Therese Courtenay

Therese Courtenay
Episode 117

Join host Japhet De Oliveira for an engaging conversation with Therese Courtenay, the Associate Patient Care Executive at Adventist Health Mendocino Coast as they discuss Therese's love for ballet, her determination to create a positive environment for her daughter, the intersection of her faith and life, and the importance of service.
Libsyn Podcast
"I think a life of service really is the intersection for me. I can't imagine a life without service, and I think what I do in that life of service intersects with my faith, in that I feel like I have meaning and contribute when I have a life of service."

Narrator: Welcome, friends, to another episode of The Story & Experience Podcast. Join your host, Japhet De Oliveira with his guest today and discover the moments that shape us, our families, and communities.

Japhet De Oliveira: Hey. Welcome, friends, to another episode of The Story & Experience Podcast. I'm delighted with our guest. We are connected over the internet through wonderful technology, so not in person, although we have met in person, so it's great as well. If you are brand-new to the podcast, we have 100 questions. They progressively become more open, and they're questions about stories and experience that shaped this particular leader into the leader that they are today. They're smiling, which is a good sign. I feel like this is going to be okay, so we'll dive straight in with question number one. Could you share with us, with everyone, what's your name, and does anybody ever mispronounce it?

Therese Courtenay: Sure. Yes. My name is Therese Courtenay, and I get all kinds of mispronunciations. Theresa, Theresita, and often I'm just called Courtenay, because people think my last name's my first name.

Japhet De Oliveira: That's true, that's true. Especially with the way our emails are configured, I could see that. I could see that.

Therese Courtenay: Yeah, yeah. Honestly, though, I don't worry too much about it. I kind of enjoy understanding that people don't always get things right, and I don't either.

Japhet De Oliveira: That's okay. That's okay. Therese, could you share with us what you do for work?

Therese Courtenay: Sure. My job title is the Associate Patient Care Executive, and I'm here at Adventist Health Mendocino Coast in Fort Bragg.

Japhet De Oliveira: Nice.

Therese Courtenay: Well, what I get to do is lead a team of patient care-focused leaders and frontline staff who really care what they are doing, and so it's a pretty wonderful job. I have a really engaged, awesome team. The daily challenges are definitely present, but the people really make up for it.

Japhet De Oliveira: That's fantastic. That's great. How long have you been in this role?

Therese Courtenay: I've been in this particular role about a year. Yeah.

Japhet De Oliveira: Okay. Now, before this role then, what did you do?

Therese Courtenay: I was in various roles. I actually spent about 20 years at Adventist Health Castle in Hawaii. That was my first role with Adventist, and I had roles there from frontline nurse in ICU and telemetry, all the way through clinical information systems to a nursing director role. Had lots of different opportunities there. Then, after that 20 years, I moved to Roseville, and I was working as the system patient experience leader there, and really loved that work as well. I did four years there before ending up in this role here.

Japhet De Oliveira: Out on the coast now.

Therese Courtenay: Yeah.

Japhet De Oliveira: That's fantastic. I'm glad. I'm glad for you. All right. In the morning when you wake up, just a practical one, what do you drink first? Do you have water, coffee, tea, a liquid green smoothie?

Therese Courtenay: All that sounds very healthy. I'm a black coffee, pretty strong, first thing in the morning.

Japhet De Oliveira: Oh, really? Is it like a drip coffee or?

Therese Courtenay: No. It's a press, French press usually. My husband's really nice. He gets up, gets that going, and brings it in, and actually, I usually have that in bed, if I can.

Japhet De Oliveira: Oh, my. All right. Okay.

Therese Courtenay: That's my first beginnings for the day is, "Yes, please. Give me that coffee."

Japhet De Oliveira: That's awesome, Therese. Brilliant. Hey, tell us where were you born?

Therese Courtenay: I was born in New Zealand, in Auckland, New Zealand, which is a city of about three-ish million, I guess.

Japhet De Oliveira: Yeah.

Therese Courtenay: Yeah.

