Interview with Marcy Saxe-Braithwaite
Senior Director, Perioperative/Surgical Services, Nova Scotia Health Authority
by Todd Stepanuik
TS: Provide an overview of your background and career.
MSB: I have been privileged to be a nurse since 1982, which provided me a solid grounding of how important the role of nursing is in the Health Care System. I worked as a Critical Care Nurse while completing a MScN at U of T. After I graduated, I was lucky to be a Clinical Nurse Specialist at Sunnybrook Hospital. Then I journeyed into Management in 1991 as a Manager of the PACU, Director of Nursing and then returned to school to complete my MBA. I was striving to understand the world of business and how it impacted Health Care Decision Making. An opportunity presented to be the VP Professional Affairs and Chief Nursing Officer in BC at the Vancouver Coastal Health Authority. After several CEO changes and re-applying for nursing leadership roles, it was time to return to Ontario. I went to the non-acute care sector at Providence Care as the VP Programs and CNO. Next a few years spent consulting with SteriPro Canada and Shouldice Hospital while completing my Doctorate in Business Administration at Northcentral University. Then in 2016, my adventure continued in Nova Scotia as the Senior Director, Perioperative/Surgical Services for the Nova Scotia Health Authority.
TS: What has been one of the most important lessons you have learned during your career?
MSB: Always lead with integrity, be authentic, honest, moral and ethical. Never let the negative things that happen keep you down, become a risk taker, a tempered radical and pursue your passion – always Trust the Process!
TS: How has or how does ACHE help you address the challenges you face?
MSB: Through ACHE, I’ve had the opportunity to meet and work with some amazing people, especially as I moved to different communities due to family commitments. Reading the ACHE magazines and books, and attending educational events has helped me keep up with changes in healthcare. The ACHE Career Resource Center offers excellent tools and I’d recommend them to anyone, regardless of their career stage.
TS: How has or how does ACHE help you address the challenges you face?
MSB: The ACHE has helped me thrive with my quest for understanding leadership styles, behaviours, and providing a strong venue for networking. I have met great leaders across Canada and the U.S through ACHE. I have served as the Canadian Chapter of ACHE Board Chair. Being a volunteer brings rewards and gratitude.
TS: What has been your most rewarding experience?
MSB: Working with my trusted colleagues across the healthcare sector to provide quality patient centered care during times of chaos, uncertainty and ambiguity. I have always been a visionary and know how to attain results. I love making a difference to care delivery.
TS: How have you seen the healthcare management field change during your career?
MSB: Over the years, the Healthcare System has become more uncertain and risk averse. There is a lack of strong authentic leaders who are willing to take risks at all costs and drive outcomes. We are great at process, pilots and discussions but less great at driving the system and executing for results. For some reason we have become more uncertain and fear change. I love change and driving for results. Life is too short to sit by and watch – we must be the change!
TS: Who have been your mentors?
MSB: I have had several mentors and coaches. I believe everyone needs their own career coach to provide guidance, support and push outside one’s comfort zone. Some of my mentors/supports have been Dr. Judith Shamian, Todd Stepanuik, Joseph Mapa, Dr. Arun Jain and Parker Knox. I appreciate each and every one of them.
TS: What lessons have you learned as an executive leader?
MSB: Always be true to self, spend time reflecting, journaling, learning and growing. Never shy away from constructive criticism. Push the bar hard, push yourself to strive for what you want to be and do not let those who are critical, bullies or disrespectful rob you of your belief in yourself. You are a leader and matter. There will always be critics who are jealous, paranoid and hurtful, they do not matter. Spend time with those who are supportive, acknowledge your contributions and value you as a true authentic leader!
TS: What is the best advice you ever received?
MSB: Believe in yourself, trust the process and never give up. Your passion, compassion and nurturing self are what matters. Never stop learning and growing!
TS: Looking to the future, what are some of the changes you see coming to the health system that leaders must be prepared to face?
MSB: I think we need to become stronger in our beliefs that we can have a healthy healthcare system. WE need to all pull our weight and work more collaboratively to sustain the great healthcare delivery system we have built. It takes lots of dedication and hard work to improve accessibility, responsiveness and efficiency. We need to become data richer, make evidence based decisions and drive the next decade with more force, data and evidence. This is a time for innovation, discovery and collaboration. Status quo is not a word we should have in our vocabulary.
TS: What inspired you to pursue a career in healthcare, and what challenges did you overcome to get where you are now?
MSB: My mother’s mother inspired me. She had been blessed with two handicap children who I helped care for as a youngster. I learned that God only gives you what you can handle. That life is not about fairness or justice. Life is about learning how to handle grief, challenges, unhappiness and still believing in each other. My grandmother taught me life was about doing for others – not being selfish – one was here to serve others. This all came to light when in nursing school I had a patient who rang her call bell continuously. The staff nurses refused to answer Lucy’s call bell. I went to Lucy’s room and she said I dropped my bible my dear, could you pick it up so I could pray before I go to bed. I picked up her bible, comforted Lucy, tidied up her bed and provided her evening care. She was so grateful and said that I was her “angel of mercy”. I never forgot those words; I was so blessed to have encountered so many impressive people like Lucy over the years.
TS: What books are you reading at the moment?
MSB: Books on leadership, self-awareness and mindfulness
TS: What are your views on effective healthcare leadership and the primary leadership skills need to be successful today?
MSB: I view leadership as an art where one needs to continually invest in self to perfect themselves. This investment entails self-awareness, mindfulness, self-belief and learning from others. It entails being authentic, driven, ethical and patient focused. One needs to be innovative and a risk taker. It is not good enough to debate and not take action. We must become action oriented, driven and go for strong results. Today’s leaders must treat others as they wish to be treated, walk the talk, do not just talk the talk. Trust each other, respect each other and keep healthy work environments where we can thrive together for those we serve.
TS: How do you achieve work-life balance?
MSB: I am an avid journaller. I journal every day, reflect, think and reflect. I continually strive to be self-aware and know when I need Marcy time. I teach my coaching clients that if they have a pie with 8 slices they should maintain 3 to 4 slices for them. In my house, we know that when I need “Marcy Time” it is important to my survival and my ability to recharge my batteries. I love to walk, read, cook, bake and spend time with my family. I am grateful and proud of my three children, their spouses, and my granddaughter. I always say, “Family come first”. We are all replaceable at work; do not forget to invest in our families and ourselves. Be thankful for all you have and make sure you celebrate your successes! As my friend/coach, Parker Knox told me – practice saying three words every morning in front of your bathroom mirror – “YOU ARE GREAT!”