TORONTO -- A team of health-care workers at the William Osler Health System have created a virtual book club to keep them connected while working in different areas and hospitals amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

“A group of our physicians, nurses, administrative and support staff wanted to come together to build resilience, teamwork, empathy, kindness,” Dr. Jeffrey Handler, an emergency staff physician at Brampton Civic Hospital, said.

“Our patients are so difficult and so complex that we felt we needed a tool to help us in our care.”

The group started the reading book club in 2016, where they would read and then discus the book in an auditorium. When the COVID-19 pandemic began, they knew they’d have to find a new way to keep the book club going. 

“We started a ZOOM meeting for the first time, which was really, really amazing actually,” said Alina Lo Bianco, a registered practical nurse and book club member at William Osler Health System.

“We had a really good turnout!” 

Nearly 70 people joined the online call over the Tuesday lunch hour to discuss a book called ‘The Power of Kindness: Why empathy is essential in everyday life.’ The book’s author, Brian Goldman, also joined the conversation. 

“It was a time to just breakaway from work,” Lo Bianco told CTV News Toronto. “I just felt like it was a bit of a healing moment for us, as well.”

The staff at William Osler Health System have been working hard through the pandemic, with Lo Bianco describing the time as a “rollercoaster.”  

power of kindness

She said the book club not only provides a much-needed escape, but that the books provide lessons for the health-care providers. 

“You need to have empathy toward your patients, and kindness and compassion, not just toward your patients but towards yourself,” she said. 

Dr. Handler, who is the co-founder of the book club, agrees that the reading material is helping the staff tackle new challenges. 

Lo Bianco said kindness and compassion is also being shown toward staff by patients in the emergency room. 


“During COVID, I’ve had so many patients say, ‘thank you for showing up because I’m scared to be here and you’re coming here every day,’” she said. 

And while it may be some time before the reading club meets in person for the book club, they says they’re grateful to have technology keeping them together.

“It just brought us all together for this little moment in time,” Lo Bianco said. “It’s really needed, and really wanted.”