Nursing has always been a part of Terri’s life. Her mother and stepmother were both nurses, and her eldest daughter also became a nurse, following in her mother’s footsteps. Terri always knew she wanted a profession that enabled her to help others. She began her nursing career in 1985. She loved the frenetic energy that came from providing direct patient care, and eventually she worked her way up to leadership roles throughout several organizations, including Markham Stouffville Hospital. Having returned to what is now Oak Valley Health – a health system that includes Markham Stouffville Hospital, Uxbridge Hospital, and the Reactivation Care Centre at Humber River Hospital (Finch site) – in November of 2022, Terri is now the Vice President and Chief Nursing Executive for the organization.
“We are at a very interesting time in health care where nursing is one of the most trusted professions but also a very vulnerable one,” says Terri. “We have the opportunity right now to dig deep when it comes to recruitment, but more importantly retention, so we need to listen to the voices of nurses and understand what inspires them.”
Terri adds: “Early on in my career, I became interested in not only how to improve the lives of patients, but also the lives and experiences of nurses.”
In her clinical leadership role, Terri makes a point to do peer reviews and appraisals annually, to find out what went amazingly well for staff that year.
“What do you want to be when you grow up?” is something Terri asks all nurses, new and seasoned. Terri believes in the power of servant leadership and authenticity – she really cares about what people want on a personal level and how can she help them on that journey. In her 30+ years as a health care professional, many people still to this day will call her and say, “you were the first person who saw something in me,” and this is what has driven Terri throughout her career to improve the systems that support nurses to thrive. It was once someone who saw something in Terri and provided her with guidance that led her to where she is today, and she believes in the philosophy of paying it forward.
One of Terri’s priorities for nursing at Oak Valley Health is retention, and in order to have that, it is crucial to understand why people choose to stay. While culture plays a huge role, staff want to go to work and be inspired, valued, and respected for their work, so it is important that the organization is considerate of this. What people are looking for now in a career is much different than 30-40 years ago. Work-life balance, wellness offerings, effective and timely communication, and the ability to provide high-quality care, are high on the list of what nurses look for in their employers and what Terri strives for Oak Valley Health to be recognized for.
Terri works tirelessly to ensure that the future of nursing at Oak Valley Health has a solid foundation laid from the beginning to ensure that the health care system will continue to benefit from the passion, drive, and commitment of its nurses to provide the very best patient care possible. To do this, Terri believes it is important to support nursing staff in their professional development and give them the opportunity to hone in on the areas of practice that best suit their skills and abilities, and discover where their passions lie.
The culture at Oak Valley Health is one that is driven by excellence. Not only does the organization invest in their employees through professional development, there is also much work done behind the scenes through the Professional Practice team – a group of nurses who strategize and provide education to their peers across the organization – to ensure that the structure, tools, and education strategies are there to meet the needs of each kind of learner.
In reflecting on her time at other organizations, Terri wants Oak Valley Health to raise the volume on our successes and what we’re good at.
Terri adds: “We need to be big and bold so that the community we serve will see and know us for our honoured-to-care culture and values that are engrained in all of the work that our nurses (and all staff) do.”
May 8-14 is National Nursing Week and on behalf of Oak Valley Health, Terri thanks all nurses for their hard work, dedication and compassion they bring to provide extraordinary patient care every day.
Story submitted by Michelle Lee Hoy.