Sung-Ju Hong poses in a hallway at Michael Garron Hospital.

Meet Sung-Ju Hong, Registered Nurse at Michael Garron Hospital

Tell us about yourself! 

My name is Sung-Ju Hong, and I am a Registered Nurse and International Board Certified Lactation Consultant. I work in Michael Garron Hospital’s Special Care Nursery (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit) and Breastfeeding Clinic. I started working at MGH in 1999. 

What motivated you to join MGH?

When I moved to Toronto from Korea, I received a Canadian nursing license which allowed me to secure a position at a nursing agency. In the six months that I worked there, I was assigned to MGH quite a few times and I got to know the nurses well. One day, the Patient Coordinator at MGH told me there was an opening for a part-time nurse, and suggested I apply. She was a good mentor – she took me directly to the department’s director, who asked for my resume. I ended up getting hired because of the Patient Coordinator’s endorsement of me and I’m still here 25 years later.  

What types of learning, mentorship or professional development opportunities have you had the opportunity to pursue since joining MGH?

I’ve had many of these opportunities at MGH, but I will describe my top three experiences: 

  • In 2002, only a few years after I started working here, I volunteered at the medical tent that was set up for MGH (then known as Toronto East General Hospital), at the World Youth Day event in Downsview Park. I worked a 12-hour shift and it was an extremely hot and humid day. So many people came to the medical tent dehydrated and I was thrown into fast-paced situations where I had to think quickly on my feet. It was only a one-day experience, but I learned so much that day.  
  • In 2016, I started working as a Lactation Consultant (LC) in addition to my nursing role. Since I began working in the Special Care Nursery at MGH, I've always advocated for the benefits of breastfeeding when it is an option for the parent, so this was one of the best opportunities I could have received. It has had a positive impact on my career and given me job satisfaction. 
  • I have had several teaching opportunities throughout the years. I taught breastfeeding classes to new hires and existing staff. I have mentored many midwifery students, nursing students, and new staff. By teaching, I have learned a lot about myself and it has helped me grow in my nursing career. 

Can you share your career path at MGH?  

1999: I was trained as a nurse in Korea and while I lived there, I worked in a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). When I moved to Canada, I was able to secure a position in the Special Care Nursery in MGH's Maternal, Newborn and Child Department. 

2016: I became an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (LC). After more than 10 years in the Special Care Nursery, I started working as an LC at MGH. In my role, I have seen many people who wanted to breastfeed face challenges with the process. In some cases, they needed encouragement and reassurance. I wanted to be the person who could provide this to them. In other cases, our team was happy to provide people with other options for safely and effectively feeding their babies. Breastfeeding can be a learned experience, and any individual who would like to explore it should have resources available to them. 

2017: I was officially hired in a joint role as a LC in the Breastfeeding Clinic and as a Registered Nurse in the Special Care Nursery. The position, Registered Nurse - Special Care Nursery/Breastfeeding Clinic, was created as the hospital recognized that there was a benefit of having experienced neonatal nurses working in the Breastfeeding Clinic. As trained nurses with years of experience, we can respond to the health needs of the babies and families that come through the clinic.  

What motivates or inspires you?  

I'm very proud of what I do and I know I have touched many lives positively. Promoting breastfeeding and caring for babies gives me intense job satisfaction.  

When I graduated from high school, I didn’t plan to have a career in nursing. It was my father who encouraged me, as the job market was good for nurses at the time. Once I graduated, I was placed in the NICU, which wasn’t my first choice. However, I came to like it, mainly because a neonatologist I worked with in Korea inspired me so much. 

When I came to Canada and started working as an RN in the Special Care Nursery at MGH, it was the nurses I worked with who inspired me and supported me in becoming a skilled, experienced nurse. Today, I'm trying to play the same role by helping new nurses. I give credit to my colleagues at MGH for why I feel motivated to come to work. I have worked with so many kind and caring nurses. Working in a supportive environment makes me feel secure and brings out my best performance.  

Nursing is very complex, and the challenges we experience on the job should be relieved in positive ways. Everybody has their own way of practicing self-care, but mine is walking, yoga and meditation. Sometimes when I come home from a 12-hour shift, I do stretches and meditations. After that, I feel recharged, relaxed and ready for another day. Despite the challenges of being a nurse, it is all worth it when you can deliver happiness to your patients and save lives. 

If you could share one memorable moment from your time at MGH, what stands out to you? 

I have many memorable moments in my nursing career, but one of the best moments I had was as a patient. Thirteen years ago, I delivered my daughter at the Family Birthing Centre at MGH. I decided to have my baby at MGH because I felt more comfortable having my colleagues help me deliver my daughter. I had an amazing obstetrician and labour/delivery nurse, but it was a postpartum nurse to whom I was most grateful for.  

It was not an easy delivery, but shortly after her birth I felt good and wanted to have a shower. My postpartum nurse warned me that I should wait a little longer to shower, as I may feel faint standing up. I waited until she left and got out of bed and tried to walk to the shower (I can be stubborn at times). Suddenly, I felt faint and my husband caught me before I could fall. When the nurse came back, I told her about the incident and that I should have listened to her. She didn’t say “I told you so” – she kindly offered to help me clean myself. This nurse was so gentle and caring while she was helping me. I still remember the warm feeling I had at the time. She sadly passed away a few years later, but I will never forget her.  

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