A family’s shared vocation over three generations of work in health care

Pictured left to right: Leah Fancey, Maureen Squarey and Lesley Anne Johnston
Pictured left to right: Leah Fancey, Maureen Squarey and Lesley Anne Johnston

Over a 43-year career in nursing, Maureen Squarey’s impact on health care in Nova Scotia has been significant. Her legacy is exemplified in the countless patients who have benefitted from her care but also through two of her daughters who have chosen careers in health care – on different paths but still led by their purpose of “helping people.”

Squarey started her nursing career in 1980, splitting her time between the Sydney City Hospital in Sydney, Nova Scotia and Northside General Hospital in North Sydney, Nova Scotia. Over her career, she has worked at the Victoria General Hospital in Halifax, St. Rita's Hospital in Sydney, the Mahone Bay Nursing Home and finally the South Shore Regional Hospital (SSRH). Squarey started at SSRH in 1998 and spent time working in medical nursing, surgical nursing and pediatrics / obstetrics where she worked for many years up until her recent retirement in February 2023.

Squarey was inspired to pursue nursing from a young age, seeing many family members work in the field. “Growing up, my mom and several members of my extended family were nurses,” said Squarey. “My mother was an incredibly special person and really loved what she did — she was a wonderful nurse. In our family and among the community, she was loved and respected to the highest degree, and you know, when you’re little you want to grow up and be just like that. I truly felt like this is what I wanted to do with my career, and I never really questioned that.”

Over her dedicated career in health care, Squarey and her husband built a family and brought four children into the world: Marina, Mitch, Lesley Anne and Leah. Inspired by both their grandmother and mother, Lesley Anne and Leah have also pursued careers in health care with Nova Scotia Health. Lesley Anne Johnston is a Communications Advisor in Halifax and Leah Fancey works as an Assistant Manager in Facilities Management at South Shore Regional Hospital in Bridgewater.

In this one family, three generations have been employed with Nova Scotia Health and dedicated their professional life to helping people.

Nova Scotia Health is one of the largest employers in the province with over 24,000 employees. The opportunities to build a career in health care are endless. Whether working in operations, finance, engineering, storytelling, cleaning, directly with patients or otherwise, the staff and physicians who make up the employee workforce at Nova Scotia Health are building a healthier province and their shared contributions will have an impact for generations.

“My mom has always been well-known for how invested she has been in her career,” shared Fancey. “I remember seeing how committed she was at a young age and that really inspired me to find a career just as fulfilling. In my role, I don’t work directly with patients, but I do see how my efforts support the delivery of quality care for Nova Scotians.”

Fancey works as part of a team that manages approximately 75 staff members. She says that in her role, making connections and building relationships with the people she works with is what she loves most about her job. “We strive every day to support our staff and help them in whatever way we can. We look after a lot of people as managers, and I draw inspiration from my mom in the way I lead my team. I am committed to helping them find success and I know they can feel that.”

Johnston also shared that she was “influenced by generations of care givers” in her family, leading her to start her post-secondary education in nursing at St. Francis Xavier University in Antigonish. As someone who always excelled in the fine arts (writing and visual arts), she switched paths in her second year to pursue a Bachelor of Arts. After graduating from St. Francis Xavier University, Johnston went on to take her Bachelor of Public Relations at Mount Saint Vincent University in Halifax. As part of that program, her second co-op term was with Nova Scotia Health where she started thinking about how her skills in writing, public relations and arts could be of use in health care.

Like her sister, Johnston also has memories of her mom’s strength and resilience from when she was young, “I remember getting ready for a Christmas concert and having my mom do my hair beforehand. I could see how tired she was, having worked the night before. I remember my dad telling me she was going back to work that night and being in awe of how she could have the energy. I can still remember the moment at the concert when I was up on stage and saw her watching me and just thinking ‘you are such a rockstar’. She never complained once about her work and supported all of us four kids while still being so committed to her work,” said Johnston. “That just showed me how much she loved her job and to love what you do, that’s a happy life.”

Johnston says that she finds the same joy in her work now on the Communications team. “I am constantly inspired by the individuals and teams I support here at Nova Scotia Health, they work so hard in service to Nova Scotians every day, they are really incredible and deserve to be celebrated.” Johnston works closely with Legacy of Life and organ and tissue donation as part of her role. She has opportunities to work with both donor families and recipients to share their stories and create awareness around organ and tissue donation.  

“When raising my kids, the most important thing was that I just wanted them to grow up to be kind, thoughtful and respectful people, and to find a rewarding vocation in life,” shared Squarey. “I hope that when my kids come close to retirement someday that they feel the same way I do right now, and have the same sense of accomplishment, satisfaction and pride. I think they are on the right path.”

Congratulations, Maureen and happy retirement. Thank you for your dedicated career in caring for Nova Scotians. You are an inspiration to many who will follow in your and your mother, “Nana Lovie’s”, footsteps.