Registed Nurses' Association of Ontario


Director of RNAO's best practice guidelines program announces her retirement; association welcomes new director of its world-renowned clinical and healthy work environments program


TORONTO, Nov. 7, 2016 – The nursing leader who has overseen the exponential growth of evidence-based nursing practice for the Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario (RNAO) is stepping down after 16 years at the association, with the last 10 serving as director of the International Affairs and Best Practice Guidelines Centre.

Dr. Irmajean Bajnok, who is retiring in June 2017, joined the association in 2000 following a wide-ranging career that spanned several continents and in which she made her mark advancing nursing as a knowledge profession while working in top positions as an educator, researcher, consultant and director of nursing care.

During Bajnok’s time at RNAO, she led a team of 45 staff members and oversaw the development, dissemination, implementation, and evaluation of the association’s highly acclaimed best practice guidelines (BPG), which improve patient outcomes by promoting evidence-based practices.

Bajnok played a pivotal role in the expansion of the Best Practice Spotlight Organization (BPSO) designation program, which began in 2003, and the Best Practice Champions Network. She and her team have raised the bar of nursing excellence and helped expand the reach of best practices by working with more than 500 health and academic organizations throughout Ontario, Canada, and around the world that have formally adopted RNAO’s BPGs.

Bajnok enhanced RNAO’s reputation for knowledge transfer by overseeing the association's extensive educational offerings, including conferences and events, provincially, nationally and internationally. She also helped advance robust research in her capacity as co-director of the Nursing Best Practice Research Centre (NBPRC), a joint research project between RNAO and the University of Ottawa.

“It has been a joy and privilege to work with Dr. Bajnok and witness the strength of her leadership in action,” says Dr. Doris Grinspun, RNAO’s CEO and the founder of the BPG program. “Throughout her long and rich career, she has generously given her expertise and wisdom to nursing and to RNAO. Her unwavering commitment to excellence is a hallmark of all Bajnok does and for that we will be forever grateful. She is an extraordinary human being and a respected colleague and friend, whom I know will continue to contribute to nursing while in retirement.”

“It has been an honour for me to work with such a team of experts and a CEO that knows no boundaries for nurses’ influence and impact,” says Bajnok. “Together, we have enriched nursing practice and patients’ outcomes provincially, nationally and internationally. For me, RNAO has been a highlight of my career and I know the program will continue to grow and expand with its new director.”

Taking over from Bajnok is Dr. Valerie Grdisa, a registered nurse who brings more than 25 years of knowledge and experience in clinical practice, research, policy, nursing education and senior management.

From 2014-2016, Grdisa was the senior nursing advisor, an assistant deputy minister position, with Alberta Health. In that capacity, she worked closely with ministers of health, the deputy minister and her assistant deputy colleagues on a wide range of projects, including the development of a health human resources strategic plan and a provincial nurse practitioner strategy. During her tenure, Grdisa established the provincial network of nurse executives and focused on bringing evidence-based nursing and health policy to the attention of decision-makers and politicians.

From 2009-2014, Grdisa worked for KPMG’s health-care division and represented Canada on its Care System Redesign proposition, leading several projects throughout North America that supported innovation and health system integration. Prior to that, she held senior roles in Ontario, including health system manager of ambulatory and primary care services with Trillium Health Centre, leadership roles with the Hospital for Sick Children, and served as the director of the nurse practitioner program with the University of Toronto’s faculty of nursing.

Grdisa holds a bachelor of science in nursing from the University of Toronto, a master of science from the State University of New York, and a doctor of philosophy in health services and policy research from McMaster University, specializing in measuring system integration. She is an adjunct professor in the faculties of health sciences at the University of Lethbridge and the University of Calgary. She has also held faculty appointments at four other Canadian universities.

“I have known Dr. Grdisa for many years and her work is impressive,” says Grinspun. “Her expertise in evidence-based practice and policy from health service organizations and at the government level will help us bring the program to its next phase of growth, especially as we expand to work with governments all over the world,” Grinspun says.

“I am extremely excited to join RNAO, a top-notch professional association known all over the world,” says Grdisa. “As a proud RNAO member, I know the value of the BPGs. I have used them since their inception and championed their importance among nurses, other health professionals, and governments. I am thrilled and eager to apply my experience and share my ideas working with RNAO’s visionary leaders and team of experts to ensure nursing continues to deliver high quality care and transforms our health system to best serve the public.”

RNAO is the professional association representing registered nurses, nurse practitioners, and nursing students in Ontario. Since 1925, RNAO has advocated for healthy public policy, promoted excellence in nursing practice, increased nurses’ contribution to shaping the health-care system, and influenced decisions that affect nurses and the public they serve. For more information about RNAO, visit or follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

RNAO’s Best Practice Guidelines program is funded by the Ontario government’s Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care. Launched by RNAO’s CEO Dr. Doris Grinspun in 1999, it provides the best available evidence for patient care across a wide spectrum of health-care settings. Over 50 guidelines have been developed to date.They represent a substantial contribution towards building excellence in Ontario’s health system. They are used by nurses, other health professionals and organizations across Canada and abroad. To learn more about RNAO’s Nursing Best Guidelines, please visit

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For more information, or to arrange an interview with a nurse, please contact:

Marion Zych, Director of Communications, RNAO
Cell: 647-406-5605 / Office: 416-408-5605
Toll free: 1-800-268-7199 ext. 209