Friendship, Care and Dedication: Five nurses share experiences of working together for over 30 years

Mar. 15, 2021

In the field of nursing it’s common for Registered Nurses (RNs) to work in several different settings throughout their careers — there are often changes in positions, department and facilities.  

(Left to right) Carol Mason, Jackie Belyea, Carole, Calnan, Rita Brown
and Michele Perkins-Stephen

So, it is very special and rare to have five RNs that have been nursing together at one Horizon facility, in one department, for over 30 years!

Carol Mason, Jackie Belyea, Carole Calnan, Rita Brown, and Michele Perkins-Stephen have been RNs at Horizon’s St. Joseph’s Hospital (St. Joe’s) Urgent Care Centre (formerly an Emergency Department) since the 1980s. 

This team of frontline heroes has worked together through many changes over the past three decades – most notably, the transition of their facility from a 24-hour fully-active Emergency Department (ED) to an Urgent Care Centre in the early 2000s.

When they first began nursing at St. Joe’s, medical emergencies would arrive by ambulance to their ED.

“Patients would come 24 hours a day to get the emergency care they needed and could be admitted to other units within the hospital,” said Michele. “That changed when the Emergency Department became the Urgent Care Centre (to avoid duplication of services with the newly built Saint John Regional Hospital).”

It was a big adjustment for the team, Michele said, “but we adapted! Although our role changed, our commitment to our patients over the past 30+ years, and our desire to make a difference, has remained the same.”

(Front to back) Rita Brown, Michele Perkins-Stephen, Jackie Belyea, Carole Calnan and Carol Mason

Gabrielle Smith, Nurse Manager, explained that like an ED, there are no “typical days” at the Urgent Care Centre — every day is unpredictable.

Upon arrival, patients are assessed by an RN and given a triage number. Diagnostic procedures and medical treatments vary depending on the patient. Every patient’s needs are unique, and so are these five nurses.

What makes them unique is not just their ability to adapt to this ever-changing environment, but their teamwork and friendship.

“We have shared good times and bad, busy days and quiet days,” said Jackie. “My co-workers always have my back and coming to work is like coming to my second home. St. Joe’s is the best!”

When asked what her favourite thing about working at St. Joe’s Urgent Care Centre is, Carole Calnan said: “the collaboration of care as a team, focusing on the well-being of the patient and their family.”

Rita said she chose to be a nurse because three of her friends were going into nursing.

“It turned out to be the best decision of my life,” she said. “I love my job as a nurse and teacher and I love taking care of people. Kindness, caring, empathy and compassion are part of who we are.”

They share their wisdom and depend on each other’s knowledge every day and through it all continue to put their patients’ health and well-being first and strive to make them feel comfortable, regardless of the injury or illness.

Carol Mason noted that there are two things she loves most about her job: “The people I work with (and the way we work together and support each other) and knowing that I made a difference for someone when I go home at the end of my shift.” “We are very fortunate to have worked together for so long,” said Michele, “and we are proud to be St. Joseph’s Hospital Urgent Care nurses!”