PFCC Star of the Month: Marie Antonacci, Assistant Nurse Manager, PICU

Matthew Park, our PFCC Star in May, nominated Marie Antonacci for this month’s award. “Marie embodies the concept of patient- and family-centered care and she’s an example for all the PICU staff,” says Matthew. “She takes a collaborative approach to working and partnering with families, and she ensures that respect, dignity and participation of the most vulnerable patients always remains at the heart of our PICU mission.”

Marie is one of three assistant nurse managers in the Children’s pediatric intensive care unit (PICU), a role she has held for more than two decades. Even before she came to the PICU, Marie was aware of the importance of patient- and family-centered care. “It’s one of the things that attracted me to pediatrics when I was a student nurse, the idea that working with the child means working with the family too,” she says.

Marie says the evolution of care and technological advancements in critical care have meant significantly better outcomes, but one thing hasn’t changed: many families still experience enormous stress and strain when their child is in the PICU. “The parental role is limited in the context of a PICU admission so it’s up to us to see how we can partner with families to be involved in their child’s care.” Part of helping families in the PICU is providing psychological and social support. Marie is at the centre of this. “I coordinate the core psychosocial group in the PICU which includes Lise Gagnon, Judith Legallais, Jennifer Bourque, and Matthew Park from the hospital’s Child Life, Psychology, Spiritual Care and Social Work services respectively. They are an amazing group.” The team meets daily to discuss the type of support that can be offered to each family on the unit. They focus on making the family’s experience as positive as possible, and accompanying them through their child’s illness. “The PICU has always been very open to including families in care,” she says, “and it’s essential as health care professionals to partner with families and determine the best way to support them and to ensure they feel they are being heard.”

Parents as partners

In the past couple of years, the PICU has invited several parents to join their committees. “We had a transition group leading up to the hospital’s move to the Glen site in 2015, but once we were here, there were still a number of projects to work on so the group evolved into what is now our PFCC committee,” says Marie. “The parents on our committees are really motivated to make changes and it’s important for them to see that we also want to make changes to make family life better in the ICU. Sharing their past experience in the PICU and giving us feedback is very special. It’s a gift for us.”