Meg Quesnelle
Margaret (Meg) Quesnelle, who retires at the end of May after 33 years, says: “UHN has offered me opportunities outside what I ever thought was possible.” (Photo: UHN)

Margaret (Meg) Quesnelle knows when to have fun, and when to get serious.

You can often find the manager of Toronto Rehab's North 3-Transitional Care Unit (TCU), located at the Bickle Centre, singing off-key karaoke, laughing while her colleagues teach each other dance moves, and getting in on the action, herself.

"Sometimes Meg will stop by my office door, and start doing a little jig when we have had a positive outcome for a patient or for the unit," says Naomi Sutcliffe, a social worker on the unit.

But she's equally focused about the work at hand.

"We're here to deliver exceptional patient care, and I have high expectations of my team," says Meg.

"When I hire someone, it's because I believe they can hit that bar, but I make it clear I'm here to support them. I may have to have difficult conversations with staff from time to time, but I'll end the conversation with a nod at a great job they did on something else."

And as she prepares to retire at the end of this month, Meg says that notion of "support" is what helped her advance her 33 years at UHN, and what she's been committed to paying forward.

"I believe people come to work to do the best they can, and if you support them, they'll rise to the challenge," Meg says. "You need to give them space to bloom, but you also need to be there in the background, cheering them on and making sure they know you have their back."

A nurse's journey

It was 1988 when Meg, a registered nurse from Scotland, arrived at Toronto Western Hospital.

She started as a staff nurse on the Orthopedic Inpatient Unit and spent a short time in General Surgery – Plastics, before moving to the Medical Surgical/Neuroscience Intensive Care Unit (MSNICU) – all while furthering her education.

Mary Kay McCarthy, who is the Clinical Director at Bickle Centre, and who was also Meg's Manager on the MSNICU, says it was evident from the get-go that Meg's can-do spirit, creativity, and sense of humour would take her far.

"I can still recall the creative self-scheduling Meg put in place, in order to continue working while earning her Bachelor of Science in Nursing, and then her Masters of Nursing, in record time," says Mary Kay.

"I had no doubt Meg would be able to take her clinical, educational and natural leadership skills – and of course, her amazing sense of humour – and successfully transition into a variety of nursing leadership positions at UHN."

Bickle transitional care team
"With Meg's guidance, I developed my confidence, my leadership skills, and started working to full scope," says one team member on Bickle’s transitional care unit. (Photo: UHN)

By 1997, Meg had become the nurse educator for the MSNICU, PACU, Medical Imaging, and the Toronto Western-based Cardiac Rehab Program. From there, she advanced to the role of Manager on the Neurology and Neurosurgery Inpatient Units, and then to the Neuro Step-Down unit.

Ready for a change, Meg embraced a unique UHN opportunity in 2012, to develop and lead a convalescent care unit within St. Hilda's Senior Care Community. During that time, the partners also developed a transitional care unit, which opened and closed every six months, to coincide with flu-season recovery.

"This was a particularly meaningful role to me, because I've always felt so passionate about the need to 'step patients down' from acute care, de-medicalize them, and psychologically prepare them to return to the community," says Meg.

It was at St. Hilda's where she developed the project management skills that got her identified in 2018 for her next role as Clinical Construction Lead for Toronto Rehab's Bickle Centre redevelopment project.

"UHN has offered me opportunities outside what I ever thought was possible," says Meg, who adds the redevelopment role would never have been on her radar if she hadn't been approached with it.

Finally, as Bickle's redevelopment came to a close, Mary Kay, who, by then had moved to Bickle, identified Meg to open and manage a second transitional care unit (TCU), where she's remained until now.

Supporting the careers of tomorrow's leaders

Grateful for the opportunities she's been afforded, Meg is equally invested in the careers of her colleagues.

Michel Mauleon is a registered practical nurse who joined the TCU from long-term care, and was immediately assigned as nurse in charge – a role Meg alternates between staff every three months.

"Being the nurse in charge can be challenging when you're new, but Meg told me she wanted me to spread my wings and soar," recalls Michel.

"With Meg's guidance, I developed my confidence, my leadership skills, and started working to full scope. To borrow one of her favourite words, she's 'fabulous,' and I'm going to miss her so much."

Sarah Joseph, a registered practical nurse, will be leaving the TCU this summer, when she joins Toronto General Hospital's Nursing Resource Team, upon graduating as a registered nurse.

She says Meg's support of her professional growth – despite it meaning that she's leaving the TCU – has helped her believe in herself, and her ability to do well in nursing.

"Meg always says to me, 'this is just the beginning – you're going to go far,'" says Sarah.

"Just having that in the back of my mind –that someone who is such an amazing nurse believes in me – makes me stronger."

According to Meg, a manager who supports their team is also supporting A Healthier World.

"Throughout my career, I've been blessed with the people I work with. I have been given so much support, and granted so many opportunities," she says. "I believe that, as a manager, if I support my staff, then they can focus on looking after patients.

"I want them to learn, and get as much experience as they can, because that's how we're going to push healthcare forward."

As for what comes next, Meg isn't too sure, noting that while she can't see herself staying retired for too long, she's ready for a break.

But she knows one thing for certain, and it's that she's leaving tomorrow's care in excellent hands.

"I work with up-and-coming stars who are willing to push the boundaries of their practice, apply a can-do attitude, and truly be there for one-another," she says.

"I have no doubt they'll be the leaders of tomorrow."

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