Julia Ligaya

In honour of International Women’s Day, Ontario Shores is proud to highlight a few of its extraordinary women who lead and inspire each day as they dedicate their careers to changing views on mental health and helping those impacted by mental illness.


Describe you career journey thus far? What led you to your current role?

Ever since I was a kid, I always wanted to be a nurse. I put that dream on hold temporarily as I had my three children by the time I was 24 years old. At the age of 30, I entered college for the very first time; 2 years later, I became a Registered Practical Nurse! I consolidated on the Neuropsychiatry Unit (NPS), now known as Complex General Psychiatry D, and I was fortunate enough to obtain a full time position there. The journey here was worth every hardship, as I am truly happy where I’m at today!

Do you have a connection to mental health that you would like to share? or What attracted you to working in the area of mental health?
My personal connection to mental health stems from two areas. 1) I have anxiety and suffer from panic attacks; thankfully it is manageable with various interventions. Being a mental health nurse, I can certainly empathize with patients who suffer from same. 2) My eldest, who is 17 years old, has been struggling with gender dysphoria for the past few years. It has been a difficult journey, lots of emotions and tears shed. Though, the road ahead looks bright because of the resources and support available to us from various mental health organizations.

What has prepared you the most for the role(s) you have had?
As I mentioned earlier, I consolidated on NPS. I feel that my time there as a student prepared me for my role as an RPN. I had the advantage of knowing the unit’s structure and what my role would entail before I acquired the job. As for my role as a mother, I don’t think anything can really prepare you for that. Maternal instincts just kick in and you follow your intuition, and raise your children as best as you can.

What is the best piece of professional advice you have been given from a former leader, peer, or colleague?
The best piece of professional advice that I have been given by my peers, colleagues, and managers is to never lose my passion, enthusiasm, and energy. It feels humbling to know that I am appreciated by my team; even more rewarding when patients acknowledge my work ethic and express their gratitude.

How do you balance your roles and responsibilities, both at work and outside of work (for example family, volunteer roles, or personal commitments)?
The work never stops for working mothers. Balancing work and home life is hectic, simply because I work full time and more whenever possible. Planning and time management helps me accomplish tasks in both areas of my life, without it, there would be chaos.

What are your self-care strategies?
Self-care is very important for one’s own mental health and overall health and wellness. One of my strategies is going for regular massage treatments as it not only relieves pain, it promotes relaxation and helps reduce my stress and anxiety. On the other hand, a couple of strategies that I would like to work on are: drinking more water and improving my sleep.

What drives you in your career/role?
My driving force throughout nursing school and at present has always been my children. I want to set a good example for them and instill the importance of education and good work ethics. To have them see the meaning of motivation, commitment, passion, and drive is what I want them to take away from my role as both a mother and nurse.

What advice would you give someone looking to start working in mental health/your area of work?
The phrases, “if you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life” and “love what you do, and do what you love” definitely rings true if your passion is mental health nursing over other areas of nursing (as is the case with me). On average, one third of our lives will be spent at work; so why not choose a career that will provide you with a sense of love and joy. Therefore, my advice is to follow your passion, whatever it may be.

What piece of advice would you give your younger self?
To my younger self, I would say these things among many others:
• follow your dreams and passion
• live with confidence
• love yourself and spend more time on yourself
• be kind and empathetic to others
• stand up for what you believe in

These are things to live by that have and could have helped me in my journey growing up, becoming a mother, and being in the working world.

What is the best part about working at Ontario Shores?
There are many great reasons to work at Ontario Shores, it is a one-of-a-kind hospital which specializes in mental health assessments and treatments. There are plenty of opportunities for continued learning through modules and in-services. The hospital celebrates important occasions such as, Health and Wellness Week, Nursing Week, and International Women’s Day. The best part is working with the amazing staff members who are there for the same reason; their passion for mental health.

What/who is your biggest influence and why?
My previous teachers/instructors have been the biggest direct influence in my career. Elementary teachers helped to build my knowledge foundation. High school teachers provided guidance in career decision making. College instructors prepared me for the real world. All of them combined have taught me valuable skills to become the nurse I am today; they even shared important life lessons along the way.

Why is it important to recognize International Women’s Day?
It’s important to celebrate International Women’s Day so that women from all walks of life are recognized for their achievements. It also brings awareness about women’s empowerment and women’s rights.

In what ways can women continue to support each other and lift each other up?
There are many ways that women can support and lift each other up:
• recognize and celebrate their successes
• let them be heard; encourage them to speak up
• stop putting each other down and turning against each other
• say meaningful compliments to each other
• start young; teach girls about empowerment so that they will incorporate it into womanhood