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CAMH Stories Centre for Addiction
and Mental Health

The power of life-long learning – meet two CAMH nursing leaders

TORONTO, January 4, 2017 - After many years of front-line and leadership roles in nursing at CAMH, Wendy Fenomeno felt “there was still something missing.”

“I like to learn and I wanted to explore some new areas of leadership, education and policy in my profession,” says Wendy, who is Manager of CAMH’s Medical Withdrawal Service and CAITS -- Concurrent Addictions Inpatient Treatment Service.

Alexis Siren and Wendy Fenomeno
Alexis Siren and Wendy Fenomeno

She went back to school a few years ago to complete a nursing master’s degree at Ryerson University. Her studies there -- as well as her six-month internship back at CAMH today, focusing on change management -- were supported by the Barford Advanced Practice Nursing Scholarship and Internship Program.

Wendy’s fellow Barford intern this year is Alexis Siren. She started her career just a few years ago at CAMH and is now a Nurse Manager Intern. Her current focus is to build her management and leadership skills. In addition to receiving guidance from a network of senior leadership mentors, Alexis is working closely with Wendy, benefiting from her knowledge and experience as a primary mentor. Alexis also brings to the table her own ideas, analysis, and experience in acute mental health care.

“Mentorship is a driving force behind the Barford Program,” says Margaret Gehrs, CAMH’s Barford Scholarship and Internship Coordinator. “It’s a three-way street: mentees, mentors and CAMH all benefit from this emerging group of nursing leaders.”

Barford scholars and interns may go on to lifelong careers at CAMH and drive key initiatives in areas such as safety and risk assessment, care planning and best practices, clinical informatics and management,” says Margaret, who is also a CAMH Director of Inter-professional Practice. They also share knowledge as conference presenters and authors on journal publications at the national and global level.

“The Barford scholars and interns at CAMH are our nursing leadership of the future,” she says. The Ralph M. Barford Foundation and the John and Jocelyn Barford Family Foundation have committed $750,000 over 11 years to this remarkable program, which continues to enhance innovation, scholarship and quality of care in the nursing discipline at CAMH.

Let’s meet Wendy and Alexis and find out more about their journey and partnership.

Wendy Fenomeno
Wendy Fenomeno

Wendy: Going back to school later in my career, and taking part in the Barford scholarship and internship, I really have felt enriched by knowledge. I can think about challenges, and problem-solve in a different way. I think I am a more reflective practitioner and leader for our programs. CAITS and our Medical Withdrawal Service provide medical and psychiatric care to clients who have substance dependence challenges. These may involve alcohol, opiates and other drugs.

Alexis Siren
Alexis Siren

Alexis: My interest is in nursing leadership. Wendy has provided mentorship around the core skills of being a manager -- problem-solving, decision-making and conflict resolution. I have been able to observe and assist Wendy with responsibilities such as staff schedules, communication for quality improvement projects, and trouble-shooting unexpected challenges, such as addressing a client safety issue. She’s also helped me think about what kind of leader I want to be. During my scholarship previously, my mentor Dr. Kristin Cleverley helped me to understand the big picture of our profession. I’m lucky to have had so many great mentors in my career. That extends as far back as when I was a nursing student in my third year at Ryerson. My placement that semester was at CAMH’s Women’s Inpatient Unit. My preceptor there, Cindy Demakos, provided such excellent, client-focused care. This really inspired me to see how much of a positive impact nurses can have -- and to see the opportunities in mental health nursing.

Wendy: My internship project, focusing on change management for the CAITS program, lets us step back to look at the big issues including the needs of our clients, our physical space, and our approach to recruiting great staff to deliver care. I can share some of my knowledge with Alexis; likewise, she has an opportunity to take on and experience the key elements in the process.

Alexis: Coming from an acute mental health care background in a busy inpatient setting, I am able to see issues through that lens and bring some new perspectives.  On the client care side, that might involve assisting in decision-making when a client is experiencing emotional dysregulation (such as anger or mood swings) and requires a transfer to another unit for increased monitoring. On a project level, the knowledge I gained completing my masters degree has helped me on projects such as creating an evaluation model for an outpatient addictions service. I can participate fully in those discussions to create an evidence-based evaluation process.

Wendy: I find that as a mentor, I also learn a lot about myself. Alexis will bring new ideas and ask “why” – this gets you to step back and reflect on your own leadership. You can also ask that “why” question in the case of establishing more effective working relationships with a diverse range of people in the organization – to understand personalities and what motivates different people, how you can work with them effectively.”

Alexis: Wendy and all of my mentors have really encouraged me every step of the way and supported my leadership skills. They have offered their counsel but also have always been available to me.

Wendy:  I want to continue to open doors at CAMH – through new experiences, projects and managing my teams.

Alexis: I am currently pursuing some potential management opportunities here at CAMH and looking forward to interviewing this year. There are many great options. It’s an exciting time -- and I appreciate the support from CAMH as well as the Barford program.

Mentorship Network
Mentorship Network (from left): Advanced Practice Nurse Sara Ling, Wendy Fenomeno, Program Director Raj Sohi, Margaret Gehrs, Alexis Siren. Not pictured: Advanced Practice Clinician Kirstin Bindseil, Senior Organizational Development Consultant Lisa Duggan.

Learn more: about the Barford Program in context of the vision for nursing at CAMH.

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