Japhet De Oliveira: Have you been there recently?

Therese Courtenay: The last time I was there was just over a year ago. I do have all my family there. My immediate siblings and my father is there, and so yes, I still have pretty strong connections there.

Japhet De Oliveira: That's great. I had no idea until I'd gone to New Zealand a couple of times when I realized How close it's to Australia.

Therese Courtenay: Yeah. Only a three-hour flight. Yeah, really close.

Japhet De Oliveira: Yeah. Only a three-hour flight, but in reality it felt like it was further away, but yes.

Therese Courtenay: Yeah.

Japhet De Oliveira: Hey, when you were a child, what did you imagine you were going to grow up to be out in New? Zealand?

Therese Courtenay: Oh. I was definitely going to be a ballerina, for sure.

Japhet De Oliveira: Really? Really?

Therese Courtenay: Yeah. I studied ballet for a long time, and I was absolutely enamoured with ballet. I loved it, loved it, loved it, and did not think of anything more serious at all for a very long time.

Japhet De Oliveira: Hey, that's really fantastic. That's great. I presume you enjoy to go see shows?

Therese Courtenay: Yeah. In fact, here on the coast, they've got a company that is about to perform in the Redwoods up in the trees.

Japhet De Oliveira: Oh my.

Therese Courtenay: And I'm really looking forward to seeing them this weekend. One of our nurses, actually, our ICU nurses, is performing in that show, so I'm pretty excited to go see what they do-

Japhet De Oliveira: That's amazing.

Therese Courtenay: ... And learn about it. I think this show in the trees is kind of acrobatics as well, so I'm going to be pretty interested to see what it looks like.

Japhet De Oliveira: That's fantastic.

Therese Courtenay: Sounds really interesting.

Japhet De Oliveira: That's really good. Hey, that is really good. If people were to describe your personality, would they describe you as an introvert, an extrovert, and then would you agree with it, their conclusion?

Therese Courtenay: I'm not sure how they would describe me with that. I think, probably, they think I'm more extrovert than I really am. In truth, I'm quite an introvert, but professionally I sort of present, generally, a different way, but I'm a little bit of a mix, I guess. Yeah. I think, generally, I'm fairly direct with my communication, and so sometimes that might come across as being more extrovert than I really am.

Japhet De Oliveira: Yeah.

Therese Courtenay: Yeah.

Japhet De Oliveira: Okay. That's good. That's good. What about habits? Are you an early riser or a late night owl?

Therese Courtenay: Gosh. I really enjoy my sleep, so I don't know that I'm either, but I suppose left to my own devices, I would probably go to sleep around 11 and wake up about 8. That'd be pretty nice.

Japhet De Oliveira: That would be pretty amazing.

Therese Courtenay: That would probably be really nice if I could do that.

Japhet De Oliveira: That's good. So this morning when you woke up, not at eight, but when you-

Therese Courtenay: Not at eight. At six, yeah.

Japhet De Oliveira: What was the first thought that went through your mind?

Therese Courtenay: Oh, wow. My first thought was just how lovely it is to have my husband with me. So yeah, a nice person. Yeah.

Japhet De Oliveira: That's pretty cool.

Therese Courtenay: First thought is generally that.

Japhet De Oliveira: That's awesome. That's awesome. I totally understand. That's beautiful. Here's a leadership question for you. It's the last one, and I'm going to hand the floor over to you for you to select numbers between 11 and 100. Are you a backseat driver?

Therese Courtenay: Literally, with my kids at times, yes. I have three kids, and teaching them to drive, I would say I have been a backseat driver.

Japhet De Oliveira: You say that very sheepishly. "I have been."

Therese Courtenay: Yeah, yeah. Letting go. I think your question is kind of around letting go, isn't it? And not micromanaging people, and that was definitely a journey for me. Certainly, in my first, as a parent and as a leader, learning to let go and trust people, and also to let them make little mistakes, right? And not be afraid of that for them. It's okay for people to make mistakes, and that's how they learn, and that's part of their journey. So I would definitely say that I've learned to let go more, and that's been a part of my journey. Right now, I think I'm pretty good at letting people fly, but I think there are times when you have a leader who's more novice, where you kind of have to make sure that there are different things taken care of. Then, as they grow, you let go more. So yeah, I would hate to think that other people thought that I was a micromanager. I would never want that, so I hope they would tell me if I was.

