Veteran JGH nurse earns a top prize—and retirement

Chantal Cloutier

After three decades in cancer care at the Jewish General Hospital, Chantal Cloutier is celebrating her retirement on a high note: The pioneering nurse has received an Award of Excellence from the Quebec Association of Oncology Nurses.

The accolade recognizes a distinguished career at the side of cancer patients and their families, most recently as Pivot Nurse in Hematology at the Segal Cancer Centre. Peers, managers and physicians are praising her dedication and leadership, and the legacy she leaves for generations of nurses to come.

“Chantal Cloutier is like the mother and the fortress of all nurses in oncology at the Segal Cancer Centre,” says Gabrielle Chartier, a Pivot Nurse in Cervico-Facial Oncology. “She knows each and every one of us, our strengths and weaknesses, and she manages to bring out the best in all of us.”

Ms. Cloutier joined the JGH right out of nursing school in 1985, and she never left. As a Pivot Nurse, she has been responsible for following patients throughout their trajectory of cancer care, with personalized attention that begins at diagnosis. That means forging long-term relationships and addressing their emotional as well as physical needs.

“I always felt privileged to be part of a patient’s journey,” says Ms. Cloutier, adding that she passed up promotions to managerial positions because she always saw her role as being by the bedside of patients and their families. “I loved my job.”

The Award of Excellence came as a welcome—and surprising—parting gift for her retirement this year. “I’m extremely honoured,” says Ms. Cloutier, who is also a Nursing Consultant. “It’s such a beautiful way to end my career.”

Karine Lepage, Clinico-Administrative Coordinator in the Divisions of Medicine and Oncology, says Ms. Cloutier had been a pioneer in her Pivot Nurse role, and went on to become a mentor to new nurses. But her relationships with patients stood out, as she helped shepherd them through the difficulties of their illness and treatment.

“Patients and their families recognize her exceptional work and say so, any chance they get,” Ms. Lepage says. “They know they can count on her, even if they have questions after they get home. She listens and shows empathy, and knows where to direct them so their needs are looked after.”

Dr. April Shamy of the Division of Hematology-Oncology at the JGH says Ms. Cloutier approached her nursing role with compassion and commitment.

“As physicians, we are continually impressed by her clinical acumen and knowledge, and we are grateful for her resourcefulness and ability to provide our patients with comprehensive care,” Dr. Shamy says.

“A successful career in health care is driven by the principal desire to help people,” Dr. Shamy adds. “Chantal Cloutier has always shown this through her many activities and roles. She has combined her passion for nursing and unparalleled humanity and professionalism with a firm knowledge of the role and importance of a nurse in ensuring the best possible health trajectory and outcome for the patient.”

Ms. Cloutier thanks the JGH for providing the environment to allow her to thrive.

“I’m so proud of what I was able to achieve,” she says. “But I was able to do it because I worked at the JGH, and I got the support I needed to pursue my dreams to become a better nurse.”