McGill University Health Centre (MUHC) Nurse Manager Marie-Josée Bourassa will be celebrating 22 years of nursing in June, but the honour of being an advocate for patients, nurses, and staff is still something she holds close to her heart, fuelling her desire to make an impact at the MUHC’s Birthing Centre and Women’s Health Mission.
Bourassa started her career at the age of 20 in a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), moving up to a managerial role when she was just 28. It’s an experience she describes as daunting at the time, but with it came a bravery that she carries forward with her to this day.
“Since I was a young child I always knew I would work with women and children. I had other interests, but I always knew I wanted to be with this population. No matter where you are in the world, it is considered to be one of the most vulnerable populations,” she explains.
After working in critical care and post-partum care, Bourassa dove into frontline care; managing the maternal child program at three CLSCs. Working at these different levels reaffirmed her belief that nursing must adopt a holistic approach in every setting.
“When working with patients and their families, it’s all about evaluating their strengths and challenges to best support them,” she says. “It is then that nursing rises to another level, truly accompanying patients through their health journey.”
Bourassa took on her current role at the MUHC’s Birthing Centre in 2017. Last year, there were 26,000 visits in the Women’s Health Clinics and over 3,000 babies were delivered. With numbers like these, leadership that unifies this specialized interdepartmental team is a key factor in providing the best patient care possible.
“We are caring for patients with highly specialized needs. Women who have co-morbidities, such as diabetes, hypertension, as well as infant loss or difficulty becoming pregnant,” she explains. “So these women need support and they also need knowledgeable specialists. We have a competent team working both in clinic and in the Birthing Centre.”
For Bourassa, working in labour and delivery definitely makes nursing memorable.
“Women around the world who bear children go through their own personal experience. Having had three children myself, I can definitely say there is not one delivery that is the same,” she explains.
Bourassa speaks to the uniqueness of each pregnancy that comes through the MUHC’s doors. This is also why it is important for nurses in this area of care to be comfortable making informed — but quick — decisions, and to be willing to continuously update their skills.
The nursing staff is constantly learning from their patients, especially in a diverse city like Montreal. Challenges that arise due to language barriers and cultural differences are overcome day in and day out, with mother and baby as a top priority.
“We need to have a skill set to care for people of all backgrounds and religions without breaching values, trust, and comfort,” she explains. “It takes a lot of creativity, innovation, and consultation with teams who bring back experiences that they’re shared with patients, to improve and move forward.”
Bourassa wouldn’t trade her job for any other in the world, and says she is privileged to be a part of so many journeys, from the families she meets, to the nurses she mentors.
You can hear Marie-Josée Bourassa speak at our Maternal Health Symposium on May 15. The event is part of a unique collaboration with the Primates World Development Fund (PWRDF) to help support maternal health both here in Montreal and abroad. Tickets can be purchased here.