Making Waves: At the helm of the emergency department in Halifax, Breanne Gillis recognized with Award of Distinction for work as Clinical Lead

Breanne Gillis is the 2022 recipient of the Making Waves Award of Distinction for her work as Clinical Leader and Registered Nurse in the Halifax Infirmary emergency department.

The Making Waves Award of Distinction recognizes an exceptional Nova Scotia Health team member in their consistent and focused delivery of outstanding service to patients, families and their colleagues. This award is presented in recognition of the highest level of contribution and achievement to an individual who is highly regarded by their peers and patients.

Gillis has transitioned to a new role with the Nova Scotia Health Trauma Program as Provincial Education Lead and credits her experience in the emergency department as a key factor in the successful career she is building in health care.

Q&A with Breanne Gillis

Tell us a bit about yourself; what you do, where you are located, and your favourite part about it.

“I have worked in the Halifax Infirmary Emergency Department for the past decade, and since 2019 I have worked as a full-time Clinical Lead. When people ask me what I do, I say ‘I am the go-to person for the entire emergency department, like the captain of the ship’. I make decisions about patient flow, manage competing and ever-changing priorities, communicate with families and coordinate care with physicians, nurses, paramedics, police, and others. While it’s a big job, I have found a lot of success and built great relationships through my work.

These relationships are the best part. The respect and trust I have for my team, and that they have for me makes me incredibly proud. To be the person people look to for solutions, ‘the fixer’, is an honour.”

How do you feel your work contributes to the health and wellbeing of Nova Scotians? Why is it important?

“In many ways, the emergency department at the Halifax Infirmary acts as a hub for accessing urgent health care in Nova Scotia. We fill in gaps for those who need access to primary care, people come through the emergency department on their way to the cardiac catheterization lab (Cath Lab) if they are having a heart attack, people come through our doors if they need emergency neurosurgery, we have people being brought in from across the province by Emergency Health Services (EHS) LifeFlight and more. My work in ensuring things run smoothly helps us see more patients and ensures we are there to care for those who need it most in an emergency.

What does it mean to you to receive the Making Waves Award of Distinction?

“It feels incredible to receive this award, especially when seeing the other dedicated health care professionals who have also been recognized through Making Waves and knowing that it was my peers who nominated me. I bring my best to my work every day, so it’s rewarding to have someone recognize that even when there are some days in the emergency department that can make you feel very defeated.  I am also grateful that I can help bring some awareness to the complexity of this job and the incredible work being done in the emergency department to care for Nova Scotians who need it most. We are doing our best so it’s encouraging to receive the recognition.”

As this year’s recipient of the Making Waves Award of Distinction, how do you hope to inspire others who are working to make a difference in the lives of Nova Scotians each day?

“I hope that the way I work inspires others to bring a positive attitude to work every day, no matter the circumstances. We are encountering patients and families who are often having the worst day of their lives—my goal is always to lead with compassion, clear communication, and swift action to help. In the tough moments, I always think of Finding Nemo’s Dory and her ‘just keep swimming’ mantra. We need to keep moving forward for our patients, hang in there and know that our work is making a difference.”

Congratulations, Breanne. Your work as Clinical Lead in the Halifax Infirmary emergency department and now with the Nova Scotia Health Trauma Program has made and continues to make a significant impact in the lives of Nova Scotians. You are an inspiration to your colleagues at Nova Scotia Health for your ability to rally a team and rise to any occasion in the name of patient care. Thank you.