From the Frontlines with Krystal Mack, Providence Manor

From the Frontlines with Krystal Mack, Providence Manor

Despite the challenges of adapting to an evolving crisis, Krystal Mack and the team at Providence Manor in Kingston have truly shown up for the residents in their care.

Show Summary

Welcome to From the Frontlines, a special Healthcare Change Makers mini-series. Healthcare providers and support staff have been on the frontlines, fighting for Canadians since the start of this pandemic. In this series, we’re handing the microphone over to some of those amazing individuals.  

Today, Philip De Souza, Director of Communications and Marketing at HIROC, speaks with Krystal Mack, Administrator of Providence Manor – a 243-bed long-term care facility in Kingston, Ontario. 

As part of the Providence Care Corporation, Krystal and her team leverage community connections to bring a wealth of knowledge and expertise to the home. When faced with the challenging nature of the pandemic, this emphasis on partnership has only increased in Kingston. 

In this episode Krystal shares some of the programs and initiatives on the go at Providence Manor to ensure patient experience and the safety of staff and residents continue to come first. 

Krystal has been amazed by the dedicated nature of the staff who, when faced with what turned out to be a false COVID-19 positive at the home, stepped up and put patients first. This, Krystal says, is not an act of heroism because it’s not a one-time thing. This dedication is something Krystal is blessed to be a part of on a daily basis through her work. 

Key Takeaways

  • (1:05) Krystal tells us about Providence Manor and her role in the home
  • (2:36) The dedication and spirit of Cathy Szabo, CEO of Providence Care
  • (3:23) A focus on mental health of the residents and the staff in such trying times through ethics rounds, recreation programs, and more
  • (6:19) Moved by the dedication of her team, the pandemic has magnified Krystal’s view of how the staff live their mission
  • (7:33) When asked about “healthcare heroes”, Krystal says this is more than a one-time act of heroics
  • (9:19) When Providence Manor had one case of a false positive for COVID-19, Krystal admires her staff who stepped up, put their heads down and did the work
  • (10:45) Working with community partners in the Kingston region

Mentioned in this Episode


Philip De Souza: Hello listeners. I'm Phillip De Souza, Director of Communications and Marketing at HIROC. First, I want to thank you all for taking the time to listen and follow our podcast, Healthcare Change Makers. It means the world to us. Over the past few months, we've seen how healthcare providers and support staff have been the driving force fighting for the health of Canadians. We're also very grateful. We've truly been inspired by resiliency. And so we thought we'd hand the mic over to some of those very amazing individuals on the front line. 

Today we have Krystal Mack. She is the Administrator of Providence Manor in Kingston, Ontario.

Imagine you could step inside the minds of Canada's healthcare leaders, glimpse, their greatest fears, strongest drivers, and what makes them tick welcome to Healthcare Change Makers, a podcast where we talk to those leaders about the joys and challenges of driving change in our complex and demanding healthcare organizations.

Philip De Souza: So Krystal, can you tell us a little bit about Providence Manor and what you do there?

Krystal Mack: Providence Manor is a 243-bed, long-term care facility, which is part of the Providence Care Corporation, which encompasses Providence Manor and the 270-bed Providence Care Hospital. So it's part of the larger corporation. What I do at Providence Manor in my role as Administrator, I feel like I'm a jack-of-all-trades. I'm a nurse by trade. And so I have very close affiliations and collegial relationships, but also obviously in my role, I have the responsibility for overseeing all the departments in the home. Being part of the corporation, I actually have the pleasure of having the support guidance and oversight of senior leaders from the Providence Care Hospital. So many of the departments in the home actually are overseen by the larger corporation, which gives me an opportunity to garner the support, direction, knowledge of all of those team members.

And one of the big departments that I oversee here in the home of course is nursing... we have access to professional practice and other nursing-related supports from the hospital, but that is one of the big parts of my portfolio. So I do have a direct impact and influence over what happens with the care of the residents.

Philip De Souza: So Cathy Szabo your CEO is the one that connected us together. So what is it like working with Cathy? She used to be a HIROC board member and she's a long-time partner of HIROC's.

Krystal Mack: Honestly, she's the right person at the top of this corporation because she just is so knowledgeable, so connected, and she's a real pleasure to work with. Cathy and my Director came to the home one day and did the screening at the front door as an opportunity to congratulate staff, be present and hear from anybody that wanted to chat. And she's just so spirited and so interested and so dedicated to the work. So again, she's the right person to be inspiring us and guiding us through all of this.

Philip De Souza: So Krystal, this is a tough time for all Canadians. How do you keep morale up when it comes to the team, but also to the residents in your care?

Krystal Mack: One of the big things that we do is try to share as much information as possible. We have information at the front, we have a screening table at the front door and behind that we have an easel on which we post information for staff. We also have point people that with significant information go up into the home, to the respective resident home areas and share information face to face so that they can pick up any questions or concerns from staff that they can feed back into our incident command group.

Some of the things also that we do is just a fun things, like treats. We've had the support of a few vendors locally who have offered to send in treats for the staff, everything from sweets to bags of chips, to beverages. And we have a table at the front of the house where staff can access those treats a free of charge just as a bit of a morale boost and a bit of a break time snack.

