Joanne Côté’s office bookshelf is filled with awards for her numerous accomplishments, but one in particular stands out: A sparkling tiara.
The toy crown was a gift from Associate CEO Lucie Tremblay in honour of Ms. Côté’s admirable nickname—the Queen of Coordination.
Ms. Côté wears the title well. When she retires in July after more than 40 years of service, she can claim an illustrious reign over some of our CIUSSS’s most ambitious and formative projects. Many of the major transformations in our network bear Ms. Côté’s imprint, including the opening of Pavilion K at the Jewish General Hospital, the strategic handling of the COVID-19 pandemic and, most recently, the roll-out of our pioneering Command Centre.
“I’ve always had a bit of an innate sense of organization,” says Ms. Côté, Director of Quality, Transformation, Evaluation, Valuation, Ethics and Virtual Care.
“I had a Plan A, B, C—and sometimes I got to Z.”Joanne Côté
“Listening to others has been my secret weapon,” she says. “You have to remain vigilant and watch how people react. Otherwise, a project can go completely off the rails.”
From her start as a JGH nurse in 1981 to her final mandate, she was always guided by a steadfast sense of determination, resilience and strong work ethic, she says. But perhaps her greatest quality has been an ability to listen.
She calls it “keeping your finger on the pulse”—a skill she learned in her many years at bedside and as Head Nurse in the JGH Cardiology and Coronary Care Unit. “You keep your finger on the pulse to be sure everyone is onside. Sometimes you have to adjust on a dime, and then be creative in finding solutions.”
Among her most significant accomplishments was overseeing the move to Pavilion K, the largest and most ambitious expansion project in the history of the JGH. The state-of-the-art pavilion opened with the Emergency Department in 2014, followed in 2016 with Critical Care, the surgical suites and numerous other units and services. It was a highly complex move that involved relocating more than 200 patients and carrying out 180 simulations with clinical teams and support services to ensure everything was ready.
“I take people’s well-being to heart, whether they’re patients or staff. For me, it’s always been what matters.”Joanne Côté
Over a six-year period, Ms. Côté dedicated herself to both the big picture and the tiniest detail. Prior to the opening, she personally visited each room and office three times, including every one of the 254 patient rooms. She tested every faucet and light switch. She once followed up with an architect to make sure that a door whose latch didn’t close properly was fixed.
“As they say, the devil is in the details,” she says.
In her most recent incarnation, she’s been at the forefront of the CIUSSS’s digital transformation strategy, supporting virtual care and taking a leading role in the award-winning C4 Command Centre (for Continuum of care, Collaboration, Communication and Creativity). The pace-setting nature of these innovations has sparked interest from across Quebec and Canada, and as far away as France and Denmark.
As she reflects on her career, Ms. Côté believes our CIUSSS’s strength comes from its “huge number of passionate people” and a non-hierarchical approach that encourages innovation. “We let people grow. There’s room for internal promotion that means people invest themselves, because they know they can aspire to different career choices,” she says.
She praises the visionary leadership of President and CEO Dr. Lawrence Rosenberg, the dedication of CIUSSS directors and managers, and the many employees from the clinical and support directorates who work behind the scenes.
Saying goodbye to those people, whom she describes as “family,” will be the hardest part of leaving the CIUSSS, she says. But she also retires with a sense of pride in her accomplishments, and gratitude to all those she met along the way.
- 1999: Head Nurse – Cardiology and Coronary Care Unit
- 2005: Nursing coordinator – Division of Cardiology
- 2010: Head Nurse –Pavilion K Clinical Project
- 2011: Director – Transition Office
- 2015: Associate Director – Innovation and Quantitative and Prescriptive Analysis, and Director of Transformation Support
- 2016: Relocation of Pavilion K
- 2019: Director – Quality, Innovation, Evaluation, Performance, and Ethics
- 2022: Director – Quality, Transformation, Evaluation, Valuation, Ethics and Virtual Care
- 2019: Lean Gold Certification.
- 2022: Interprofessional Team Award – The Medical Post, C4 Command Centre.
- 2022: Public Administration Award of Excellence, Health and Social Services – Institut d’administration publique du Québec, C4 Command Center.
- 2023: Award of Excellence in the Health and Social Services network – Integrated Management of Quality of Health Care and Services category, C4 Command Centre.
“I learned a lot from all the people whose paths I crossed throughout my career,” she says. “Each one of them contributed to making me the person I am today.”