Tricia Gordon, NP of the Orthopaedic Spine Center, discusses how she got her start in healthcare, the sacrifices her mother (also a nurse) made and the importance of getting more girls and women involved in healthcare..
How long have you worked at Mass General?
What is special about Mass General?
When I started working at Mass General, my first role was as a staff nurse. I was able to utilize the resources available to start graduate school and complete my master’s degree. I had a very supportive Nurse Manager and financial assistance through scholarships and tuition reimbursement. I have also heard stories, and I know of colleagues who started working here right out of high school who have also used these resources to advance their careers. This is one of the many reasons why Mass General is a special place to work.
What do you like most about your job?
I like working in a surgical specialty, especially one that works with patients to improve their quality of life. It is such a humbling experience when patients who were once in agony are able to smile again. My colleagues in ortho spine are definitely another reason that tops the list. We work together as a team, we have fun as team, and we all agree that the patients are our priority.
How can we encourage more women and girls to enter the sciences?
While nursing is a career that is predominately staffed by women, I would like to encourage more minority women and girls of color to put their hat in the ring. We are extraordinary in that we bring a different and needed perspective that helps all of us to grow to better serve our communities. In health science fields where women are underrepresented, we need to increase our presence. We can encourage more women and girls to enter the sciences by participating in outreach programs and speaking out about our journey, inviting them to shadow us in our work environment, and becoming mentors. These are some things we can actively do to encourage more women and girls to pursue careers in the sciences. Our voices and expertise are valuable and needed to increase diversity and inclusion in surgery, medicine, nursing, administration, research, academia, and technology.
Describe your journey into health care.
My interest in healthcare sparked when I observed and helped care for my ailing grandfather back in the Caribbean Isles of Trinidad & Tobago. At a young age, my mother who was also a nurse, taught me how to administer insulin through practicing on an orange. In high school, I volunteered at a nursing home, helping in the activities program department and serving as a patient companion. In nursing school, I worked in home care. These experiences were valuable, because I gained more exposure and they helped build confidence in my clinical courses. After graduating from Boston College, I worked on an acute care unit that focused on post surgical care of orthopedic and urology patients. Because I only worked four days a week, I was able to work in private duty nursing, I was a clinical instructor for undergraduate nursing students, and I volunteered at The New England Association on HIV over 50. I loved that I had the time to explore different roles within nursing and stay involved in the community. After four years working as a Registered Nurse, I enrolled in graduate school. I continued to work full time and study part time. The last year of the grad program I switched to school full time and worked weekends only. The sacrifice was worth it, because after graduate school, I had the option to increase my hours back to full time while I studied for the licensing exam. Staying in the organization made it easier to network to find Nurse Practitioner jobs within Mass General.
What contributions have women made in the field of medicine that have influenced your role or specialty?
This question brings Sojourner Truth to mind. A nurse, a leader, and an advocate, Sojourner has been a powerful influence. Despite being disadvantaged, Sojourner made contributions in the fight for women’s rights and is remembered in American history as an abolitionist. I love how nurses are multifaceted. We are not only great working at the bedside and caring for our patients, but we are also involved in policy change, we are role models, we are leaders implementing change, and we are mothers, sisters, wives, aunts, and friends—all at the same time.
Why is Women’s History Month important to you?
Women’s History Month is important to me because it is a conscious reminder and celebration of the value women add to our society. It also brings awareness to critical issues like inequity in the workplace, most recently the issues surrounding sexual harassment and abuse. This month is an important platform in that we can influence younger generations and educate others about our contributions, our strides, and the achievements we make every day, because these things are not always a part of school curriculums, the news cycle, or history books.
Has there been an influential woman in your life who supported or inspired you on your journey into health care/medicine?
My mother who sacrificed her career as a Nurse when she immigrated to the US. She worked hard to make sure my siblings and I had the resources to pursue our educational and career goals. What I admire most about my mother is her resilience. Today she has her own business within the healthcare industry, and she continually serves her community.