We are Niagara Health is a series of stories that celebrates the incredible people working and volunteering in our organization and how they make a difference in the lives of patients and coworkers every day.
Kayleigh Tyrer has a folder of photos on her phone labelled ‘Fiona.’
Fiona is Fiona Peacefull, Niagara Health’s Executive Vice-President of Human Resources. And the folder, filled with shots of Tyrer’s latest home renovations to show Peacefull the next time the two see each other, is emblematic of the friendship they have struck.
Before they were sharing home interior photos, though, they were sharing in Tyrer’s professional development journey, with Peacefull mentoring the quality and patient safety specialist as part of Extraordinary Us, a Niagara Health professional growth and development mentorship program that launched last year.
“She is the future of Niagara Health,” Peacefull says about Tyrer. “What I admire about Kayleigh is she’s so focused on serving Niagara Health. She’s so motivated to be inspired by the work and be a positive influence. She has so much to give.”
Last March, however, Peacefull and Tyrer were strangers, sitting side by side in a conference room at the St. Catharines hospital, waiting to find out who they would be matched with in the program.
Then a pilot program, Extraordinary Us focused on providing equity-deserving physicians and staff with professional career and skill development, focused goal setting, methods of navigating and accessing resources, and networking and relationship-building opportunities.
Applications to be part of the second cohort of Extraordinary Us open Thursday, Feb. 8. The program runs from March to September with mentors and mentees meeting in person, virtually or a mix, one to two times a month during that time. Fifteen people will be matched with mentors, which include many of Niagara Health’s executive leadership team.
“As things come up, I know I have a safe space and person to go to and have someone to ask questions if I need help. I feel like I have a friend for life.”
Peacefull and Tyrer were one of 11 pairs from the inaugural cohort. Tyrer, a registered nurse by training, was at a juncture in her career where she needed clarity on her path forward and Peacefull, in the later stages of her career, was keen to help much the way her own longtime professional mentor, Dr. Robin Williams, former Niagara Region Medical Officer of Health and Member of the Order of Canada, supported her.
But knowledge wasn’t shared in only one direction.
“Because we’re in different phases of our careers, I was learning things from a clinical perspective because Kayleigh was a neo-natal intensive care unit nurse,” Peacefull says.
Inspired by Tyrer’s renovation photos, Peacefull also gave a bathroom in her home a facelift.
“Kayleigh is an incredible interior decorator,” she says.
In addition to meeting one-on-one or networking with others in the organization, Peacefull and Tyrer would also catch up with the entire Extraordinary Us group to have tough conversations in a safe environment about diversity, equity and inclusion at Niagara Health and in healthcare. It was an opportunity for everyone to share their struggles and feel validated, they say.
“It was nice to see others like myself in positions of leadership, and know the organization values equal opportunities for people,” Tyrer says. “This was a great opportunity not only to gain a mentor but a whole group with shared values, and to find a way I can bring both my values and where I want to go in my career together for a clear path forward.”
That path seems to be leading toward pursuing leadership opportunities where she can combine her clinical lens with her passion for improving the care experiences of patients and their families at Niagara Health.
“I’ve been able to create meaningful relationships with others across various portfolios, and we all come together for this shared goal,” Tyrer says. “I’m motivated to act as an advocate for our patient and family voices and I am seeking opportunities to situate this at the forefront of the work I do.”
She also foresees continuing to meet regularly with Peacefull – as mentor and mentee and as friends – even though the requirements of their Extraordinary Us cohort have ended.
“This was an invaluable experience. Beyond the mentor and mentee relationship, this is the beginning of a friendship,” Tyrer says. “As things come up, I know I have a safe space and person to go to and have someone to ask questions if I need help. I feel like I have a friend for life.”
“I feel the same,” Peacefull says. “We were the perfect match.”