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Community Health Nurses of Canada 2024 Award of Merit Presented to ParaMed’s Michelle Pothier

Please join us in congratulating Michelle Pothier, MN, BN, RN, CCHN(C), CVAA(C), and Clinical Consultant on ParaMed’s Professional Practice and Clinical Education team on being awarded the Community Health Nurses of Canada (CHNC) Award of Merit on June 25th, 2024. This award is presented to “one outstanding nurse each year for their exemplary, visionary contribution to community health nursing”. 

We spoke with Michelle to discuss her award, her career and her lifelong commitment to elevating quality care for patients in their homes and communities. 

After graduating top of her class at the University of New Brunswick with a Bachelor of Nursing degree, Michelle envisioned herself working in a hospital setting in Pediatric Oncology. When she moved to Ontario and wasn’t able to secure a position in acute care, her path changed, and a happy accident was born.  

“I saw an ad in the paper for community health nursing.  I was in my first year as a nurse, and it was something, so I thought I would start with that.” 

That was 1992.  

Thirty-two years later, Michelle has spent her entire career with ParaMed, starting as a visiting nurse, later moved into supervisory and clinical educator roles and now develops clinical materials for ParaMed’s 10,000 team members as a Clinical Consultant. 

Along the way, ParaMed fit Michelle and her growing young family, providing the flexibility to work around her own schedule as a young mom. 

“I had three kids, and ParaMed allowed me to work through raising all three. ParaMed gave me work-life balance, and once I found that, I never considered another career.” 

For nurses considering applying their skills to home and community care, Michelle emphasizes the work life balance offered by working outside of hospital. She could work full time while maintaining involvement in her kids’ lives, enjoying field trips and after-school activities as a family. 

Continued growth, every step of the way 

Michelle describes herself as hungry for knowledge. It’s what fueled her ongoing desire to advance her career and continually obtain new specializations in her field.  

As she continued in home care over the years, the field of community health steadily created new opportunities for nurses to pursue continuing education. CHNC created a certification in the early 2000s centered around the specialization of community-based nursing and home health care, and Michelle was one of the first in line. 

“ParaMed was looking for nurses who were willing to write their CHNC exam and become certified. The exam was extensive because community health is a bit of everything – from home care to public health to rural nursing.” 

ParaMed encouraged Michelle to attend her first Public Health conference to learn about certification. She later became a member of one of the earliest CHNC cohorts, receiving her certification in 2006, and was one of the very first ParaMed nurses to be certified through the organization. Receiving a feature in the “The Standard,” a publication by the College of Nurses of Ontario, for being a nurse who exemplifies the standards of care, she quickly became a champion of community health.

After completing her CHNC certification, Michelle pursued a Master’s Degree in Nursing while working fulltime, graduating in 2012, and continues to upgrade her skills and share her knowledge at nursing and community health conferences to advocating and contributing to betterment of the sector.  

She also serves as the co-chair of the Clinical Practice Sub Committee of Home Care Ontario/Ontario Community Support Association Joint Nursing Practice Council, where she took part in standardizing processes for the first parenteral dose in the community. She is an active volunteer, giving her time to the CHNC Home Health Nursing Competencies Advisory Committee as well as part of the working group re-writing the Canadian Vascular Access & Infusion Therapy Guidelines, the definitive standard for best practices in vascular access and infusion therapy in Canada 

Quality care starts in the classroom 

While working as a Supervisor on ParaMed’s team in Southeastern Ontario, Michelle and the ParaMed clinical education team realized a need to evolve training materials to support team members in their skills development. She reflects fondly on her early efforts so many years ago. 

“We had stations for common skills like putting on compression stockings. At the time, I called it “PSW Advanced Skills. Later, with the support of my manager, I was encouraged to showcase the Skills Lab concept at a national ParaMed supervisor meeting, ultimately sparking the adoption of the Skills Labs that still exist today, right across ParaMed.”

What once started as tri-fold poster boards in an empty room decades ago has continued to evolve, as a training model still in use to this day. Skills labs have provided a place for ParaMed team members to learn and improve skills and adopt the standard practices of the organization.

Above: PSW Advanced Skills Training, 1990’s and ParaMed Oakville Skills Lab, 2024      

When asked about her fondest memories over the course of her career, it’s Michelle’s connection with patients that comes to forefront. 

“I wrote a story about one of my patients who I had a special connection with – a little girl with cancer. After each treatment visit, she used to give me stickers and would put them on my ID badge for being a good nurse. All these years later, I still have that badge!” 

“We try to treat our patients with the dignity and respect they deserve. Today, as an educator, I ensure that I educate my teams to achieve that standard.” 

Michelle continues to write educational material and collaborate on policy for the sector and for ParaMed’s many care professionals serving patients across Canada, setting the bar high for her team and her community.  

Congratulations, Michelle, and thank you for all you do!