Nurse Kelly Williams fills a care gap with heart and expertise

Kelly Williams, right, works with patient Marilyn Nodolsky.
Kelly Williams, right, works with patient Marilyn Nodolsky.

After almost 15 years as a registered nurse, one couple stands out for Kelly Williams. She met them when she was working in a hospital early in her career. The husband was her patient and had Parkinson’s disease. “It was his wife’s determination as his health care advocate that really impressed me. She was very informed about her husband’s condition. And she was firm with the staff about the need to get him his medication on time and how his disease and its treatment should influence his care while in hospital. I really listened to her,” says Kelly.

That early experience continues to resonate with Kelly in her current position as the Clinical Resource Nurse at the Movement Disorder Clinic (MDC) at Deer Lodge in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Kelly graduated from the University of Manitoba, Faculty of Nursing in 2002 and then earned her Canadian Nursing Association – Certification in Gerontology in 2005. After working in a hospital for 10 years, she joined the team at the MDC in 2012.

For almost five years now, she has specialized in assisting people living with Parkinson’s disease, and thanks to the generosity of our donors, Parkinson Canada funds a portion of her salary. Kelly teaches her patients about the progression of the disease; helps them understand their medications; assists them with troubleshooting problems they may experience; and encourages them to live well with the disease.

With only one multi-disciplinary Movement Disorder Clinic in Manitoba (there is one other Movement Disorder Specialist at St. Boniface Hospital in Winnipeg) Kelly has the distinction of being the only Clinical Resource Nurse in a MDC in Manitoba. As a result, she sees and talks to patients from across the province, as well as people in Nunavut, western Ontario and eastern Saskatchewan. And the funding from Parkinson Canada supports the work she does with people living with Parkinson’s disease, who are not patients of the MDC.

“I fill a care gap for people with Parkinson’s. I want them to have their best life possible, to be able to advocate for themselves in medical situations and in the community, and to connect with others living with Parkinson’s by joining Parkinson Canada support groups and exercise groups.”

In addition to patients, Kelly educates health care professionals about the intricate balance between “on” and “off” times, the importance of getting medication on time and the other complexities of life with Parkinson’s disease.

At a recent presentation to physiotherapists and rehab assistants in a hospital, her information was a revelation for many in the audience. For instance, they now understand the importance of scheduling their sessions with people with Parkinson’s at the optimum “on” time.

With 25 Canadians diagnosed with Parkinson’s every day, and more health care professionals encountering new people with Parkinson’s, Kelly’s services are increasingly in demand. In 2014, she gave nine presentations to patient support groups and health care professionals, including staff in long-term care facilities. Last year, she gave 22 presentations and this year she will deliver 50.

The two-pronged approach of educating patients and health care professionals seems to be making a difference and changing attitudes, according to Kelly. “Not too long ago, conversations were only about medication. Now patients and their care partners are more likely to take control of their disease, be more positive and enjoy more autonomy. For instance, people are more aware of the importance of exercise to living well with Parkinson’s and they recognize they can do something to make themselves feel better.”

Kelly says she loves every part of her job. “I really feel like I’m making a difference in the lives of my patients; that my work is having an impact.”

Now and then she thinks back on the fellow with Parkinson’s, whom she nursed so long ago, and his “amazing” wife. She wonders what they would think of the work she does today. We think they’d say: “Well done, Kelly!”

Editor’s note: Kelly makes use of many Parkinson Canada resources to educate patients, care partners and health care professionals. People living with Parkinson’s and their families should visit for information and resources. Health professionals can find resources and opportunities for continuing education at