One woman featured who is a woman in the workplace
who are they - what do they do - why you should know them
Kelsy McIntosh is a Registered Practical Nurse from Bothell, Ontario. Lover of sports, avid hunter and covered in a beautiful canvas of ink. She resides with her husband and two beautiful children in Newmarket, Ontario.
1. What is your story? What do you do and how did you get to where you are today in your career?
I consider my story interesting and varied! I am a Registered Practical Nurse, and my current role with DeafBlind Ontario Services is the organization’s Health Care Facilitator. I’m in a really cool position – I am the only one in my position, and I am responsible for health care related training delivery and development, client advocacy, auditing, policy review and development, ensuring compliance with Ministry and organizational guidelines, and ensuring we are always utilizing current best practices. My organization supports DeafBlind adults in residential settings all across the province – My office is in Newmarket but I travel all over the province.
I graduated my nursing program 10 years ago (I don’t feel old enough to say that!), and have worked frontline nursing in Hospitals, Long Term Care, and Community Settings. After I moved to Newmarket with my Husband, I started working as a community nurse with Saint Elizabeth. I knew that there was potential to move into a management position as an RPN with them, and within 6 months of my start, I landed my first management role. I was only 23 at the time – but I think the Regional Director who hired me really saw the potential I had and took a chance on me (I’m forever grateful to her for it!). After that I moved into a new management position at a Retirement Home as the Health and Wellness Manager. I did that for 4 years, but felt a bit… ‘stuck’, for lack of a better word. The role had kind of gone on autopilot and I felt ready for a new challenge. My current role then came up – it’s something I had talked about for years, that I would love to teach, while still maintaining a clinical component, preferably in the not for profit sector (I find people are truly in it for the right reasons here). This job checked all the boxes. I’ve been here for 2 years, and I love the work I do. This role was new to the organization when I came into it, so I’ve had the chance to really develop it into what it is today. It’s been an awesome challenge, and as an RPN, it’s a very unique role – It’s a crazy feeling to do something that hasn’t really been done before (even in the developmental services sector, traditionally it would be an Registered Nurse in this type of administrative role). So I feel like a bit of a trailblazer for my profession, which is amazing and empowering.
2. One quote you live by - personal quote or borrowed
‘There is no strength where there is no struggle’. My dad’s sister, who we lost to breast cancer very young, and who was an absolute rock in my world, had a piece of paper with this written on it. My parents still have it on their fridge. It rings really true for me, and reminds me of her and everything she went through.
3. Do you have a professional mentor or someone who inspires your career?
Speaking of my Aunt Cathy – this is it for me. She was a Registered Nurse, and had no children of her own. She was diagnosed with Breast Cancer at 30, and fought it valiantly until she passed away when I was 14. My brother and I were like her kids. I lived for visits with her, and looked up to her like no one else. She was truly an incredible human being – despite everything she was going through, she was always so positive, and full of life. I can’t even put into words how amazing she was. She was the kind of person that if the world were full of people like her, there would be no hate or bitterness or negativity – it would be only tolerance, positivity and love. I was absolutely distraught when we lost her (14 is hard enough, without losing someone who is like another Mom). As I’ve gotten older, I’ve tried really hard to carry forward her positivity, and everything I do, I try and question ‘Would this make her proud’. I feel like so far, she would be, which brings me so much joy. She also squeezed so much life out of the limited time she had here – she traveled extensively, and only seemed to do things that brought her happiness. ‘I hope you dance’ was her favourite song – and I try to live that way too. Buy the plane ticket, dance the dance, get the tattoo – life really can be too short, and we have to make the most of it.
4. What are your strategies on avoiding burnouts?
Gym, Gym, Gym. Lift Heavy, bro. For me, when I feel strong physically, I feel good mentally. I know I’m more effective at life in general, let alone work, when I’ve sweat out all the bad stuff in the morning.
