Know Your Heroes: Salima S. J. Ladak

Name: Salima S. J. Ladak
Title: Nurse Practitioner, PhD
Number of years working in health care: 25
I was born and raised in: Born and raised in Tanzania in my early years and have called Toronto my home for more than 30 years.

I decided to get into health care because I was guided in my early years to use education to help make a positive difference. I was taught that receiving knowledge was a privilege, and that it had to be used for a positive purpose. As a student, I was naturally interested in health sciences, especially biology. My mother chose a career in nursing, and I believe this had a significant influence on my decision to also choose a career in health care.

My role here at UHN is to provide clinical care as a nurse practitioner – which is a leadership role – to patients with varying pain pathologies, including those who are post-operative and those with chronic and complex pain. Recently, I have also been appointed to lead our department’s Acute Pain Service Quality Initiatives which is really exciting. In this role, I am working with teams across the hospital to bring new pain therapy options to patients on the wards, plan interprofessional education, conduct and also translate research.

The thing I love the most about my job is the opportunity to be able to make a difference as a clinician and as a leader, as well as to grow in my specialization, having support to do so, and help others grow. I’ve been fortunate to be trusted with the responsibility of advancing new organizational initiatives that make a difference to patient care. These initiatives have addressed medication and non-medication pain relief methods. I have also focused on anticipating and building clinical capacity among health professionals so that ultimately, the patient receives the best possible option for their pain relief. I provide leadership to the UHN Pain Advanced Practice Nurses’ Network which delivers the UHN Pain Resource Nurse Program. This is an example of delivering additional pain education and mentorship to selected registered nurses. More than 200 nurses across UHN graduated from this program and have since went on to make a difference in their own clinical areas and help improve pain practice.

The most incredible thing I’ve seen at work is the transformation in clinical care and clinical practice.  Once a therapy or medication becomes available, or a new program is introduced to positively impact pain management it’s amazing to watch it take off and become part of the routine, like “it’s always been there.”  And being part of that change is humbling.

I’m inspired by colleagues and mentors who are relentless in pursuing excellence in quality of care and expect the best of themselves so that patients can ultimately achieve better health and quality of life.

I’m also inspired by what can sometimes appear to be challenging in evolving structures and processes – and what I have come to learn repeatedly is that there is always a way forward through partnerships and focus.

I sometimes worry about – I wouldn’t necessarily say I worry about this – but I do think about health systems, and the way in which they are rapidly evolving. For example, in pain management, I am very mindful of the continuity of care in pain management for patients being discharged from the hospital. This is especially the case when they have complex pain pathologies which require on-going management following after hospital discharge. Having this awareness makes me focus on ensuring that I am part of building systems, such as our Transitional Pain Service, and also that I learn about other appropriate community-based health teams who can continue to help patients after they are discharged.

I’ve found joy recently from being an aunt to two energetic, curious and fun nieces. Their questions and view of the world is refreshing and there is pure joy in being in the moment with them.

My favourite book is Charlie and the Chocolate Factory because it captured my imagination when I was young, and recently I read it back to back – twice – to my nieces. Reading this book to them brought back not only memories of when I was introduced to the book, it created new memories as I watched them enamoured at the magic of the words and characters of the book.Their request of “Come on one more page, Aunty” will always make me smile.

My ideal day off is one that starts with freshly brewed steeped tea, a day where I can spend time in nature and in the company of those dear to me. I also don’t mind a trip to the spa now and again!

By making a gift through Honour Your Hero, patients and their families have an opportunity to express gratitude and share a message of thanks with staff across Toronto General and Toronto Western hospitals and Toronto Rehab for their care, compassion and support while also making a difference – now and in the future. 

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