An interview with Christine Bouchard, associate director of the Cancer Care Mission
This year, the MUHC is celebrating its 25th anniversary. Were you at the MUHC 25 years ago?
Yes, I started here in 1991 on the 14th floor of the MGH, which used to be neurosurgery, neurology and Neuro ICU.
That’s fascinating, and very different than what you are up to now. Take us back to MGH 14. What was the unit like?
I had such beautiful friendships at MGH 14. I was mainly a night nurse and the stories my team and I experienced at night… my gosh! Those were, in fact, some of the best times.
I was a junior nurse positioned at MGH 14 South, and I worked mainly with neurology patients and some neurosurgery patients. A lot of new and exciting things were beginning to happen. For example, our team began to receive chronically ventilated patients transferred to us from the ICU. At the time, this was a very new practice. My colleagues and I also put in place a new ‘stroke unit’ which admitted patients from the ER a few hours post rTPA infusion. Overall, I was an eager person, always ready to learn and help around. Our unit became like a family.
That’s lovely to hear, Christine. Now take me to 1997, the year of the merger. How would you describe that time?
For us in neurosciences, it was a vibrant time but also a time of apprehension. Neuroscience activities were done across two campuses: the MGH and the MNH, or the Neuro as we now call it. With the merger, we had to figure out which programs were going to be assigned where; some neuroscience programs were going to be moved to the MNH and others would remain at the MGH.
During that time, the MGH 14 went from two separate teams to one team with only one nurse manager. I remember that it was not an easy time and it was important for us to have compassion for our teammates, because some of us felt afraid of change. But we had to be strong. We did it for our patients!
How did you begin to integrate as one, both as a unit on the 14th floor, and also as a hospital, now joined with the Neuro?
We paid attention to people’s strengths. Those who were more flexible and willing to try something new, we were able to move them around according to varying needs.
In 2004, I joined the Neuro myself as the Nurse Manager of the 4th floor. I remember being heavyhearted as I left behind my beloved colleagues at the MGH, but when I got to the Neuro, I joined a team of incredible people. Those years at the Neuro were amazing. I learned so much. The 15 years I spent at the Neuro are still dear to my heart and I have fond memories.
What’s a moment in your career that really means a lot to you?
All of the occasions in which I felt that my leaders saw potential in me, those were cherished moments. My leaders were my role models and so when they would approach me and say, Christine, we think this is a good fit for you and we see you here… it would light up a spark inside of me. I would begin to align myself higher and embrace the challenge set before me.
Sharon Colton, my first manager, is someone that I will never forget. She was instrumental in my professional development because she helped me see myself as someone who had potential, and could go on to even become a manager. When I was a young nurse, I never imagined that I would ever rise to being a manager—it was not in my plans. Under the leadership of Patricia O’Connor and Lucia Fabijan, my belief in my ability to become a manager grew stronger.
My whole career has been here at the MUHC. Sometimes, my kids don’t understand that, because nowadays it is common for people to go from institution to institution. But the MUHC is a place where your career can really evolve when you stay. That is how we can build meaningful relationships and friendships.
Thank you for staying, Christine! Your work in neurosciences and now also as associate director of the Cancer Care Mission has been lifechanging to patients and families.
As we celebrate 25 years, what is your wish for the MUHC?
I wish it all! May we continue to build on our renowned reputation, may we continue to attract the best candidates in all areas of care, and may we continue to offer MUHC staff opportunities for their career growth so that they can attain all of their objectives. Most importantly, let’s continue to Care for Life!