Meet an IBD Nurse Superhero
For over 30 years, Krista Uusoue has walked the hallways of The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) – a place she proudly calls home – as a nurse in the field of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), supporting kids and teens from the time they learn that they have IBD to transitioning to adult care. Krista is receiving Crohn’s and Colitis Canada’s 2020 Nurse of the Year Award for her commitment to fostering an encouraging community and ensuring her patients thrive throughout their journey with IBD.
In her teenage years, Krista worked at summer camps and as a swimming instructor – all clear signs she was destined for a career focused on helping youth achieve their goals. Torn between teaching and nursing, Krista opted to enroll in the Nursing Program at Seneca College after an inspiring conversation with a family friend working as a nurse. While completing her degree, Krista set her sights on landing a role in the Department of Pediatrics at SickKids – a goal she accomplished coming right out of college.
When Krista joined the inpatient side of the gastroenterology (GI) ward, she had little knowledge about IBD, but quickly discovered her passion in health care: supporting kids and teens facing these chronic diseases. Krista worked as an IBD nurse with the inpatient unit, providing bedside care to those newly diagnosed and starting therapy or admitted to the hospital as their disease was flaring. She also worked in the endoscopy suite for several years, assisting physicians with upper and lower endoscopies as well as comforting patients undergoing the procedure.
After stepping away from nursing for a few years to raise her children, Krista joined the team at SickKids once again, but this time as an IBD Research Nurse, helping patients and caregivers understand new treatments changing the landscape of patient care.
After spending several years as an IBD Research Nurse, Krista is now an IBD Clinic Nurse with SickKids’ Division of Gastroenterology, Hepatology, and Nutrition. Recognized as the glue that holds the team together, she’s part of a passionate multidisciplinary clinical team comprised of IBD physicians, nurse practitioners, health psychologists and dietitians all working to ensure the wellbeing of patients living with Crohn’s disease or colitis.
On a daily basis, Krista provides educational and emotional support to patients and caregivers. She sits with them at the time of diagnosis, providing a shoulder to lean on while explaining what the diagnosis means and next steps to ensure they thrive despite the challenges that often come with Crohn’s or colitis.
Her advice to newly diagnosed kids and teens? “Take a deep breath. It is going to be okay. We are all here to support you. Tell us what you are thinking and what your goals are. Let’s work together to help you achieve them.”
Her patients know she is always there to support them, sharing that seeing her big smile and hearing her joyful laugh makes you know that everything will be okay.
As caregivers learn how to navigate their child’s diagnosis and how to best support their journey with IBD, Krista always reinforces, “They are the same child as they were before the diagnosis. Take a big breath, and make sure you empower your children.”
There for her patients every step of the way, Krista triages questions or concerns between appointments, guides their transition from pediatric to adult care, and helps build their confidence to communicate their needs and about their journey with the disease. Reflecting on her experiences, Krista shares, “It’s an honor to be able to build relationships with kids and teens as well as caregivers affected by IBD to help them learn about the diseases and thrive.”
Krista is a strong advocate for her patients. She educates teachers and students about IBD, supports teenagers in progressing towards independence with their health care, provides guidance for teens attending their first adult GI appointment, connects youth and teens in the IBD community for peer support, and diligently works to ensure all patients receive the very best care from the health care system.
Krista’s commitment to supporting the IBD community inspired her to launch new initiatives at SickKids. Through the New Patient Night, she virtually connects those newly diagnosed with a multidisciplinary team so they can ask their questions about everything from healthy eating to available support programs. She also coordinates the annual IBD Family Night, uniting patients and caregivers with health care providers for theme-based education sessions. Understanding the importance of peer support, Krista hosts Teen Nights, providing the opportunity for teens living with IBD to connect and share their experiences with one another.
For nursing students and current nurses looking to transition into the field of IBD nursing, Krista highly recommends it. She says, “The relationships you develop with a family who has someone living with a chronic illness is a treasure. You are able to be part of a journey they did not sign up for, but will face their entire life. To be able to help them along their journey and be a stable force is a rewarding experience.”