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Supported each step of the way: Ashlynn’s journey from student to full-time nurse at Sunnybrook

Written by Lindsay Smith

When Ashlynn Aucoin started a placement at Sunnybrook as a nursing student, she knew she would learn a lot about providing high-quality patient care. What she didn’t know yet was the support and mentorship she received here as a new nurse would turn this into her dream job.

“It [is] a really great learning environment and people are super eager to teach you,” Ashlynn said. “Also, there’s … lots of unique things that you only see at Sunnybrook.”

In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic ended her consolidation hours — a for-credit placement required for her nursing degree program — but since she was still interested in working for Sunnybrook, she was referred to the Clinical Extern program. Clinical Externs are nursing students who gain on-the-job training while increasing their understanding of interprofessional roles within health-care teams. Not only is it an opportunity for students to gain confidence as nurses, but the externship program also enhances the overall quality of care for patients and families.

Ashlynn was interested in learning more about cardiology and, as an Extern, she was assigned to that unit where she says she was warmly welcomed, received excellent teaching and was able to assist in providing high-quality care to patients and their families.

“I learned a ton,” she says.

Following her externship, Ashlynn registered for the Nursing Graduate Guarantee (NGG) initiative, a program offered through the Ministry of Health that matches nurses with employers and provides nurses with a mentor and increased support in their new nursing role. After one year, participants are guaranteed a position with the employer.

After completing the NGG, Ashlynn was hired into the Acute Care Nursing Resource Team (ACNRT). While working as a member of that team, Sunnybrook sponsored Ashlynn in the completion of her Emergency Department certification. Now that she has completed the Emergency Department certification, Ashlynn has started her newest role as a registered nurse in Sunnybrook’s Emergency Department. She says the mentorship she received as an Extern and in the NGG program has helped her feel prepared to succeed in her newest role.

“I had a good foundation. My transition into independent practice was I think as smooth as it could have been because of the support I got,” Ashlynn says.

Ashlynn credits Sunnybrook for investing in its nurses. Becoming a nurse during a global pandemic isn’t easy, and moving into more independent practice where she will have greater responsibility can be a little scary, but she says she has never once felt as though she has to manage these feelings on her own.

“Being independent in my practice doesn’t mean being alone in my practice when I’m at Sunnybrook,” she says.

The support and mentorship is valuable, but Ashlynn says it doesn’t mean it’s made the work easy. And for nursing students who are considering employment in a hospital setting, she advises not getting stuck on how difficult or scary it might be.

“It’s challenging, but if you’re in the right environment that supports you, the growth that you get as a nurse and a person is worth the difficulty,” she says. “When you’re in a new environment that builds you up like that, you become a better nurse and what scares you now just won’t scare you later.”

About the author

Lindsay Smith