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Inventing the future of health-care with new approaches to care

The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated some of the long-standing issues within the nursing workforce in Ontario. Increased workloads, heightened acuity of sick patients, and delays in graduation for nursing students are all issues that hospitals across the province have been facing – and continue to face – throughout the pandemic.

To fill in these gaps, teams at Sunnybrook have been investigating new ways to provide safe, quality patient care, including the implementation of team-based models of care.

What is a team-based model of care?

A team-based model of care is all about partnerships between various interprofessional members of a health-care team.

How are we doing this?

Sunnybrook has taken two key approaches to team-based care models. This has been done through our clinical extern program, and through redeployment strategies.

Clinical Externships

The clinical extern program invites nursing students to work part-time as members of a health-care team at Sunnybrook. The program helps students gain hands-on patient care experience, while supporting interprofessional hospital teams that could benefit from additional support.

The clinical extern program has been in place at Sunnybrook for a number of years, but was recently expanded when the pandemic was declared. We have now recruited over 75 externs who have joined teams across the organization, including acute care, critical care, and post-acute patient care settings.

Sunnybrook has hired 100% of the clinical externs that have finished their schooling, and are eligible to be hired on as hospital nursing staff.


In order to increase the hospital’s capacity to care for COVID-19 patients, as well as those who require critical care, Sunnybrook has trained and redeployed health professionals from various care areas to provide support on our COVID-19 and critical care units in team-based models.

These redeployments have been key, not only in helping to ensure our COVID-19 and critical care teams are adequately staffed and supported, but they are also providing opportunities for learning and professional growth for staff newly integrating into these care environments.

On Sunnybrook’s critical care unit, 135 acute care nurses have gone on to take critical care specialization training, including acute care nurse Vanessa Honeywell.