She has a voice you’ve probably heard around the QEII Health Sciences Centre and a personality you won’t forget. It may be the way she wears her bright smile or how everyone in the hallway is a “dear” to her, but Gwen MacDonald has made a lasting impression through her hard work and friendly demeanour that resonates through the health centre’s hallways.
At the QEII’s Halifax Infirmary, there are 13 specialty Ambulatory Care Outpatient Clinics requiring more than 700 medical products and a team of two to ensure it all runs smoothly. Meet Gwen MacDonald and Wanda Giles, the dynamic duo that keeps everything under control.
Last year an on-site warehouse was created with a computerized system allowing items to be dispensed as each product is requested.
Originally the supplies were housed in various spaces with overflowing boxes and expired products. For most, the task of organizing a crowded space comprised of everything from catheters to tissues would be daunting. Yet, Gwen and Wanda dove into the project headfirst and organized an overhaul of the warehouse, along with its operations, to better benefit the QEII and its patients.
With the new system, instead of ordering whole cases of items, clinics can order the number that is needed – causing clinics to become more efficient with their resources and cut back on bulk purchases.
With the support of unit aides in each clinic, these women also play the role of auditors and quantity control, scrutinizing supply levels, and monitoring how well the supplies move through the clinics, adjusting the numbers as necessary. The two place a very high value on the importance of teamwork in managing the warehouse. And they can’t just rely on the computer system; both say knowledge of how it all works is crucial. Gwen and Wanda both have more than 25 years of experience.
People skills, organization and being efficient are part of the mandatory skill set according to the dynamic duo. And with a personality like Gwen’s, a sense of humour could be considered mandatory for the job title.
“You have to have fun,” Gwen says. “Wanda and I do multiple jobs.”
Their hard work has won recognition from staff and recently the pair was awarded both the Quality Week poster presentation award and the people’s choice award for their warehouse project.
Somehow, Gwen and Wanda manage everything with ease and grace.
“We have all the doctors, all the nurses, all the unit aides could be coming at us ... but at the end of the day everything is organized, everyone is happy; everyone has the supplies they want,” Gwen says.
Cathy McDonald worked with Gwen as a unit aide in ICU for more than two decades, and can testify to her efficiency.
“[MacDonald] knows her job. If I need any information, Gwen has always been my go-to person,” Cathy says. “She’d give you the shirt off her back.”
In 2003, the roof blew off an ICU wing during Hurricane Juan. Gwen and Cathy had to quickly help transfer patients and supplies to the temporary ICU in another unit.
“You don’t go through that every day,” Cathy says chuckling.
Gwen is also a friend of the QEII Foundation, volunteering and raising money for various projects throughout the health centre. She is committed to helping wherever she can.
She says she’s been working her entire career to get to where she is today.
“I love to tear things apart and put them back together. I’m thrilled to be here. I can’t wait to come into work. It’s a great job,” Gwen says, once again flashing that familiar smile.