Alumni Spotlight: Mary McAllister
Bloomberg Nursing alumni do extraordinary things in the communities in which they work and live, and we take great pride in the work they do. To date, there are nearly 6,000 Bloomberg Nursing alumni, all of whom have made or continue to make a positive impact in the world of nursing.
Mary McAllister is one such alumni.
Organization/Hospital/Practice: The Hospital for Sick Children
Current town/city: Toronto
Year of graduation: BScN 1982, PhD (IMS) 2008
Interests, activities, clubs and professional organizations:
I love to travel, and anything associated with it: making lists of places to visit, planning the itinerary, looking for fun experiences and then actually traveling there. I love to read, (mysteries are a favorite), learning about and tasting wine and single malt scotch (been on MANY wine tours around the world and even visited a scotch distillery during a trip to Edinburgh last summer).
I also love yoga and meditation because it allows me time to calm my mind, which definitely needs calming sometimes!
What was the most valuable lesson — inside or outside the classroom — you learned as a student the University of Toronto?
That, as a nurse, I can go anywhere in the world and make a contribution to health, as long I can speak the language and I’m willing to take the risk, the leap of faith. For my final clinical placement in 4th year, I headed to a small northern Ontario town, Hornepayne, to work in a small community hospital. My best friend at time lived there with her family and I was able to combine a good visit with her as well as some great learning. I still have a lovely stool that residents in the retirement home side of the hospital made for my going-away.
Accepting a teaching position in Perth, Australia was another big professional leap that took me outside of my comfort zone. (And my Mother to this days wonders why, when I chose to stretch and spread my wings, did I have to fly to the other side of the globe??!!). I learned that I am able to build new relationships and support systems and explore new dimensions of nursing, that I can be agile and resilient. I also learned that I can articulate what nursing is, from my perspective. While my later career choices did not take me quite as far afield, I was still able to seek challenging opportunities and make new and interesting contributions to my patient care and my own profession.
Greatest professional accomplishment
A tough question for sure, especially since I’ve been a nurse for over 35 years. But I think what I am most proud of is becoming one of the first three Neonatal Nurse Practitioners in the country, back in 1988. Three of us completed the pilot master program at McMaster University and we were fortunate enough to work with strong leaders in neonatology to build a unique advanced nursing role that complemented those that already existed in Ontario’s Neonatal ICUs. Looking back, accepting the challenge to be one of the NNP pioneers, was a game-changer for me. I learned quickly that ‘wondering what was going to happen next” was what I sought in my career. And I still like that type of environment and challenge to this day.
Favourite Bloomberg Nursing professor
I had so many great professors, but two definitely stand out, perhaps because they both had a passion for paediatric nursing. The first is Judy Young, who was my clinical professor for my inpatient rotation at SickKids during the third year of my BScN. Judy was a calming influence and had a way of observing my practice without me actually knowing that I was being watched (I hated being watched!). She provided excellent feedback and her years as a “head nurse” at SickKids allowed her to be an exemplary resource. She also helped me develop my 4th-year clinical placement plan and that’s when Linda Feldman came on the scene, another clinical professor who had a great impact on my learning and career plan. Linda was my advisor for my entire 4th year. She was encouraging, calm, but challenged me to stretch and get out of my comfort zone. I am fortunate to have connected with both Judy and Linda over the years, since my graduation. In fact, Linda and I played on the same curling team for a few years! It is such a small world.
What is your favourite thing about nursing?
Truly my favourite thing about my career is the relationships I’ve been able to develop and sustain. No matter where my career has taken me, relationships were at the foundation of everything I did and continue to do. In fact, if you spend any time with me, you are bound to hear me say “It’s all about relationships!” Probably the most powerful relationships I have forged have been with some of the critically ill newborns and their families for whom I provided care in the NICU. And I have been so fortunate to have heard from some of them many years later, with updates on how they are doing now and the difference I made to them during those early days of their children’s lives. It has been humbling and touching to reconnect with these families. I feel very lucky to have known them.
What advice do you have for current Bloomberg Nursing students?
I think the most important advice I can give is to remember nursing is “ all about relationships”. And the most inspirational and influential relationships in your career will be with patients and their families for whom you have the privilege to care. The work you will do will be challenging, rewarding, meaningful, motivating and so much more. And you will learn so much from those with whom you work; patients, families, nursing and interprofessional colleagues and so many others. But always remember that this work can offer the highest of highs and sometimes the lowest of lows, it can take a toll, so it will always be important to balance life at work and life outside of work, taking time to reflect on what is important in all aspects of your life and strive to enjoy it all. I wish for each and every Bloomberg Nursing Student a career as fulfilling and rewarding as mine has and continues to be!