October 12, 2022
RN Kelly Haygarth, a cancer patient navigator at Bonnyville Community Cancer Clinic, is one of the first nurses in Alberta to earn the de Souza Nurse Associates designation, which recognizes her dedication to continuing education and her profession. Photo Supplied.
LPN Candace Syrowitz, who works in Systemic Therapy and Radiation Therapy at the Jack Ady Cancer Clinic in Lethbridge, says she’s thrilled to have earned the de Souza Nurse Associates designation. Photo Supplied.
Story by Kelly Morris
Dedication to their profession and continuing education has earned two nurses national recognition as de Souza Nurse Associates for their work in cancer care with Alberta Health Services (AHS).
Kelly Haygarth, a Registered Nurse who serves as a Cancer Patient Navigator at Bonnyville Community Cancer Clinic, and Candace Syrowitz, a Licensed Practical Nurse who works in Systemic Therapy and Radiation Therapy at the Jack Ady Cancer Clinic in Lethbridge, are the first Alberta nurses to receive this designation since the program started in 2016.
The de Souza Institute is a national organization that provides online continuing education for healthcare professionals working in cancer and palliative care. Currently, there are currently more than 900 Alberta Health Services (AHS) nurses enrolled.
To achieve the de Souza designation, both Haygarth and Syrowitz successfully earned 4.0 continuing education credits in cancer care, completing courses that covered competency areas such as evidence-based care, therapeutic relationships and professional development as well as patient teaching and education.
“Candace and Kelly are passionate about person-centred care in oncology and palliative care,” says Candis Bilyk, director of Clinical Transition Education for AHS. “These are shining examples of nurses who engage in life-long learning to build new knowledge and best practices in the pursuit of delivering outstanding care to patients and families.”
Oncology nurses with AHS are introduced to the de Souza Institute when they participate in the Oncology Practice Readiness Education Program (O-PREP). O-PREP education is considered the standard for initial orientation of all new hires in Cancer Care Alberta (CCA) and select oncology inpatient units.
“The O-PREP program started within Cancer Care as a way to orientate new hires to the foundational oncology knowledge they would need,” says Elysa Bathe, provincial educator and coordinator for O-PREP.
All oncology nurses complete orientation courses through O-PREP which, once completed, opens a learner pathway to further education opportunities. With a desire to further advance their skills and competencies in oncology, Haygarth and Syrowitz enrolled in courses offered by de Souza Institute.
“It’s really impressive that these nurses have done this,” adds Bathe. “The two foundational courses are worked into orientation … so these nurses have gone over and above the requirements — and have really done this to better their own learning and to be able to provide even better cancer care.”
Haygarth says that the additional knowledge and experience allows her to better advocate, and to go the extra mile, for her patients and their families.
“Achieving my de Souza nurse associate designation has provided me with extensive knowledge of treatment protocols, patient complications and psychosocial care — and addresses cancer-related distress experienced by patients and families,” says Haygarth.
“I will use the knowledge I’ve gained to continue to support my colleagues through mentorship, and to help provide and promote holistic person-centred care for the people we serve.”
Syrowitz says she’s thrilled to be among the first nurses in Alberta to be recognized with the de Souza designation.
“The benefit in pursuing this designation is being recognized and awarded as someone who has completed extra education to gain knowledge and skills to better serve patients,” says Syrowitz.
“Completing courses within different categories of care in order to achieve designation helps me to embody a more holistic approach to care. It's been a privilege to have these courses at my fingertips.”
The landscape of cancer care changes quickly. By continuing their education and pursuing a variety of courses, AHS nurses are able to better support patients and families in their cancer care, not just medically, but also their social and emotional needs.
“As a centre of excellence in continuing education in cancer care, and in close partnership with Alberta Health Services, the de Souza Institute is proud to support nurses like Candace and Kelly by providing them with the latest knowledge and best practices, and assisting their efforts to deliver high-quality care to patients and their families,” says Dr. Jiahui Wong, manager of Curriculum and Program Evaluation with the de Souza Institute.