Lawrence S. Bloomberg Faculty of Nursing

Alumni Spotlight: Donna Ruffo

Bloomberg Nursing alumni do extraordinary things in the communities in which they work and live, and we take great pride in the work they do. To date, there are nearly 6,000 Bloomberg Nursing alumni, all of whom have made or continue to make a positive impact in the world of nursing.

Donna Ruffo is one such alumni.

Title: Nurse Practitioner, Geriatric Medicine

Hospital: North York General Hospital, Medical Program

Hometown: Sudbury, Ontario

Current city: Toronto, Ontario

Year of graduation: Class of 92; Class of 98; Class of 2004

Interests, activities, clubs and professional organizations:

Photography; Dance; Travel; High Intensity Interval Training

Member of:Nurse Practitioners’ Association of Ontario and Gerontological Nursing Association

What was the most valuable lesson — inside or outside the classroom — you learned as a student at the University of Toronto?

When I look back on my educational experiences, the most valuable lesson I learned is that perseverance always pays off. As a young graduate from the nursing program I always knew that I wanted to pursue graduate studies so shortly after graduating I applied to the Masters of Science in Nursing Program. Unfortunately I would receive a rejection letter from Barb Johnathon from the Faculty of Nursing letting me know that I was unsuccessful. I was devastated and felt like a failure.

After much reflection I decided that if I really wanted to pursue graduate education then I would need to understand why I wasn’t accepted and what I could do to increase my chance the next time I applied. I called Barb and met with her. She was so kind and took the time to provide me with her thoughts on what I needed to do. I was so grateful for her assistance as this allowed me to grow as a nurse and be successful in pursuing my professional goals. Failure did not become my destination. It allowed me to persevere and provided an invitation to try harder and not give up. In 1998 I graduated with a Master of Nursing degree with a focus in Gerontology.

In 2004, I graduated with a Nurse Practitioner certificate while working full time, being a mother to a busy 3-year-old girl, and giving birth to my son right before the triple jump exam. Without that lesson years before in perseverance, I may not have been so successful.

Greatest professional accomplishment:

I have been fortunate enough to work at North York General Hospital since July 1999. I first started as a Clinical Nurse Specialist in Geriatrics and then in 2004 transitioned into the Nurse Practitioner role. I was the first the NP at North York General so there was lots of work to be done regarding helping many staff, physicians, patients and families understand the scope of the role and how I could contribute to patient and family centered care through my clinical leadership, research and education.

My greatest professional accomplishment has been successfully implementing the numerous scope of practice changes in the NP role that have been formally going on since title protection back in 2011 but realistically since my transition into the role in 2004. Collaborating with the Chief Nurse Executive and numerous stakeholders over the years, including a very supportive Geriatrician physician group I believe, allowed me to be a successful change agent with this role integration.

Favourite Bloomberg Nursing professor:

Wow, this is a difficult question since I have been a student at UofT over a period of so many years!

When I think back to my 3rd year clinical experience as an undergraduate, Joy Richards (now Vice President Patient Experience & Chief Health Professions at UHN) really had an impact on my confidence and helped me look at nursing from a holistic perspective. She really helped me to “get it”.  She encouraged me to begin to bridge my novice clinical practice with the theoretical aspect of nursing. To get comfortable in “being with” a patient; listening; caring; developing a deeper understanding of the relationship between nursing and patient care. It was her kind and encouraging nature that led me to want to pursue graduate studies.

What is your favourite thing about nursing?

My favourite thing about nursing is having had the privilege of being part of so many lives over my 25 years as a staff nurse, educator, Clinical Nurse Specialist and now Nurse Practitioner. I truly respect the opportunity that I get every day as a nurse to partake in the health care journey of our seniors and their families. Their stories, emotions, hopes and fears are real and not to be taken for granted. The ability to “be present” during times of happiness, uncertainty and sadness have allowed me to become a better nurse and human being.

What advice do you have for current Bloomberg Nursing students?

My advice is simple. Follow your dreams and never give up. Set goals and persevere. Use failures as the stepping stones for success. Have the confidence to believe that you were meant to make a difference in the lives of people through your love of being a nurse.



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