Cindy Lawlor - Operations Leader, Heart Centre

Written by Evan Duxbury

How did you get to where you are now?

I was born in the Lower Mainland but grew up in Kamloops and completed my formal education in Victoria. After working in acute care for 10 years I completed a critical care program and arrived at St Paul’s in ’87, first as a bedside nurse, then as a CNL in the Cardiac Surgery Intensive Care Unit (CSICU).

I was encouraged to move into the transplant coordinator position for the heart transplant program which exposed me to a different aspect of acute and chronic care for cardiac patients.  The focus was patient assessment, education and coordination. A few years later I was encouraged to become the triage coordinator for the Cardiac Surgery Program (CSP) where I helped manage the waitlist and coordinate care for urgent inpatients across BC. Two years later I was recruited to my current position as an Operations Leader (OL).

What’s your role at PHC?

I’m the OL of the CSP, one of the programs under the Heart Center umbrella. I manage the CSICU, the 5B Post-op Surgery Ward, the Perfusion Team, the Transcatheter Heart Valve Program and the inventory for the Cardiac OR. As the OL, I’m responsible for ensuring we have resources in place to support the care provided across the program by predicting vacancies and actively recruiting, managing budgets, achieving mandated surgical volumes and waitlist benchmarks, pretty much anything I can do to support those teams in doing what they do best.

What are some of the most difficult situations your teams face?

The complex nature of the work as the provincial heart transplant and mechanical assist device program has its challenges.  We see the sickest of the sick and if a patient has a negative outcome, particularly a young patient, this takes its toll on the staff.

How do you promote a healthy work environment in the face of those challenges?

Mental wellness is something we are all aware of. We bring in the Center for Practitioner Renewal (CPR) on a monthly basis, I encourage people to access EFAP services if they feel they need it and sometimes we bring in an ethicist to support decision-making. Perhaps the most important thing we do is the debrief after an incident where staff can share the experience and we can learn from the situation. Acknowledging the circumstances we face on a daily basis is a big part of the process.

How is PHC different?

I interviewed at several hospitals and coming into St Paul’s still stands out to me. I felt that the organization was interested in me as a person, rather than just a solution for a vacancy. I immediately felt a sense of community here, and, as good as the spirit was at SPH when I started, I’d say it has gotten even better over the years.

I never would have considered moving to an administrative position if it weren’t for the recognition and support of my mentors, supervisors, and managers here at SPH. Their belief in my abilities nurtured my growth as a leader which has helped take me to where I am today.