BARRIE — Janice Skot moves into retirement next month after an 18-year journey of change, growth and innovation at Barrie's Royal Victoria Regional Health Centre (RVH).
But the president and chief executive officer has mixed emotions as the end of June approaches.
"I have mixed feelings," she told BarrieToday. "I'm looking forward to spending more time with my husband (Vic), who is retiring at the same time, as well as my children and my friends.
"At the same time, I love RVH. I feel so privileged to be able to do the job I've been doing for the past 18 years, so I'll miss it terribly. I'm not in countdown (mode) — like I can't wait — to be honest. I really am feeling pretty emotional these days."
Her plans, for the moment, are simple. After years of living on a tight schedule, the couple, who also mark 35 years of marriage in June, are resisting over-scheduling and planning. It's time to take a pause, enjoy spending more time at the cottage, swimming — one of Skot's favourite physical activities — and doing chores such as grocery shopping during the week instead of busy weekends, and catching up with friends.
Some elements of her current life won't change — such as exercise — but the hour that she does it will. For years, she's kept up a fitness routine that starts at 5:15 a.m., alternating between the stationary bike and 10 minutes of upper body/arms with yoga.
Skot says exercise is important to her because she feels it's one of the keys to staying healthy. Both she and Vic enjoy it, whether it's taking a walk after dinner, or golfing.
While Skot maintains she is a lousy golfer, she's looking forward to spending more time at it, in part because the couple is very close and enjoys spending time together
"The other element for us is we prefer to eat healthy. So we want to be able to spend more time in the kitchen preparing food because cooking actually takes more time," she says.
"A really big goal of ours is to make sure we have time set aside to focus on healthy living so exercise, healthy eating, spending time with friends, not just focusing on the weekends, but to enjoy people's company," Skot adds. "So many good friends over the years have been cherished friends, but I haven't been able to spend a lot of time with them."
Skot met Vic, an entrepreneur with a chartered accountant background, in Sudbury, where she spent a good part of her career before moving to Barrie. Together, they have four children, ranging in age from 23 to 33.
Her oldest daughter lives in the United Kingdom where she is a vice-president of a large financial tech firm. Of the middle daughters, one is a Toronto lawyer, who moved her work to Barrie when her office closed, and the other is a military dentist at CFB Borden. Her son, the youngest in the family, is between university degrees. Each acquired two degrees before choosing some of their professions.
"They're really good kids. They have been just a treasure and a joy to raise and now they are friends and we enjoy our time with them particularly when we can all get together at the cottage," Skot says. "The pandemic has been kind of a silver lining and a gift from a personal perspective because two of our daughters are temporarily living with us. For Vic and I, it's been a real pleasure."
Born in Sudbury, Skot went to Queen's University for nursing, and started her career in an Indigenous community in James Bay, about 145 kilometres north of Timmins, as an outpost nurse. She says her year there was both a tremendous responsibility and an incredible growth opportunity because there were no physicians on site.
For Skot, it was a fantastic experience. It led to more nursing adventures, such as going on a goose hunt or visiting a multi-generational Indigenous family who lived off the land, catching and smoking their fish.
Skot’s last nursing position was in post-partum at a Saudia Arabia hospital, a short-term contact to earn enough to see her through a 22-month master's program, which marked the beginning of her move into administration.
She says her nursing skills have helped her in all her leadership roles. Leadership, along with international health, policy, and politics, have been a longtime interest and all of it contributed to her decision to do her master's in health administration.
She considers education to be a philosophy of life-long learning. She has acquired two degrees, one in nursing and the other a master’s of health science, health administration.
Education continued with an advanced management program at Harvard School of Business, as well as the independent corporate directors program at Rotman School of Business.
After graduating with her master’s in 1987, Skot landed her first position overseeing a capital construction project for a Sudbury hospital doing complex continuing care, as well as overseeing the building of a cancer centre. It was an eight-year journey from project co-ordination to the chief executive officer (CEO) of Laurentian Hospital at a time when few women were heading up hospitals.
After her predecessor announced his retirement from RVH, it was also announced that a cancer centre was going to be built in Barrie.
Skot wanted to be here.
"With the work I did in Sudbury, I felt it was my calling," says Skot, who was selected in 2004 and moved to Barrie, where she plans to remain after she retires.
She credits Vic's support for being able to manage a demanding job with long hours, raising children and having a home life.
"If you're happy in your home life, whatever that is — single, kids — if you're happy there and you like what you're doing, have happiness in your work life, it's about fulfillment in both," she says.
"I don't mean to say I do it perfectly — I struggle with all of it. But the point is if you're going to have a position like mine and raise children, the partnership has to be solid. I love my husband Vic and he's so good to me and the family. I am fortunate."
She is leaving the Barrie hospital with major expansions in place for RVH, now called the north campus, and the development of a south campus in Innisfil. It will be part of RVH's "one system, two sites" graduated model for the future, to be developed over the next 10 years.