May 1st, 2017
*May 8 to 14 is National Nursing Week, 2017.
When Registered Nurse Lois Millar began her career more than 53 years ago at St. Mary’s General Hospital in Kitchener, patients smoked in their rooms and nurses washed their ashtrays at the start of each shift. Syringes and IV bottles were made of glass. Gall bladder surgery were admitted for two weeks. And when a doctor approached the nursing station, all nurses stood up.
Fast forward to 2017 and on her 75th birthday, Lois was earning her recertification for Advanced Cardiac Life Support at St. Mary’s, where she continues to work in the hospital’s busy emergency department. “I like learning new things,” she says. “The secret is keeping updated.”
She tried retirement in 2004, but within a couple of months returned to St. Mary’s on a casual basis.
“I missed it,” she says. “The staff are like family and I like to be there for the patients.”
When electronic charting was introduced in the emergency department, Lois was the first one to dive in. “Lois truly embraces change,” says Kathleen Demers, who worked with her in the department as a nurse, educator and manager. “She is a shining example for every new nurse of the power of a positive individual.”
“Lois is genuine, honest and always available for her team,” adds Lisa Pell, her current manager.
During her tenure at St. Mary’s Lois has worked in every clinical unit with the exception of the operating room. She spent 25 years on the intravenous team. She currently works day shifts in the emergency department, sometimes up to 30 hours a week. For the past 11 years she has also volunteered at the YMCA in its wellness program.
Lois values her role as a mentor for younger nurses and they are generally eager to learn from her. “They’ll say ‘you’ve got all this knowledge. What do you think?”
She believes staff at St. Mary’s continue to live the mission of compassion and respect that is the legacy the hospital’s founders, the Sisters of St. Joseph of Hamilton. During Lois’ early years at St. Mary’s, the sisters lived onsite, held all key administrative roles and ran the kitchen, making butter tarts and jam and serving a hot breakfast to staff at the end of a night shift.
Long gone are the early days of Lois’ career when nurses had time to give every patient a nightly backrub. The pace and complexity of the role is vastly different now.
“Sometimes you think you’re not doing everything you can for patients and families,” she says. “But it’s what you put into it. You’ve got to prioritize and think ‘what is going to be most important for each patient?”
Kathleen Demers says “Lois is everything a nurse should be. She is caring, but also no-nonsense. She transcends time.”
Lois’ philosophy is simple. “Do something you love, surround yourself with positive people and do not live in the past,” she says.