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SickKids ACTS team brings ‘Our Kind of Nursing' to patients — wherever they are
4 minute read

SickKids ACTS team brings ‘Our Kind of Nursing' to patients — wherever they are


Meet Debbie, a Registered Nurse Clinician with our Acute Care Transport Service (ACTS) team who has been at SickKids for more than 20 years.

“Your child is now a patient of SickKids.”

It doesn’t matter where in Ontario this conversation is taking place — the child could be a few blocks down the street from The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) or more than 400 kilometres away in Sudbury — as soon as the Acute Care Transport Service (ACTS) team arrives on the scene, SickKids standard of care arrives with them.

This is what Registered Nurse Clinician Debbie McFarlane says to families to reassure them their child is in good hands. As a nurse clinician with the ACTS team, McFarlane and her team respond to calls for emergent and urgent transports and bring critical care resources to patients, wherever they are.

“We bring SickKids to you,” McFarlane says. “This starts from the time we receive that phone call to when the child is at the hospital.”

ACTS Registered Nurse Clinician Debbie McFarlane stands next to a mobile NICU incubator wearing a mask.
“There’s no place like SickKids,” says ACTS Registered Nurse Clinician Debbie McFarlane, who has been at SickKids for more than 20 years.

ACTS is made up of specially trained registered nurses and registered respiratory therapists, in concert with critical care physicians. In partnership with Toronto Paramedic Services, dedicated paramedics and ambulances allow ACTS to respond to transports in a timely manner. For McFarlane, having the opportunity to utilize the extensive training her team has been given to make a difference in a child’s life is what keeps her at SickKids.

“We have the training and expertise to anticipate what could happen,” she says. “It’s a rewarding feeling to leave your shift, absolutely exhausted, and to know we did our absolute best. That there was no stone left unturned. To know you’re literally changing outcomes for children and families.”

McFarlane has been a SickKids nurse for almost 22 years, and her passion for the hospital has only grown. But you never forget what it’s like to be new, she says. When she first started, she felt young and inexperienced, but she recalls feeling nurtured as a learner right from the start. From dedicated mentors with decades of experience (whom McFarlane calls “rockstars”) to the months of partnered shifts, she always had people to go to for support.

“What attracted me to SickKids was the layers of support in terms of education and learning available to me,” she says. “It really put a strong foundation under my feet.”

Today, McFarlane passes six hospitals in her commute to work each day. But she has no interest in working at another hospital. There’s a reason she makes a 90-minute commute, she says, and a big part of that reason is the compassionate, intelligent and committed team she gets to work alongside.

She describes her team as “some of the brightest minds in health care.” In addition to the care providers at SickKids, McFarlane is also referring to the other partners in care that the ACTS team works with. She points to the educational opportunity to teach and learn from the physicians and clinicians from other hospitals who are caring for a child.

“We really have a partnership with the community that is so unique. Our colleagues are not just in this building, they’re outside of it as well,” McFarlane says.

For McFarlane, our kind of nursing is innovation. It’s being on the forefront of the best care there is in the field you’ve chosen.

“It’s such a privilege to do what we do,” McFarlane says. “I always say, there’s no place like SickKids.”

Feb. 18 marks Critical Care Transport Nurses Day! Thank you to the bright minds that make up our ACTS team.

To read more, check out the recent Toronto Star article on SickKids’ ACTS team.

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