Making an impact with care and compassion

Early on in January, before the COVID-19 virus was prominent in the media, Syncrude’s Health Services Area Leader Gladys Hokanson and her team were watching its developments and getting prepared.

As a member of Syncrude’s Covid Response Team, Gladys plays an important role in helping protect the organization from the impacts of COVID-19. She leads her team of nurses and industrial hygienists with the latest information and resources, and with care and compassion.

This Women’s History Month, Syncrude is proud to celebrate women such as Gladys, who have made, and continue to make, a lasting impact within the organization.
Gladys has extensive experience in the nursing field. Completing her RN when she was just 19 years old, she quickly began working part-time towards her nursing degree. She rotated through different positions with most of her experience in the hospital in acute care and emergency. Living in rural Manitoba, nurses provided the highest level of care. This included during ambulance transfers to the city critical care units as there were no paramedics.
In 2001, Gladys made the move to Fort McMurray and was hired by Syncrude. While she’s experienced many challenges and opportunities throughout her career, leading during the pandemic is unlike any other.

This pandemic is very different from what we’re used to in traditional nursing. We initially didn’t have a lot of information to guide us such as managing a measles outbreak for example.

– Gladys hokanson

“Instead, we’re dealing with something new that the world doesn’t know much about. Our team of nurses and industrial hygienists have had to be very adaptive to keep on top of the constant change.”
While the world learns more about COVID-19, Syncrude’s team of health professionals are tasked to learn quickly and roll with the changes.

“There are many brilliant minds studying this virus and how it affects people and spreads. However, so much can change within a short amount of time due to new learnings. We could roll out something one day and then have to tweak it the next. We can only do our best to provide care based on what’s known in the medical community at that time,” says Gladys.

Strong communication with the team is key.

Syncrude’s health professionals work closely together to communicate learnings, while also being responsive to questions.

For Gladys, mental health is especially important to take care of during these challenging times.

“Everyone has been affected in different ways. Make sure to carve out some time in your day for your mental health,” says Gladys. “It’s important to find ways to really shut down your mind and focus on something else to de-stress. For me, it’s exercise. For someone else it could be puzzles to shift their focus, or having conversations with friends and family, or it could be turning up their music really loud. It’s different for everyone.”

Take your vacation days and breaks when you’re feeling overwhelmed at work. And remember to be there for your teammates and check in with one another.

– Gladys hokanson

As for advice to other women who want to make a difference: “Step outside of your comfort zone and embrace change. This is how you experience growth and accomplishment,” says Gladys. “It wasn’t until I got to Syncrude that I thought about leadership. I was encouraged to look at the direction by someone who believed in me. That’s the great part of working here – you’re never really on your own. Whether you take on a new role or project, someone will be there to help mentor you.”
In 1992, the Government of Canada deemed October “Women’s History Month.” The month-long celebration recognizes the outstanding achievements of women throughout Canada’s history. As part of this celebration, Syncrude is recognizing some of its outstanding employees throughout the month.

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