growing up?
Carolyn: Actually, we’re very close and we’ve always been close. We come from a big family, with seven siblings. So Colleen and I have always been close.
Colleen: We find laughter to be the best medicine.
How else has the hospital been part of your lives?
Colleen: I’m a grandmother to three, and those three were born here at Grand River Hospital. Carolyn has supported me with my new role and given care to them. So on days off, she goes and supports my daughters with these brand new babies. Our other sisters are in health care field as well.
We were fortunate by working at Grand River to support both of our parents’ medical journeys. We so appreciate the wonderful care of the physicians, allied health and nursing staff.
What keeps you motivated after working at GRH all these years?
Colleen: When we invite patients in every day, we’re so proud to be part of a collaborative team. And that’s what we call family.
Carolyn: I’m proud that I’ve worked here all these years. The team that I’ve worked with and the people that I’ve met have been very supportive. We have such an awesome group of people, everyone is so dedicated. Staff come early, they stay late. My job is easier because of the team I work with. I feel blessed because I get to work with my sister.