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Cathlyn Robinson

Updated: Oct 3, 2023

Cathlyn Robinson's journey into the world of nursing was anything but ordinary. Born in Edmonton, Canada, she began her academic pursuits in political science, envisioning a future in international development and law. She had a clear vision of working with struggling communities.

In her first year of university, she had a sudden change of heart and decided to pursue nursing. It was quite unexpected since her mom is a nurse and her dad is a urologist and they never seriously discussed her pursuit of nursing. But on a whim, she recalls starting to look into nursing programs. This decision, while unexpected, was the start of a fulfilling career that has spanned three decades. Her family and friends were initially surprised by this sudden shift. But as Cathlyn delved deeper into her nursing studies, it became evident that her compassionate nature and keen interest in human well-being made nursing a perfect fit for her.

The Foundations of a Nurse

Cathlyn's determination led her to the University of Alberta hospitals' nursing diploma program. This traditional program, she believes, provided an invaluable foundation. "The training I received... gave me an incredibly solid base," she reflects, emphasizing the importance of foundational knowledge in nursing. The hands-on experience she gained during this period was invaluable. It was here that Cathlyn learned the importance of patient interaction, the nuances of bedside care and the critical thinking skills required in challenging situations.

After graduation, Cathlyn embarked on a diverse and enriching journey in healthcare. Beginning her career in cardiology at a prominent academic center, she was trained as a critical care nurse while simultaneously pursuing her BSN. Her passion for bedside nursing was palpable, and she often marveled at the privilege of working at something she loved so much. This initial phase of her career was marked by flexibility, with the hospital accommodating her wanderlust, allowing her to work for half the year and travel for the other half. Her travels took her to diverse locales, from Southeast Asia and India to South America, and even the Arctic region of Canada.

As her career progressed, Cathlyn's professional trajectory led her to specialize in emergency nursing, a field she grew to love for its fast-paced environment and varied cases. It was during this phase that she met her husband. Their journey together took them to Montreal, where Cathlyn joined the Montreal General Hospital. There, she completed her masters in nursing at McGill University and evolved into a Clinical Nurse Specialist in trauma. Over seven years, she played an instrumental role in the hospital's trauma program, leveraging her vast experiences from cardiology to emergency care, solidifying her reputation as a versatile and empathetic nurse equipped to tackle any challenge.

A Leader in Emergency Care

Cathlyn's expertise and dedication didn’t go unnoticed. After working as a Clinical Nurse Educator in emergency for ten years, Cathlyn moved into emergency nursing leadership. As the director of operations for the emergency services line at Robert Wood Johnson Barnabas Health in New Jersey, she supports 13 emergency departments, ensuring quality care and spearheading research and educational programs. Her leadership style is one of collaboration and mentorship. Cathlyn believes in empowering her team, fostering an environment where continuous learning and innovation are encouraged. Her approach has led to numerous improvements in patient care and operational efficiency across the departments she oversees.

While Cathlyn loves her current role, her true passion remains rooted in patient care. She believes that nurses at every level are essential for the effective operation of departments and the provision of exceptional patient care. Cathlyn also dedicates time to mentor numerous individuals. Cathlyn continues to work in nursing education, teaching advanced emergency nursing courses and has the unique opportunity to influence many nurses, ensuring they practice at the pinnacle of their capabilities. This indirect influence on patients is a different approach, but it brings her equal fulfillment.

The Unexpected Spotlight: Documentary Star

Cathlyn's involvement in the documentary "In Case of Emergency" was unexpected but pivotal. Initially assisting with patient and nurse interviews, she soon became a central figure, providing a cohesive voice for the documentary. This role amplified her voice in the nursing community, positioning her as an advocate and ambassador for emergency nursing. The documentary not only highlighted the challenges and triumphs of emergency nurses but also showcased Cathlyn's deep passion and commitment to the field. Her insights and reflections resonate with many, making her a beacon of inspiration for both seasoned and aspiring nurses.

The documentary garnered significant attention, which included winning “Best Documentary” in the United Nations Association Film Festival. Cathlyn quickly became a sought-after spokesperson whenever called upon for emergency nursing and the Emergency Nurses Association (ENA). She is always happy to provide support for any ENA initiatives and now holds the esteemed position of chair of the ENA Leadership Committee.

Cathlyn views herself as both an advocate and ambassador for emergency nursing. She has emerged as a prominent voice for emergency nurses, a role she considers a privilege. While she didn't actively pursue this role, she is deeply gratified by the impact of her involvement in the documentary. Cathlyn was committed to promoting the film and its powerful message about emergency nursing, believing it to be an accurate representation of their reality.

