Ryan Bisessar, MBA, RN, is currently the head nurse of the pulmonary rehabilitation unit at Mount Sinai Hospital. During COVID, he worked on the pulmonary rehabilitation ward, took on a higher managerial role on the long-term care ward, and completed his MBA. He was interviewed by Christina Claussen on August 31, 2021.
Finding a Balance
Ryan Bisessar had been a manager for over 10 years when he took on the position of head nurse of the pulmonary rehabilitation unit at Mount Sinai Hospital in Montreal. A year and a half into his new position, COVID struck and Bisessar found himself dealing with "a whole different level of management."
One of the hardest things he had to deal with was reassigning people to hot zones or to different units. "You have to call them and tell them and they're crying over the phone," he said. "Then you have to be willing to listen."
Listening to his employees was something that Bisessar already knew the value of, but the pandemic really brought home the importance of good communication. "As a good manager, what I try to do — or at least I think what I do — is always give the information to my staff and keep them updated. … Communication is key, especially during times like that," he said.
This was especially challenging in the early days of the pandemic as information was constantly being updated, but Bisessar is upfront with his staff. "Even today I would say we're still missing a lot — but we're working towards it," he explained. "I really try to have that bond with the employees, so there's a building of trust and transparency. Because then when you ask for something from your employees, it's easier for them to say yes to you than no."
Bisessar worked hard to encourage teamwork on his unit. "I was thinking in terms of everybody else, because that's the type of person I am," he said. "I like to put others first and to think about, OK, what am I gonna do? How am I gonna set up my unit? What can I put in place?" The head nurse even went to so far as to buy eye protection for his team out of his own pocket.
"When you have good teamwork, it creates a positive environment," and that environment in turn promotes healthy teamwork, he said. "I think even with the pandemic, we have healthy unit."
Others took notice of Bisessar's team building abilities and by the second wave of COVID, he was offered a new management position in a long-term care unit. "When I got that offer it was really difficult because I wasn't expecting it," he said. Not shy to take on new things — the head nurse was still finishing up an MBA in French (his second language) during the pandemic — he accepted the job. But it wasn't an easy decision. "It was really a difficult time for me because my nursing staff is everything to me," he said.
Things did not go smoothly. As well as overseeing his own unit, Bisessar was managing a group of managers as well. "I had to act in a dual role," he said. "I would find myself working at least twenty hours a day. Some days I was so short staffed because people were off and people were on sick leave, I had to come in to swab the residents because a person became positive."
Bisessar realized he wasn't happy. It wasn't the long hours, or being pulled over by the cops on his way into work after hours during the curfew, or the cyberattack the hospital underwent soon after he started the position — after all, Bisessar was no stranger to challenges. When he really thought about it, he knew it was because he missed his team. "They are caring. They are hard working. It's like we're a small family," he said. "It's the culture of a unit that makes it so you love coming to work."
So, for once, Bisessar put himself first. He returned to the pulmonary rehab unit. "I think sometimes we tend to forget, especially when we're in a management role, about self-care. I chose to go where my heart is," he said. "I chose to go do something I cared about."