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Q&A with Lee Ringer, clinical nurse specialist for seniors

Toronto, June 30, 2015

By Leslie Shepherd

Lee Ringer
Lee Ringer, clinical nurse specialist for seniors. (Photo by Yuri Markarov)

Lee Ringer is the clinical nurse specialist for seniors, or, as she notes, “I’m a senior caring for other seniors.”

Q. Tell us about your role.
A. It’s a multifaceted role involving clinical assessments, education, research, advocacy and leadership. I see frail elders throughout the hospital for comprehensive geriatric assessments. We see all new patients with fragility fractures and all new geriatric trauma patients in the TNICU. The only unit where we don’t see patients is maternity. I advocate for compassionate person-centered care of the frail elderly. A lot of my work involves educating families and caregivers and linking them with resources.

Q. What does your average day look like?
A. I start around 8 a.m., reviewing new consultations for the day. I follow up and problem-solve with inpatients, for such things as their health status and behaviours of concern that may be challenging. I work on the senior friendly hospital strategy and I do a lot of education and a great deal of public speaking throughout the hospital on topics such as responsive behaviours or the difference between dementia and delirium.

Q. How is the aging population changing health care?
A. We’re seeing a tsunami of older people as the baby boomers get older. People are living longer so they are living with more co-morbidities and chronic diseases. Falls are a big issue, as well as polypharmacy – taking too many medications – dementia and delirium.

Q. Tell us about your special interest in dementia.
A. In my previous position I worked with people with responsive behaviours in long-term care facilities. When I came to my present position, I identified learning needs for the frontline staff to manage responsive behaviours in acute care. I started to do research and education and working on committees to bring in training for people living with dementia and delirium.

Q. Getting old is hard. It is also a triumph. Can you tell us a senior who is a role model for all of us?
A. Hillary Clinton. At the age of 67, when she could be thinking about retirement, she’s planning a new career as candidate for president of the United States.

About St. Michael's Hospital

St. Michael’s Hospital provides compassionate care to all who enter its doors. The hospital also provides outstanding medical education to future health care professionals in 27 academic disciplines. Critical care and trauma, heart disease, neurosurgery, diabetes, cancer care, care of the homeless and global health are among the hospital’s recognized areas of expertise. Through the Keenan Research Centre and the Li Ka Shing International Healthcare Education Centre, which make up the Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute, research and education at St. Michael's Hospital are recognized and make an impact around the world. Founded in 1892, the hospital is fully affiliated with the University of Toronto.