Executive Director, CUPS Calgary Society
For nearly 20 years, Carlene Donnelly has worked tirelessly alongside health, education and housing staff at the CUPS Calgary Society to improve outcomes for socially-vulnerable citizens. Although not a nurse herself, Carlene has looked at nursing expertise to lead, guide and shape many aspects of CUPS to ensure positive outcomes for their clients.
“The nursing field has been a core part of CUPS development and growth,” say Carlene. “It has been instrumental in successfully helping so many CUPS families and individuals become well.”
Early on, Carlene saw the value of nurse practitioners to provide the holistic care that could break intergenerational cycles of trauma and poverty. This led to CUPS as one of the first agencies in the province to reallocate physician-care funding to nurse practitioners. Under her leadership, CUPS developed a model to represent the complexity of their integrated service delivery. A resiliency measurement tool was developed that is used to engage clients, co-design care plans and monitor progress toward breaking intergenerational cycles of trauma and poverty. The tools show strong promise in capturing resiliency in vulnerable populations and can provide evidence of the positive impact they are having on individuals and the community.
The foundational research, that followed the CUPS Child Development Program for vulnerable children and families, was led by Dr. Karen Benzies from the University of Calgary faculty of nursing. Philosophically, Carlene’s approach is that communities are stronger when all organizations serving them are strong. Her ability to engage other agencies who serve vulnerable populations is a key strategy in her leadership, and it has allowed her advocacy to extend internationally. She is currently leading a study for Harvard University’s international collaborative initiative, Frontiers of Innovation, to examine the effect of consistent routines in families on child development.
“To some, establishing family routines may seem a simplistic approach to improve child development,” says Carlene, “but for vulnerable families with unstable housing, mental health issues, addiction and family violence, inconsistent routines with young children are associated with a host of maladaptive social behaviours.”
The alignment of staff, education, programs, services and outcome measurement is challenging to achieve, but Carlene has masterfully mobilized staff and volunteers, significantly improving health for their community.