Siobhan Pickering standing in front of a colourful wall at MGH
Siobhan Pickering

#IamMGH – Meet Siobhan Pickering

#IamMGH tells the stories of our people. In celebration of Emergency Preparedness (EP) Week 2023, meet Siobhan Pickering, Emergency Preparedness Specialist at Michael Garron Hospital (MGH) since January 2022.

“Emergency preparedness may be a relatively new area of focus in healthcare, but it’s one that is integral to ensure the safety of staff and patients in any type of emergency.

I became interested in emergency preparedness while I was completing my undergraduate degree in International Development at the University of Waterloo. My human geography professor was passionate about natural disasters and that sparked my interest in how emergencies are managed. I went to Nepal for eight months to work in emergency response after their earthquake and then decided to further my experience by applying for a Master’s program in Crisis and Emergency Management at the University of Portsmouth.

While I was in school, I never thought I would end up in healthcare. But in the middle of my Master’s program, we were hit with the COVID-19 pandemic and I was sent back to Canada to complete the rest of my degree from home.

Studying crisis management while in the middle of a real, global crisis was an eye-opening experience. Most of my professors were involved in emergency and pandemic response and were working with the government or other organizations while still teaching classes. Because of this, we had a first-hand account of what was going on in England and across the globe. There were not many as systems and practices in place before COVID-19, so everyone had to learn on the go, think on their feet and constantly adapt. That experience really highlighted the importance of emergency preparedness in healthcare for me and is part of what drove me to apply to MGH.

My role as Emergency Preparedness Specialist is new to the organization and is always evolving. Because healthcare is a part of critical infrastructure, it is vital to ensure that our staff and facility at large is prepared and protected for emergencies and that we know how to mitigate and respond as needed. It’s also important to ensure that we, as a hospital, know how to keep our patients safe and how to continue providing care in the event that something happens.

As a part of my role, I work with teams throughout the hospital to promote awareness about the types of emergencies that can occur and help people understand what their role would be in any given kind. We do this through training and education along with simulations/exercises that help people respond to different types of emergencies in real time. 

There are many things I love about working at MGH but one of the main things I love is how I get to work with so many different teams and programs throughout the hospital. Everyone has a different view of what emergency preparedness is and what it means to them. Healthcare is the backbone of any community, so being able to work in a community hospital is a really unique and fulfilling experience.

This week, MGH is celebrating Emergency Preparedness Week which is an annual celebration that provides individuals with an opportunity to take action and ensure that they, their families and their communities are able to protect themselves from or during an emergency.

If there was anything I could ask people to do this week, it would be to take the concept of emergency preparedness outside of work and look at implementing it at home. There are many resources available online through the Province of Ontario and the City of Toronto that can teach you how to keep your home and families protected in the event of any type of emergency – be it a fire, natural disaster or something else. We may not know when an emergency can strike but we can definitely be prepared! And that is what emergency preparedness is all about!”

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