Janis McGladrey — Director, Cardiac/Lung Program

By Evan Duxbury

How did you get to where you are now?
I was born in Port Moody and went to nursing school at VGH. My first job after graduating was in general surgery at SPH in 1982, but after taking a critical care course I worked in the CSICU for 15 years. I eventually went back to get my BSc in nursing and then returned to work as part of the Utilization Management and Quality Improvement team. I was then hired as the first cardiac surgery triage coordinator at SPH in response to a heart surgery waitlist which had grown to more than 500 people. I then became the operations leader for the Cardiac Surgery Program but I was seconded to PHSA to help develop the business case for Kelowna’s Cardiac Program. After the program was launched I came back to SPH as a director in July 2011. I’m now the director of the Heart & Lung Program as well as the director of the Regional Cardiac Program for VCH.

What has kept you at SPH for so long?
There’s something about caring for society’s most vulnerable patients that gives SPH a special feel. All of our care providers exhibit tremendous compassion which I think is a reflection of how Dianne Doyle’s leadership has influenced and shaped the culture here.

One experience that has stayed with me comes from my time working with Julio Montaner as a research nurse in the early days of the AIDS epidemic. Some of our patients were high profile public figures in the RCMP or military and they were afraid that if they used their medical plans to purchase their medications their employer would find out about their diagnosis and they’d lose their jobs. Our people went above and beyond to find a way to get them their medications under total anonymity.

If you could change one thing about your job, what would it be?
It’s becoming increasingly difficult to run this level of a program in the space we occupy. We continue to add pieces of technology and expand the size of our hybridized care teams, which takes up more and more space. A larger facility would make it easier for staff to do their work and make for a more pleasant patient experience. We’ll continue to make it work and fulfill our provincial mandate to provide tertirary/quaternary cardiac care for the province but I hope we will see plans for a new building coming in the next few years.

What’s the most important quality in a leader in health care?
Leadership in health care isn’t for the faint of heart, but I’ve found that seeing the outcomes our teams’ care and working with such committed staff makes my job extremely fulfilling. I think it’s important that we, as leaders, believe in the work we’re doing and have confidence that we’re doing the right thing. Staying connected with staff, patients and families is a privilege and reaffirms that the excellent care we provide is making a difference.

Do you miss the patient interaction that comes with working in a clinical setting?
I really enjoyed being a bedside nurse and spending time with patients and families. I always wish I had more time to speak with patients and families. It’s unfortunate that I’m usually called in only when things haven’t gone according to plan, but it’s very powerful to hear their stories and get their perspectives on the situation. When I speak with a patient I’m often reminded that even the smallest things make a big difference.

I’ve always felt that patients can teach us a lot about the care we provide. Many of The Heart Centre’s committees include patients and families to help facilitate that feedback.

What do you do to foster respect?
I always try to listen as much as possible and seek to understand issues from others’ perspectives. We have a lot of passionate care providers in The Heart Centre, so when they bring something to my attention, there’s usually a good reason for it. I make an effort to get out to the wards, and try to get to know front line staff. We do “staffing rounds” which is one way for me to be more visible and touch base with the teams. I wish I could do it more.

How does your program recognize staff?
One way is through the Unsung Hero Awards. A gift from a donor to the St. Paul’s Hospital Foundation was provided. Peers nominate staff who go above and beyond their day-to-day work for patients, families and the organization. Housekeepers, porters, clerks, ward aids and nurses have been nominated. Heart Centre leaders select the recipients, which is never easy. We work with Media Services who make a short video featuring each of the nominees and the award winners. It reduces you to tears to see how much it means to the winners.

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