Betty Ann Aucoin retires after stellar career in health care
Betty Ann Aucoin of Cheticamp is finally, fully retired.
Mona Poirier, administrator presents cheque to Bettry Ann Aucoin.
The woman who held the reins of power at her community’s two major health facilities for most of the past three decades accomplished her life’s mission, and now it’s time for Betty Ann.
Although we will all miss the lovely smile that masked a tough and competent administrator, everyone accepts the fact that she did her all and now it is time to pass the torch.
Betty Ann’s professional journey began in an era that is long gone.
Born and raised in Cheticamp, a graduate of NDA, she became an RN by taking the three-year nursing course at Sydney’s teaching hospital, St. Rita’s.
Most of Cape Breton’s nurses graduated from a teaching hospital such as St. Rita’s, an institution that gave us a generation of competent health care professionals.
But St. Rita’s no longer exists, yet the quality of nurses it produced is one of the pillars of our present system.
She graduated from St. Rita’s in 1966 but decided to obtain a degree in nursing from St.FX, which she accomplished in 1968.
She returned to Cheticamp to begin her career at the Sacred Heart Hospital.
Betty Ann was no stranger to Sacred Heart, having worked there during the summer, on weekends and over Christmases while she was a student at St.FX.
She spent four years at Sacred Heart, but as it was, as is, with so many women, she decided to put her career on hold to raise her children.
For the next 16 years she raised Jean Guy, Natalie, Johanne and Sylvie, but in 1985 it was time to return to the career she loved.
Her re-entry into nursing took place at both the Sacred Heart Hospital and Foyer Pand#61520;re Fiset which was opened in 1971 while she raised her children.
In 1989 the administrator of the Foyer Pand#61520;re Fiset retired, so Betty Ann decided to apply for the position and she got it. Her career as an administrator had begun.
The late 1980s and most of the 1990s were turbulent times at the Sacred Heart Hospital. Change was in air at health care facilities across Nova Scotia, and in 1997, Betty Ann agreed to add the position of facility manager of Sacred Heart to her role as administrator of Foyer Pand#61520;re Fiset.
In the previous ten years, Sacred Heart went through seven facility managers, and the hope was that a local could pull all the factions together.
“I hope she lasts,” was what most were saying.
The dual role was an immense challenge for Betty Ann.
She had her grasp on Foyer Pand#61520;re Fiset, but it took some time, with the help of others, to finally bring smooth sailing to Sacred Heart.
It remained a logistical nightmare for Betty Ann.
The two facilities, Sacred Heart and Foyer Pand#61520;re Fiset, weren’t joined, so every day the coat and boots would go on as she ran both places “on the run.”
But in 1999 the new Sacred Heart Community Health Centre opened, and it was physically connected to Foyer Pand#61520;re Fiset, which made running both a lot easier for Aucoin.
Two years ago after what seemed forever, she began to plan her retirement from both facilities.
She gave up her position as facility manager at Sacred Heart and passed it on to Brenda Fougere.
And she was only doing half-time at Foyer Pand#61520;re Fiset, and now Mona Poirier has take on the top job.
“When I think back over the past 47 years it is incredible how so much has changed,” she said. “There were no heart monitors, no computers, no cell phones, so little technology.”
She said when she returned to health care there was so much new, the development of technologies, that you had to learn or return home.
Betty Ann said too often your mind goes back to the challenges faced.
When she was asked to be the facility manager of Sacred Heart by the Eastern Regional Health District, there were four districts in Nova Scotia at the time. She worried about job losses, trying to allay the fears of the employees and attempting to make both facilities run as one, but it was accomplished and the costs cut enough to make both facilities run more smoothly.
“It took time, a lot of hard work, a lot of reassurances, until we made both facilities more efficient; it worked out well in the end, for the good of all,” she said.
“There is a good system now in place,” she added.
Betty Ann pointed out that it became easier once respect and trust came to “the home-town girl.”
From there it was just a matter of working together to make sure it all worked well.
“I loved the Foyer,” she recalled. Before she took the 16 years off to raise her children she enjoyed working at the Foyer most of all.
She lived with her grandparents at home growing up, so she was more than comfortable with older people, and at the Foyer she felt connected, natural with the seniors.
But it still was scary when she returned, with all the new equipment, the code blues, but eventually it came down to loving the people.
She grew into her dual role and felt comfortable at having to be “at two places at the same time.”
“It was a challenge, but if you take it on you have to get it done,” she said.
When 65 arrived she knew it was time to pull away, and eventually it all worked out well.
“For a long time I was the glue that held it all together while both staff did their jobs as well as they could be done,” she said. “As long as everyone worked together, my job was much easier.”
Now it’s time to spend more time with her six grandkids and to meditate while she works in her garden.
“I hope to take some courses at the college and to continue volunteering,” she said. “I might even nurse if I’m needed.”
A recent good memory is the expansion at the Foyer three years ago which added ten private rooms.
“Now that was a highlight,” she said.
Her memory went back to the days when 60 babies used to be born at Sacred Heart each year.
Dr. Boudreau used to deliver them, but Thursday was his day off and he’d head to his farm in Belle Marche to work there for the day.
But for some reason most babies decided to be born on Thursday, so a maintenance man would be sent to Belle Marche to find the doctor.
“We nurses delivered a lot of babies,” she recalled with joy and pride.
It was a challenging and great ride guiding the health care facilities in Cheticamp, but now the job is for younger people.
This young person has other challenges and interests to address in her own time.
A job well done, one that she can be immensely proud to have accomplished.
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