VON welcomes new Chief Nursing Officer, Dr. Cindy MacQuarrie

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We are so pleased to welcome Dr. Cindy MacQuarrie as VON’s new Chief Nursing Officer. She was previously senior director of interprofessional practice and learning with Nova Scotia Health and is bringing a depth and breadth of expertise to our organization. We chatted with Cindy about her personal interests and her hopes for VON.

What inspired you to become a nurse?
I started nursing because of my family, especially my grandfather. I come from four generations of nurses and, when I graduated from high school, I knew I wanted to be in health care, I just didn't know which profession. A moment while talking to my grandfather about his cancer diagnosis convinced me to become a nurse. Every day since has re-validated the reasons why I chose this profession.

Even with challenges in health care, you haven’t swayed from that purpose?
Never, no. Any profession, especially in health care, has its challenges. It really is up to the individual to recognize what challenges may exist, and turn those into opportunities. And if you go into health care without that openness to learn about yourself and others, to welcome change and to grow, it's going to be difficult. In health care, we are uniquely positioned to help people during some of their most vulnerable life experiences. Today, more than ever, we need to harness the opportunities, and make a difference in the lives of others.  

What inspired you to transition to leadership roles?
I started my nursing career in Halifax at the Victoria General Hospital. Most of my nursing career was in critical care nursing in Halifax and later, Western Canada. Before moving back to Nova Scotia 13 years ago, I taught at the University of Calgary in the Faculty of Nursing and led several health system initiatives.    

When I moved back, I had an opportunity to do professional practice and learning projects in the Cape Breton area. Through that, I was able to work with new healthcare teams to find solutions for everyday practice conundrums. I found a lot of joy in that, especially when seeing the positive results of patients, families and healthcare teams.  
Working with Nova Scotia Health in the interprofessional practice and learning team, I worked my way up from a consultant role to director and later senior director of the provincial team. I am a collaborative leader and lead teams to find a common ground, where innovation can thrive.

Because of my various leadership experiences, I feel ready to transition into the chief nursing officer role for VON Canada. And I look forward to learning and leading with others.

What led you to VON?
Almost two years ago, I finished my PhD in Nursing from the University of Alberta. I studied the experiences of new nurses transitioning into healthcare teams. Nurse leaders play a critical role in new nurse transition, especially the role of the chief nursing officer, so when the opportunity came, I jumped at the chance. Out of all the opportunities that I've had the privilege to have in my life, it is the one position that I feel is going to harness my strengths from both a personal and a professional perspective. 

When I think about VON’s vision of helping people to live every day to the fullest, that is something that I believe in. Regardless of who we are, where we are, we all deserve to do so. My brother had a spinal cord injury in his twenties and became a quadriplegic. He received home care in Nova Scotia for 26 years before he passed away. Through my journey as a family caregiver, I learned how important care in the home and community is for people. It became the backbone of his care plan, the backbone of his survival, of dreaming a dream of staying at home for as long as he possibly could as a young man. And without the help of the nurses and personal care workers, I'm not sure where he would have been. That's the depth and breadth of experience that I want to take to this role.

What do you love about living in Nova Scotia?
I was born here. The majority of my family is in Nova Scotia. My roots are in rural Cape Breton and what I love the most is the peace and tranquility, the culture and the sense of community. I lived away, and when I came back to Nova Scotia, I knew it was the right move. I wake up every morning, nested in the Cape Breton Highlands, overlooking Cheticamp Island Beach. Some days I want to pinch myself.

What do you like to do in your spare time?
My three teenagers have school activities, sporting events and work schedules that lead to a pretty full calendar. With my partner, Ken, we live in a small community located on the Cabot Trail. While the community offers the opportunity to relax and rejuvenate, my family and I keep busy all year round. In the summer, we spend days on the water, golfing and hiking. Winter sports include skating, skiing and time on Ski-Doo trails. I like to stay pretty active and do things in life that I love.  

What are your hopes for the future of VON?
When I think about five years from now, what impact will I have in this role, it would be to advance quality, collaborative, person-centred care, care where clients and families are true partners. As well, looking at advancing health not only from an individual lens, but also from a community lens, from a health systems lens, and being able to support people to access care where they live. Meaning that it's more accessible, equitable and that they have the wraparound supports that are required to sustain and keep people at home for as long as they desire to be there.