Japhet De Oliveira: Yeah. I like the connection that you brought between leadership, work, and leading in home as well, family.

Therese Courtenay: Yeah.

Japhet De Oliveira: Yeah, because that's actually harder, in some ways, to let go.

Therese Courtenay: Of kids?

Japhet De Oliveira: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Therese Courtenay: Oh, yeah. Well, I have two in their 20s, so the two in their 20s are sort of on their way, for sure. Then, I've got a 15-year-old, and I think with the third kid I'm probably a better parent. Yeah.

Japhet De Oliveira: All a bit of experience. All good.

Therese Courtenay: Oh, yeah. Gosh. It really helps, doesn't it?

Japhet De Oliveira: It does. It does. All right. Well, the floor's open, so you can pick between numbers 11 and 100. Where would you like to begin?

Therese Courtenay: Let's start with 50.

Japhet De Oliveira: 50, it is. All right, brilliant. Share about who has influenced you professionally.

Therese Courtenay: Oh, yeah. Professionally, I've had a number of really amazing leaders over the years. I think one of those people was Kathy Raethel at Adventist Health Castle. She is a dynamic woman who really showed me a pathway, I think, in leadership for a woman. I think she was pretty groundbreaking, in that she was one of the first, I think, CEOs in Adventist Health who was a female. Now, I might be wrong with that. There's been many more since, including Judy, Colleen, and Linda just here in the network, North Coast network. But yeah, Kathy Raethel was really inspirational, and I think I remember going into her office and seeing all her diplomas on the wall, and her taking time to sort of chat with me about career pathways. I think that was really helpful in retrospect to have that person just leading the way and showing the path by example, so I've always been really super proud of her for doing that.

Japhet De Oliveira: She was a pretty phenomenal leader. I mean-

Therese Courtenay: Yeah, and I think too, she came from my part of the world, from Australia, not New Zealand, from Australia, but sort of as a-

Japhet De Oliveira: Long-lost cousins.

Therese Courtenay: Yeah. Long-lost cousin, and I think as an immigrant to the country as well and somebody who had to navigate that as well, I think that similarity to me was helpful. Yeah,

Japhet De Oliveira: Yeah. Hey, that's fantastic. That's brilliant. Beautiful. All right, so that was number 50. Do you want to go up or down?

Therese Courtenay: Oh, I can go up. Let's go to 60.

Japhet De Oliveira: All right. 60, it is. All right. When in life have you felt most alone?

Therese Courtenay: Oh. Well, I think probably a couple of times. One time was when I was 21 and I had moved from New Zealand to Miami, and by myself. You don't know what you don't know when you're young, right?

Japhet De Oliveira: Absolutely.

Therese Courtenay: So I had decided that I was going to live life to the fullest, and that meant jumping countries and beginning my career as a nurse in Miami by myself in the ICU. So there I am as a brand new nurse in the ICU without any support system at all, and I didn't realize how hard that journey would be to becoming an ICU nurse. It was during a time of real nurse shortage, and so although my colleagues were pretty amazing, they didn't have a lot of time for me, I would say, and I was put into situations which were really challenging.

I think the first couple of years of nursing, as an RN, are really challenging anyway, so I think that was really a time where I had to get used to the country. A lot of my patients spoke Spanish only. The nursing culture was very different, and I had no family around. And you remember back in those days, this is going back 30 years, so back in those days when you called home, you were paying a lot of money for phone calls, and so I remember having $1,500 phone bills, so almost my entire wage was going on phone calls back home to say, "I don't know if I can handle this. This is tough," so yeah, I was quite alone at that time.

Japhet De Oliveira: This is a bonus question. This is bonus number 60. Would you be excited about your kids doing something similar?

