Compassionate nurse committed to helping families deal with brain injuries

Holland Bloorview registered nurse, Caron Gan saw families struggling and decided to act. She saw a need for more understanding about family support and intervention following traumatic brain injury (TBI).

Caron understands brain injuries from so many different perspectives. She’s a researcher, clinical team investigator, educator and advanced practice nurse/family therapist, with Holland Bloorview’s brain injury rehabilitation team. Caron has been working in the field of traumatic brain injury since 1991, when she first joined the hospital as a student and then as a staff member.

She knows first-hand that when a brain injury happens the entire family is affected. Dreams of bright futures suddenly come crashing down, and a family’s world and reality can change dramatically in an instant. This unexpected shift can quickly lead to depression, anxiety, traumatic stress, and other negative reactions. Caron knew the resources were limited for professionals to support families after their kids sustain brain injuries.

Registered nurse Caron Gan. © Jonathan Nicholls/Toronto Star

To help families cope with TBI, Caron designed and launched clinical research to determine best practices and then developed training and assessment materials for the health-care community. She and other Holland Bloorview staff have trained over 350 people from across the country and even as far away as Sweden.

Despite her tireless work, Caron still insists it’s the families who are the real heroes. When a child has a serious brain injury, the effects are often lifelong, she told the Toronto Star in an interview after receiving an honourable mention in this year’s Toronto Star Nightingale Awards.

The professionals are only there for a short time. It’s the families that help the child navigate the transitions. Those families have taught me about the power of hope, perseverance and resilience.

Read more of Caron Gan's interview with the Toronto Star.