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Nurse with young woman in wheelchair
Bloom Blog

Sarah inspires a nursing culture of collaboration

By Louise Kinross

Sarah Rumbolt has received Holland Bloorview’s first Daisy award for nursing leadership. For the last 18 months, Sarah has been the clinical resource leader on our inpatient unit that supports children following painful bone surgeries and traumatic spinal-cord injuries. “Sarah’s strengths-based approach translates to a team that feels psychologically safe to approach her for guidance with a question or for help in problem-solving a complex clinical or non-clinical issue,” wrote Maryanne Fellin and Rachna Chaudhary in their nomination letter. BLOOM interviewed Sarah about her role.

BLOOM: How did you get into nursing in the first place?

Sarah Rumbolt: I’ve grown up around it. My grandmother was a nursing aid who worked in a hospital. My cousin’s daughter was born without a femur and had an amputation, and then came to what was Hugh MacMillan for prosthetics. I’ve always been a caretaker, and my mom says I always wanted to make sure everyone was okay. Through high school, I was a Special Services at Home worker with a child with cerebral palsy, which taught me more about this environment. My mom has been the primary caregiver for my grandparents, so I’ve had lots of exposure to health care growing up.

When I was in high school, I did a provincial wide co-op program where I worked at what was then Peel Memorial Hospital. I had rotations in the neonatal intensive care nursery, the asthma clinic, and complex-continuing care. It gave me confidence that this was the career I wanted.

BLOOM: What does a typical day for you look like now?

Sarah Rumbolt: I see myself as a leader for the nursing team. I’m here from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. and I’m responsible for how the unit functions and runs. I coordinate staff and mentorship and work with families and the interdisciplinary team to support nurses on the unit. I do interviewing and training of new hires.

BLOOM: You’ve been here for 12 years and for many years you were a frontline nurse. How are the roles different?

Sarah Rumbolt: I’m still a registered nurse, but I’m not the one providing the care now. I’m more in the background, organizing the functioning of the unit and supporting learning and education.

BLOOM: What’s the greatest challenge?

Sarah Rumbolt: Conflict resolution. Working with different personalities and figuring out what everyone’s strengths are. I build that into how I assign clients to nurses. I want clients to get the most out of their time here, and I have knowledge of who my nurses are, and what their passions are. It’s making those connections and building a cohesive team.

Originally I came into this role as a secondment. The idea was that it was a six-month contract. When you’re in a leadership role, there are policies and procedural things that you have to manage. It was a challenge, initially, to manage people I’d been working alongside for many years. But I’m grateful that they understood that I was coming at things with a professional lens, not a personal lens.

This role has given me a better understanding of how the whole system here works, beyond our unit. It’s deepened my knowledge, and that’s helped me to communicate, and be very transparent, about the many priorities I have to take into consideration.

BLOOM: Greatest joys?

Sarah Rumbolt:  I love developing the nurses we have and constantly helping them progress in their careers and their personal goals. Mentoring them through becoming a new hire, to being a leader on the unit, to becoming the hospital charge nurse is really rewarding for me.

BLOOM: What qualities do you need to be good in this job?

Sarah Rumbolt: Compassion. Organization—being able to manage time and prioritize. Patience and communication skills. Critical-thinking skills, and being able to look at the big picture and reflect. I do a lot of reflection on the decisions I’ve made and what could I have done better.

BLOOM: What emotions come with the job?

Sarah Rumbolt: Frustration. Sometimes a bit of anger. Managing your own emotions can be a challenge on a daily basis. Joy and pride, because I’m so proud of my nurses. We’ve had almost 10 new nurses come on since I’ve been doing this. We need to support the seasoned nurses to mentor the new nurses so we can build a collaborative culture on the unit.

I want to create an environment where we can talk to each other and bounce ideas off each other. We could all be struggling with something, and not know that others are struggling with the same concerns or feelings. One of the key messages I hope to instill is that you don’t have to have all the answers. Be that nurse who will say ‘I don’t know, but I will find out.’ I want them to depend on each other.

BLOOM: If you could change one thing about inpatient rehab, what would it be?

Sarah Rumbolt: In the last couple of years we’ve been managing with the same resources, but with a higher census and more complex clients. In an ideal world, we need more bodies and more equipment.

BLOOM: How did you react to hearing you’d won this award?

Sarah Rumbolt: I was very emotional. I felt like if they feel I’m doing this role justice, I’m going in the right direction. It gave me a little more confidence in what I’m doing on a daily basis.