POGO Interlink Nurse Marilyn Cassidy is a recipient of a 2017 Canada Cares Professional Caregiver Award. In the 42 years that Marilyn has been a nurse, she has worked at CHEO for 24 of those years and has championed childhood cancer care as a POGO Interlink Nurse at CHEO for 19 years.
According to Marilyn, “One of the things I love most about my work is the daily opportunity and challenge of trying to make the difficult journeys for patients and their families even just a little bit easier in my role as a POGO Interlink nurse, as well as the definite privilege of working with the most amazingly resilient children and their families. I am probably most proud of the CHEO Buddy Program, Quality in the Community, that we have developed over the years. The program is supported by Camp Quality and we partner with the University of Ottawa medical students to provide buddies for approximately 20 patients per year. This program has brightened the days of so many of our patients, provides respite for parents and provides med students, our future physicians, with a wonderful perspective on the family experience during treatment.”
Marilyn’s nominators had this to say:
Marilyn is compassionate, her work is knowledge based, family centred and highly principled and she enriches each of us who are given the opportunity to work with her.
Marilyn’s work with the Interlink team involves advancing the quality of life for children with cancer and their families and forging diverse community partnerships including social services, parent groups and schools. She has been involved relentlessly in school support and reintegration for children and their siblings.
She has been a mentor to many over her 40-year nursing career, including nursing and medical students; preceptorship and teaching to the greater health care community with in-services, presentations and involvement in pediatric oncology research.
Families from CHEO who come to Toronto for care praise her gentle, kind, knowledgeable work. Families come prepared and supported and remain connected to her while they are away from their principle treatment centre. She is respectful and flexible and has an innate ability to understand the nature of being a child with cancer, a parent watching their child go through treatment, and the sibling who often feels left out. She goes above and beyond, advocating for families on a personal and community level, helping drive provincial policies.
Her work with POGO highlights her ability to see the big picture and her committee work is the driving force that keeps the work moving along. She identifies needs and gaps and works to find resources and supports to fill the gaps. Currently, she is involved in several initiatives in POGO’s Provincial Pediatric Oncology Plan that advances the existing childhood cancer system.
As her POGO Interlink colleagues, we value her ability to think outside the box and therefore advocate beautifully for the oncology patients. Her wisdom and drive not only benefit her patients but all children with cancer in Ontario.
Marilyn has so many qualities but I think her main strengths are sustained energy, creativity and a drive to never stop improving service to patients, families and the community. She is a natural leader, leading by example for us all to benefit. Marilyn is exceptional! I cannot think of a better person to aspire to and to acknowledge in this way.
POGO Interlink Team Leader
Our nurse Marilyn Cassidy, Interlink nurse at CHEO, has always gone above and beyond for our family. Right after diagnosis she presented us with many things to look forward to such as the Children’s Wish Foundation. Every time she saw us, she took her time to sit in our room, gave us her undivided attention, and truly listened to how things were going. She made me feel like we were her only family that day. She would stop by our hospital room and ask questions that truly showed me that she cares! So when I’d call her after hours at 6pm she never rushed my concerns and always made me feel better by providing community resources and solutions. Marilyn is such a caring a committed nurse and she leaves a lasting imprint on her patients lives during the worst months of their lives.
–Excerpt from letter written by an Ottawa mom of a four-year-old survivor