We also have just talked recently about reinvigorating our ethics rounds, where in our spiritual health consultants go and visit with staff and hear from them at a really gutsy level about how things are going for them. That's something that we instituted even before the pandemic. And it really is a wonderful forum for staff to just really explore some of the sort of moral distress that they might be experiencing around a particular issue. And of course at this point, it is around the pandemic and anything that they might be facing that they want to put out there and talk about, which we see is really beneficial for the mental health of the staff. And in terms of the residents, there's lots of great stuff going on. In terms of connecting and remaining connected with families, we're doing window visits, we're doing virtual visits, through iPads and FaceTime, and we have phone calls as well.

We also have wonderfully creative recreation staff and the general staff population. We're sort of seeing all sorts of creative ideas and support for the creativity of the rec staff were. One example is they made an... ice cream truck out of cardboard boxes and paint. And they literally drove it around to the different resident home areas and they serve residents ice cream from the ice truck. Those types of sort of morale boosters and opportunities to interact one on one with residents. Mother's Day, they did tea and flowers and cards for each of the women in the home and did a special delivery to each of the women, because of course we're not doing congregate activities. So they're just trying to make every moment special.

Philip De Souza: What makes you proud when you think of how your team has responded to the many challenges brought on by this pandemic?

Krystal Mack: I think I'm proud, but I'm also really moved by the dedication of the staff. We're so blessed, we're so fortunate to have the foundation of our organization is based in the values of the sisters of Providence and they're our founders. And they have offered us this huge, beautiful legacy. And that gives us the values of respect and dignity and compassionate stewardship. And in this pandemic, I think, everywhere I see it and particular to here, is there's this beautiful, big spotlight that's shining on the staff that's here. And I really think that this, this has shown me who the staff are at their core, and it really has magnified my consciousness of how the staff in this building live the mission of the sisters. I'm very proud of that, as I say. I'm honored that I am part of the team that is so dedicated to the people in care.

Philip De Souza: And Krystal, what will you take away from this experience when it comes to delivering care and leading a team of healthcare heroes?

Krystal Mack: I get a bit stuck on the word hero. I've heard it a lot in the media. Hero to me says that it's this sort of episodic, one event that has been overcome and people demonstrating particular attributes in that time of struggle. I think again this whole concept that I mentioned about the spotlight, I think the spotlight that's shown on the home in this whole experience really shows us who's behind the doors of this place and how this stuff works at the best of times. I don't think there's anything unusual about what's happening in the pandemic based again in our values, but also just in the way we work. I think it is who we are. And I think the spotlight is actually just shining the light on it for others to see maybe for the first time.

Philip De Souza: I like that perspective on how you mentioned the episodic point. That's true. The healthcare workers have been around for years and years and now they're in the spotlight because of this pandemic, but you're absolutely right. And that, resiliency and that out of the box, thinking that healthcare workers do each and every day is being seen. And that's amazing, but is there something out of the box thinking that you and your team, something that people would be surprised that you have actually done it for many years, but there are only for example, noticing it now, or is there anything like that come to mind?

Krystal Mack: Well, I guess one of the things that comes to mind is the way that we manage when there's some type of an outbreak is pretty standard. The kinds of protective equipment that staff have to wear, the way that we limit the exposure and transmission, exposure of other residents and the transmission of a particular illness through the home, through all of our protective equipment that we wear. And how we basically separate the people who are sick from the people who are well, all those things are pretty standard, but I watched, as we had an episode where we had a resident who tested positive for COVID.

Later, we found out of course that was a false positive, but what I watched is how the staff put their heads down and did the work and just stayed dedicated to that. They overcame that challenge, that bump in the road by just sticking to the work, they stayed right at it. They didn't run away from it. They had to wear masks and gowns and gloves and just like a little beehive of bumblebees, just got the work done and stayed committed to it.

Philip De Souza: Before we let you go, is there any last parting words you wanted to share?

Krystal Mack: One thing I'm very aware of, of how fortunate we are to be working in this facility with its rich history and legacy of the sisters, but also just with our community relationships and the corporate relationship. The home is part of the Providence Care Corporation. And there is just such a wealth of expertise, support, knowledge in the community of Providence Care, but also in the Kingston community. We have very supportive relationships, public health, the education facilities and other partners in care in the region, as well as provincially, obviously, but it's just such a luxury to have that kind of support to manage this pandemic with that group of people around us.

So we're not alone. We have a place to turn. We have the expertise internally and where there is support needed beyond that. We've got that locally, regionally and provincially. And it's just a real honor to be sort of working through this challenging time together.

Philip De Souza: Thank you so much for taking time out of your really busy day Krystal. I really appreciate it. And sharing the perspective of your team and of course yourself being on the frontline. So thank you so much and have a great day.

Follow us on Twitter at @hirocgroup or email us at Healthcare Change Makers is recorded by Ellen Gardner and Philip De Souza and produced by Podfly Productions for Please rate us on iTunes.