Being able to disconnect is so important – when work is done, my work cell stays in my purse. I do know I’m fortunate enough to have this luxury and not everyone does, but you have to be able to disconnect and turn work ‘off’.
5. What is one accomplishment you are extremely proud of?
I feel like this is a bit cliché – but being a young, working Mom. I had my kids young, at least by this generations standards (I was 25 and 27 when I had my kids, a lot of my friends were closer to or over 30). I was lucky to have been well established in my career by that time though, when many people are just finishing school or starting their career. I am super proud of everything I’ve done in my work life, and my kids are my everything. Balancing those things, along with being a wife and an individual on top of that, can be hard. I have an amazing, supportive husband, who allows me to just be me when I need to (I very much advocate travel with girlfriends and not just couples trips with your spouse – it’s a different trip and it’s amazing and good for your soul!). But getting everyone ready in the morning, finding time for the gym, work (which for me includes a lot of travel), bedtime routines, and then time together can be hard in the waking hours of a day. But overall, I think I’m rocking it out – most of the time anyways!
6. What are you most passionate about and what do you wish you were most passionate about?
I’m passionate about advocating for vulnerable populations, like the clients supported at my organization. Palliative care, equitable and economical access to medical cannabis, and mental health and wellness would be some other key areas. Also teaching. My role allows me to foster all of those things, which is amazing. I wish I were more passionate about school, honestly. I love to learn – I attend tons of conferences, events, webinars – anything I can do to broaden my horizons and knowledge base. But I’m going back to school (it starts in April and I’m mildly freaking out about it) to take a Teaching and Training Adults program, and I’m not super stoked about it. I mean I’m excited about what I’m going to learn and how I can apply it, but I am not thrilled about the idea of being on a campus. Maybe I’m more nervous than not passionate – but it’s top of mind right now! I do wish I was more enthusiastic about the process and not just the outcome.
7. What do you like to do that is traditionally considered masculine?
So. Many. Things. I am a crazy sports fan – Blue Jays, Red Wings, Packers. I am a Football crazy person – I love the NFL. I got into Fantasy Football this year and I’m hooked. I play softball all year long. Also, I hunt and fish. I’m covered in tattoos. I don’t wear a ton of makeup and I don’t typically dress very ‘girly’. But I also love to have my hair, makeup and nails done. As I write this though, I really dig that a lot of these things ARE becoming more geared to ladies – I see more and more available for hunting gear in the women’s section (although it’s still usually WAY pricier than the men’s stuff). Tattoos are becoming more mainstream in general, especially big ones like mine.
8. What do you think people automatically assume about you when they look at you for the first time?
Definitely with the tattoos, I absolutely think people would assume I don’t have a management type position. I think like I said earlier, society is getting to a point where it’s more ‘normal’, but I find people are generally a bit surprised when they hear about the roles I’ve had while rocking half-sleeves (and that’s just what they can see!).
9. Give one valuable piece of advice you can give women on how to overcome challenges in the workplace
Saying ‘No’ is healthy. I think women tend to want to please everyone, and particularly working in healthcare, no one wants to burden someone else, or make someone else’s day harder. I see SO MANY people take on an extra task when their plate is already full (I am absolutely guilty). There are times when it is necessary to say ‘Hey (insert boss/coworker/colleague’s name here), I’ve got a ton of things I’m working on, and I don’t think I can be effective with that project/task/request.’ Also, asking for help when something is not your skill set. I recently had been tasked with creating a tool to better track Medication Error Statistics, that would help more accurately ‘paint the picture’ with data. Numbers and Excel are NOT my strong suit. I wrangled with it for a long time (probably too long), and then finally reached out to my manager, who connected me with people within my own office who EXCEL at excel! We’ve collaboratively created an amazing tool, that I would never have come up with on my own. I’m wise enough now to see this was not a personal failure of mine – but a huge credit to me for being able to say I needed support. I learned a lot from that experience and it’s something I wish I learned earlier in my career.