Life After the Documentary

Cathlyn hopes that the documentary provides a window for the broader public to recognize and value the contributions of emergency nurses. This experience has left a lasting and positive imprint on her life, leading to a cherished relationship with the documentary's director, Carolyn Jones. For Cathlyn, nursing transcends being merely a profession; it's a heartfelt vocation rooted in the core essence of caring.

Cathlyn remains keen to address common misconceptions about her profession. When I mistakenly referenced the “emergency room”, Cathlyn educated me that "we're not an 'emergency room' - we're an 'emergency department.'" This distinction, while seemingly minor, underscores the evolution from a single room to a comprehensive department. As emergency department (ED) nurses, their mission is unequivocal: to care for everyone. "Regardless of the ailment or situation, our commitment is to provide the best care possible," she emphasizes. Their dedication ensures that every patient, whether facing a minor ailment or a severe condition, feels genuinely cared for.

She also highlights the ideal role of emergency departments, expressing a wish for a more robust network of local clinics and resources, especially for non-emergent cases. Citing the public health system in Canada as an example, she underscores the importance of community-based care. However, she acknowledges the disparities in healthcare access, especially in parts of the U.S., and reassures, "if that's the situation, come in, and we'll take care of you." For Cathlyn and her peers, their unwavering commitment to patient care transcends systemic challenges.

The Evolution and Future of Emergency Nursing

Reflecting on her career, Cathlyn offers a unique perspective on the evolution of emergency nursing. From technological advancements to the solidification of emergency nursing as a specialty, she has witnessed significant transformations. Looking ahead, she envisions a future where technology continues to shape practice, but the voice and advocacy of emergency nurses grow even stronger. She also foresees a more integrated approach to healthcare, where emergency departments collaborate closely with other specialties and community resources. This holistic approach, she believes, will lead to better patient outcomes and more efficient care delivery.

In a rapidly evolving field, Cathlyn emphasizes the importance of continuous learning. From reading and engaging with the professional community to seeking mentorship and maintaining a learning attitude, she believes in a proactive approach to knowledge. "Becoming and remaining an adept emergency nurse requires a commitment to the process of continuous learning," she asserts. She often hosts courses, workshops and training sessions for her team, ensuring that they are equipped with the latest knowledge and skills. Cathlyn's commitment to education extends beyond her immediate team, as she frequently collaborates with educational institutions and research bodies to further the field of emergency nursing.

Guidance for Aspiring Emergency Nurses

For those considering a career in emergency nursing, Cathlyn offers sage advice. She believes that the essence of nursing lies in moments of connection and care. "Embrace it for the myriad opportunities it presents, the continuous growth, and the chance to make a difference," she advises. She also emphasizes the importance of resilience and adaptability. The world of emergency nursing is unpredictable, and nurses often have to make critical decisions in high-pressure situations. Cathlyn believes that a strong foundation in nursing principles, combined with a passion for continuous learning, is key to thriving in this challenging yet rewarding field.

Cathlyn recounted a poignant experience at the hospital where she observed a grieving family departing after the loss of a loved one. She didn't hesitate to approach them, extending guidance and heartfelt support. Cathlyn believes that even after a patient's passing, the responsibility of care continues, emphasizing the importance of treating the departed with dignity and respect. She personally ensured that the deceased patient was prepared with the utmost reverence. Such moments, from beginning to end, truly capture the essence of nursing for her. The act of being present, providing care, and upholding dignity, even in the face of death, is a profound privilege. In the realm of nursing, professionals are given a unique insight into the tapestry of human life. For Cathlyn, it's a profound honor to stand alongside individuals during times of vulnerability, joy, sorrow and even in their final moments.

Champions in the Field

Cathlyn's admiration for her peers is evident. She highlights several individuals, including Nancy Holecek, Dr. Jean Watson, Patty Kunz Howard, Maureen Harding and Maria Ponte, who have made significant contributions to nursing. Each of these individuals, in their unique way, has left an indelible mark on the world of nursing. She often collaborates with these champions, drawing on their expertise to drive improvements in patient care and operational efficiency. Cathlyn believes that the field of nursing is enriched by the diverse experiences and insights of its practitioners, and she is committed to fostering a culture of collaboration and mutual respect within the nursing community.

A Legacy of Care

Cathlyn Robinson's story is a testament to the dedication, passion and resilience of nurses worldwide. Her journey, filled with challenges, growth, and profound impact, serves as an inspiration for all in the healthcare field. Through her words and actions, she embodies the essence of a true Hero of Care, leaving a legacy that will inspire generations to come. Her story serves as a reminder of the profound impact that nurses have on patients, families and communities. Through their compassion, expertise, and dedication, nurses like Cathlyn make a difference every day, shaping the future of healthcare and touching countless lives in the process.


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