Our People in Profile: Gail Tomblin Murphy recognized for dedication to health sciences and leadership in nursing

Nova Scotia Health’s vice president of Research, Innovation and Discovery, and Chief Nurse Executive, Dr. Gail Tomblin Murphy (contributed)

Dr. Gail Tomblin Murphy wears many hats in the run of a week: a health system and nurse leader, researcher, a champion for innovation, an expert advisor on workforce planning, and an advisor of PhD students and post-doctoral fellows.

As Nova Scotia Health’s vice president of Research, Innovation and Discovery, and Chief Nurse Executive, she has been passionate about health and healthcare since a young age.

“Growing up between Calgary and Halifax, I had the benefit of being exposed to a variety of communities and health experiences across this country,” said Dr. Tomblin Murphy. “Those early impressions of the diversity of opportunities within the health system, and the inherent challenges, has stuck with me through my education, and my personal and professional life. It’s what drew me to a career in the health sciences, where I started as a nurse in the medical intensive care unit.”

Earlier this week, Dr. Tomblin Murphy was inducted as a fellow to the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences, in recognition of her dedication and excellence in research in health system strengthening and health workforce planning locally, regionally, nationally and globally.  

“I wanted to help people, and seeing first-hand the challenges met by communities, patients and families in trying to access care led me to continue my education in the area of needs-based health system planning. Improved access to healthcare through research, innovative partnerships, as well as health system design and policy are areas that I have continued to contribute to as a health leader.”

Being invited to become a fellow is a top honour among the health sciences community in Canada, where individuals are recognized by their peers through the Academy, both nationally and internationally, for what they have contributed over the course of their career to advance the academic health sciences.

“It is truly an honour to be recognized as a fellow,” said Dr. Tomblin Murphy. “My passion for improving the health of our communities, both locally and internationally, led me to nursing, and my career has enabled me to provide leadership and expertise to bring new and innovative solutions to improve health and health care delivery, and to better understand the conditions necessary for impactful change.”

Now as a fellow, Dr. Tomblin Murphy will continue to provide expertise on health-related topics that are timely and of importance at a national level.

She currently serves on the National COVID-19 Immunity Task Force, the pan-Canadian Health Data Strategy expert advisory group, as well as directs the World Health Organization and Pan American Health Organization Collaborating Centre on health workforce planning and research at Dalhousie University as part of its school of nursing.

“It really will be a privilege to serve as a fellow of the Academy, and I’m looking forward to supporting the development of a strategy for urgent and emerging health matters at a national level to improve access to safe, quality health care here at home in Nova Scotia, as well as for all Canadians.”

Next month, Gail will also be acknowledged as a fellow of the Canadian Academy of Nursing, through the Canadian Nurses Association. The Academy’s fellowship program was established in 2019 to recognize the country’s most accomplished nurse leaders for their contributions and continued impact on the profession and health systems.

“I have been fortunate to contribute to nursing practice both as a healthcare leader and as a researcher,” said Dr. Tomblin Murphy. “I collaborate with various leaders in health care organizations and governments in Canada and a number of countries world-wide to increase capacity for needs-based [human resource for health] planning, monitoring and evaluation, and to build leadership capacity among health providers, with a specific focus on nurses.“

Dr. Tomblin Murphy is an internationally recognized expert in population needs-based approaches to health systems and workforce planning, evaluation, and research, as well as known for her leadership on championing innovation in healthcare.

She has co-developed a conceptual framework with colleagues at the University of Toronto and McMaster University, which has informed health workforce planning efforts based on the needs of populations in a number of countries.

Closer to home, in her role as Chief Nurse Executive for Nova Scotia Health, Dr. Tomblin Murphy has led the transformation of the provincial nursing strategy and has provided oversight for its implementation.

“I have worked with government colleagues, both in health and education, on nursing workforce planning related to interprofessional education and collaborative practice within our organization. This has led to a stronger partnership with the three schools of nursing in Nova Scotia, where we have developed a collaborative plan for nursing education in the province.”

One such example is an education incentive as part of the provincial nursing strategy, where a bursary is provided to nurses who are advancing their education (either as a licensed practical nurse enrolled in a bachelor’s program to become a registered nurse or a registered nurse enrolled in a master’s level program to become a nurse practitioner).

“Last year, 30 licensed practical nurses successfully transition to registered nurse roles at Nova Scotia Health,” said Dr. Tomblin Murphy. “This is really exciting to see, and is invaluable in our efforts to recruit and retain the nursing staff we need to deliver quality care to our patients.”

Congratulations to Dr. Tomblin Murphy on these two prestigious recognitions.