Career Profiles:
Shaye Martorino, RPN

Shaye Martorino has achieved numerous remarkable feats throughout her career. Yet, some of her most significant accomplishments almost never materialized when the trailblazer briefly pondered departing from her practical nursing profession for a career in law enforcement. However, an extraordinary opportunity reignited her passion for nursing, compelling Shaye to remain an RPN. She realized that nursing was an innate gift she simply couldn't set aside.

Shaye first became an RPN after graduating from Fleming College in Peterborough in 2012. Her diverse professional background encompasses direct care roles across various sectors, including acute care and community. Notably, Shaye devoted a significant portion of her career to serving at the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) in Peterborough. Additionally, she contributed her expertise to educational institutions, such as Trinity College School (TCS) in Port Hope, where she served as a school nurse. Shaye’s multifaceted experience, including her role as a substance care nurse collaborating with psychiatrists, has allowed her to deepen her comprehension of mental health and concurrent disorders.

“I’ve always been passionate about mental health,” reflects Shaye as she contemplates her career.

Prior to the pandemic, Shaye briefly considered a career change; however, her plans took an unexpected turn when she came across a job posting on WeRPN’s website, prompting her to reassess her options. The listing led Shaye to Inner City Health Associates (ICHA) where she dedicated herself to supporting individuals experiencing homelessness at a COVID-19 recovery/isolation site. In this role, Shaye tackled a range of responsibilities, from providing acute episodic care to addressing complex health needs such as untreated chronic diseases, multi-system illnesses, mental health disorders and substance use.

“At my core, I’ve always been dedicated to a person-centered approach and respecting individuals’ autonomy,” says Shaye, adding that she couldn’t pass up the opportunity to work for an organization that is committed to addressing and confronting the social determinants of health and homelessness. “It’s more than just a job; it’s a personal commitment to making a difference in people’s lives.”

Recognizing the lack of access to care in many emerging isolation sites, Shaye and her ICHA colleagues spearheaded the development of the Enhanced Shelter Support Program (ESSP), a nursing-led initiative aimed at supporting marginalized populations.

“It’s a harm-reduction approach,” she explains. “You meet people where they’re at; you engage with the clients and allow them to come to us.” This ethos guided the creation of Regional Mobile Nursing, an initiative Shaye co-developed and now leads as a Senior Nursing Manager at ICHA. Operating in three distinct regions, Mobile Nursing provides episodic and transitional care for clients in shelters and supportive housing, prioritizing equity of care.

“Overall, my greatest success and challenge of being in my leadership role is that it has allowed me to mentor nurses in adopting approaches and care strategies that empower them to address multiple health condition stigmas simultaneously,” says Shaye. “Using a trauma-informed approach, a non-judgmental approach, allows us to be client-centered, creating the ability to prioritize the needs and preferences of those we care for, but it doesn’t come without its challenges as we navigate the inequities that exist within healthcare.”

Shaye’s dedication to breaking down barriers in healthcare is deeply rooted in her client-centered approach. Drawing from her experiences running a community methadone clinic, she emphasizes the importance of building systems that prioritize the needs and autonomy of clients. “The stigma faced by individuals struggling with substance use disorders still exists,” she observes. “By stigmatizing, we create barriers to care and affect one’s ability to connect and engage in their care.”

Her commitment to inclusivity and empowerment is evident in her approach. “By providing clients with autonomy, you acknowledge and respect their decisions, regardless of what they are,” she asserts.

Throughout her career, Shaye has been inspired by a diverse array of mentors, including colleagues and healthcare leaders like Jennifer Kedwell, Leigh Chapman and Dr. Adil Shamji. However, she attributes much of her growth to her clients, whom she considers her greatest mentors. “First and foremost, it’s been my clients; those who have entrusted me to participate in their care,” she says, emphasizing the foundational role her clients have played in shaping her practice.

Looking ahead, Shaye is determined to obtain her RN designation and remains committed to breaking down barriers to ensure equitable access to care for all. “By having an awareness of all the services available and reducing barriers to access care, providers will be better able to connect with their clients,” she asserts.

Shaye’s story serves as a testament to the transformative power of compassion and dedication in nursing. As she continues to advocate for marginalized communities and challenge the status quo in healthcare, her unwavering commitment to fostering inclusivity and empowerment shines brightly, illuminating a path towards a more equitable future in nursing.

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