An exemplary and inspiring career – Horizon’s CNO retires after 43 years of service

With a career spanning 43 years in various roles on the frontline as a Registered Nurse (RN), to a health care leader, to Horizon’s Vice President and Chief Nursing Officer, Brenda Kinney is retiring.

After spending nine years as a frontline nurse, Brenda assumed the role of Horizon’s Executive Director for the Saint John area and went on to serve as the president of the Nurses Association of New Brunswick (NANB) as well as a Board member for the Canadian Nurses Association. Her accomplishments are plentiful, and her dedication and hard work have been outstanding not only for patients and families but also for the field of nursing.

She has inspired and advocated for her colleagues, including nurse practitioners (NPs), registered nurses (RNs), licenced practical nurses (LPNs), and patient care attendants (PCAs) throughout her career. Her work has not gone unnoticed.

In honour of National Nursing Week, we sat down with Brenda to talk about her career and accomplishments, as well as what’s to come.

1. Tell me a bit about yourself and your career. Where did you first start practicing?

I graduated from the Saint John School of Nursing in 1981 and started my career at the Saint John General Hospital (Now Horizons Saint John Regional Hospital (SJRH)) on a general surgery floor. I was fortunate to move to the Surgical Intensive Care Unit the following year; this was my passion as a frontline RN.

I was a nurse supervisor until I left the SJRH to join the Extra Mural Hospital in St. Stephen, which later became the New Brunswick Extra-Mural Program. I spent 20 years working for them in various leadership roles while I continued my education, earning both my Bachelor’s degree and Master’s Degree in Nursing.

I had a wonderful opportunity to be a facilitator of an Interprofessional Education project with the University of New Brunswick Saint John Campus, New Brunswick Community College and Dalhousie’s Faculty of Medicine for two years. Following that, I was offered the exciting opportunity to take on the role of Director of Nursing Professional Practice for the Saint John area of Horizon. This led to the Regional Director role, and then in 2013, I took on the Executive Director role for the Saint John area. To finish off my career, I was selected as Vice-President and CNO in 2021. I also was active in the professional association NANB and served as president-elect and president. This gave me the opportunity to represent NB on the Canadian Nurses Association Board of Directors.

2. Did you always plan to move into a leadership role?

No, I chose the two-year program of nursing because I was under the impression the Bachelor of Nursing stream was more for leadership, and I felt at the time that I would never be a leader! That’s one of the great things about nursing, there are so many opportunities, and truly, I could never have predicted the path my career took. I was so fortunate to have had great nurse leader mentors who saw something in me and pushed me out of my comfort zone to try new things, something I hope all nurses have.

3. Tell me a little bit about your role. What does the CNO do? How has the position evolved?

When I was hired, I was told I would be involved in all things that touched nursing and to be a bit disruptive. Well, as the role was being operationalized, it became very clear that “all things nursing” was huge. By listening to many nursing professionals across Horizon, I was able to focus on some of the top priorities.

The CNO is the voice for Horizon nursing at the Executive table, supporting the CEO related to nursing issues and liaising with our partners, including government and educational partners and, the many strategic relationships.

This has been very rewarding, ensuring nursing issues and realities are presented and accurate at these tables; I have been fortunate to develop very strong networks and partnerships on behalf of Horizon nursing.

4. What are some of the accomplishments from your time as CNO that you’re most proud of?

My focus has been on partnering with human resources on recruitment and developing initiatives and programs to assist us with retention. Putting strategic programs in place to support the development of a mentorship culture was one of my top priorities. I am very proud that we secured funding from the Post-Secondary Education, Training and Labour department to launch the retired RN pilot. We now have a nationally recognized mentorship training program that will help to develop this essential competency in our nurses. Supporting our new nurses to be successful benefits us all and contributes to a positive workplace culture.

I am very proud of our CNOHosts forum, topics are timely, engaging and of benefit to many other professions as well. This provides a great opportunity for small learnings and topics to support our personal and professional growth.

Implementing our nursing student employment program that has transformed into today’s SNAP program is very satisfying; when I was a student in 1980, I worked as a patient attendant and learned many skills that have served me well to this day!

There are many others that I am very proud of my teams for doing and I know will continue to grow and become more refined as someone else takes over the reigns with new ideas and energy!

5. Horizon is committed to providing quality care to all New Brunswickers – and we know our amazing nursing teams play a huge role. Is there anything you want to say or thank them for personally?

I am so proud of Horizon nursing professionals and supports (NPs, RNs, LPNs, and PCAs) – they are practicing in a very new time, navigating the current work environment, technologies, expectations, and constant change. One thing I know for certain is that what we do as nurses will continue to evolve – what must never change is our caring and compassion for all we are privileged to serve and care for.

6. As someone with over 40 years of experience as a nurse, do you have any advice for recent graduates or nurses who have recently joined the profession?

Yes, never be afraid of change and grab opportunities that will help you grow. It may take time for you to find your niche, and that’s okay because everything you do to get there will provide invaluable experiences and lessons learned. Take care of yourself and your colleagues, and never lose your passion!

7. What about those currently in the field – do you have any advice for them?

Support and mentor your colleagues – take care of yourself so that you can, in turn, care for those who need you – be authentic and always try to do what’s right.

8. What’s next – are you looking forward to a fully retired life, or will you continue to work?

I’m not sure what the next phase of life is for me. I plan on taking a good long break over the summer to refresh and take care of myself and my loved ones, and then, who knows, I will be open to opportunities.

9. Any final thoughts to add?

I want to thank all the wonderful people that I have been privileged to know, admire, respect, cherish and mentor – they have given me purpose and passion for what I do – I will miss you all!

We want to thank Brenda for her dedication and passion as a nurse, mentor, and leader within Horizon and the nursing field. Congratulations on your retirement, Brenda!