“Lakehead University’s nursing program is outstanding,” Pat says. “My degree prepared me to work in many healthcare settings in acute care, long-term care, community, and government.”
Alumna Pat Piaskowski is a Leader in Infection Control
“It’s so wonderful to be in Canada,” says nursing alumna Pat Piaskowski, “and to have such strong organizations, groups, and networks of individuals working so hard to control COVID-19 and protect the health of Canadians!”
Pat has been an infection control (IC) consultant since retiring from Public Health Ontario in 2015. Now she’s ready to step up and help fight the COVID-19 pandemic – and she has over 40 years of healthcare experience on her side.
She earned a nursing diploma in 1979 from Confederation College in Thunder Bay and several years later enrolled in Lakehead’s nursing program, completing her degree via distance education. She excelled in her studies, graduating with her Honours Bachelor of Science in Nursing, First Class Standing, in 2003.
“I remember doing classes by teleconference at the LU Faculty of Education building with a group of healthcare colleagues who were returning to get their degree. Many of us were already in healthcare leadership positions and wanted, or needed, to upgrade our qualifications.”
Pat’s nursing career began in Thunder Bay homes for the aged where she was eventually took on the role of nursing program developer before moving into infection control.
“During a Norovirus outbreak at the homes I was appointed infection control nurse. A few years later I became the director of care at the former Central Park Lodge.”
Pat received her Certification in Infection Control (CIC) in 1991 and was hired as the sole infection control professional (ICP) at the Thunder Bay Regional Hospital in 1993, now the Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre (TBRHSC). For nine years she worked with staff, managers, physicians, and local public health professionals to control and prevent infectious outbreaks like resistant bacteria (MRSA, VRE and ESBLs), Norovirus, and SARs.
“I still get emotional talking about the nurses and doctors who became ill or died during SARS. I am very concerned about the health of all our healthcare workers during this current COVID-19 pandemic.”
After leaving the TBRHSC, Pat was instrumental in setting up the first of the Province of Ontario’s regional infection control networks and later became one its first regional network coordinators. This entailed providing infection control training and education materials to healthcare organizations across Northwestern Ontario. An average road trip was over 1,200 km, Pat recalls, and included collaborations with remote and urban First Nation communities.
Dealing with threats to the lives and health of patients and staff has given Pat the ability to thrive in high-stress situations. She volunteers with Shelter House and her church and relies on her religious beliefs and family and friends to keep her strong. “My eight grandchildren give me so much hope for humanity and our future,” Pat says. She’s also a fan of camping, fishing, family dinners, and barbecues – “the noisier the better.”
In the last few months, Pat has been turning her attention to the crisis engulfing the globe.
“I just completed a contract with the Public Health Agency of Canada as a scientific writer for the revised infection control document for COVID-19 in acute healthcare settings,” she explains. Pat has also taken on an unofficial role – confronting and correcting the onslaught of false information about the virus circulating on social media.
The Lakehead University community is honoured to share the story of this distinguished alumna – Pat Piaskowski makes us Lakehead proud.
Pat Piaskowski was an inaugural member on Ontario’s Provincial Infectious Disease Advisory Committee (PIDAC), the editor in chief of the Canadian Journal of Infection Control, and the co-founder of the International Infection Control Council.