Therese Courtenay: Yeah. Ultimately, it's really important to challenge yourself, and I needed that challenge. I would've been disappointed in myself had I not done something that felt like a big challenge at that time in my life. Yeah.

Japhet De Oliveira: It's interesting, isn't it? The capacity that we have, and even with the wisdom that we have now, older, that we still value that, and you value that as well.

Therese Courtenay: Yes, yes. I think the only difference would've been having somebody closer to keep your spirits up when you felt low, and that would've been nice. I would hope that, for my kids, I could do that with them, alongside them.

Japhet De Oliveira: That's good. That's good. All right, so that's 68, so where'd you want to go now?

Therese Courtenay: Oh, yeah. So it's a little noisy right now. We've just got a helicopter leaving.

Japhet De Oliveira: Nice, nice. That's good. It's a good sign they're leaving to go get help and support.

Therese Courtenay: Yeah, they're getting the transfer out right. So I can go to 70.

Japhet De Oliveira: Okay. All right, this is great for you. Tell us about one thing that you are determined to accomplish.

Therese Courtenay: Determined to accomplish. Well, I think I try not to get too caught up in absolutes, honestly, because the best laid plans, but I would say, on the personal side, something that is really, really important to me is creating an environment for my 15-year-old, where she really feels comfortable emotionally, mentally, and can thrive. So that, I think, is something that really drives me at this point in my life, is creating that setting where she does well, as well as I'm putting the right environment for her, so I really feel like that's a good thing to be doing.

Then, I think career-wise, good work with good people. I couldn't ask for more, really, and that's what I have here, so I really feel incredibly lucky to be doing good work with good people. I think a driving force for me is to just constantly improve wherever I'm at, to improve the quality of care we're delivering. I really feel like you have to be constantly with your foot on the accelerator and striving for excellence, so I'm determined to do that. At the same time, I think I'm determined not to leave anyone behind while I'm doing that.

Japhet De Oliveira: Right, right.

Therese Courtenay: So I'm very conscious and intentional of that.

Japhet De Oliveira: That's fantastic. That's good.

Therese Courtenay: Yeah. Sorry. No big marathon running or anything like that.

Japhet De Oliveira: That's okay.

Therese Courtenay: I'm not planning on running a marathon, although maybe I'll do that when I'm 60. I don't know.

Japhet De Oliveira: Bloody time. All right, all right. That was 70. Where would you like to go next?

Therese Courtenay: We can go to 80.

Japhet De Oliveira: Okay, then. Oh. How would you like to change in the future?

Therese Courtenay: Well, I think we're all on a journey. I have a little note up on my monitor, and it says "Pause."

Japhet De Oliveira: That's good.

Therese Courtenay: And I do want to keep thinking about how to pause and ponder before I jump in with an answer. I think part of my bringing people along with me, I don't always have the answer. Sometimes I think I have the answers, and that's why I need to just pause and ponder and let other people have the space to contribute, and I think that's something I work on daily and still need to work on.

Japhet De Oliveira: There is good wisdom in that as well, right? To be able to listen at the same time as knowing with the depth of experience that you have, to be able to hear another side as well, so it's good. It's good. Slowing down is not easy though, right?

Therese Courtenay: Well, I would say, I think probably my background was as an ICU nurse, and so we want to get things done, and we are driving forces usually, that personality. Yeah.

Japhet De Oliveira: Yeah. That would be hard. That would be hard, but I would respect it. All right. That was 80. Where would you like to go next?

Therese Courtenay: Let's go to 85.

Japhet De Oliveira: 85. All right. Oh. Describe a role model you aspire to be like.

Therese Courtenay: I don't have any one person, really. I have a few people in mind. I think my mother was a huge role model, that I think I really appreciate her sense of adventure and fun. When she passed away, one of the things that almost everybody said about her was her kindness, how fun she was, and her sense of adventure. I think that's wonderful to have that said about you.

Japhet De Oliveira: Yeah. That's lovely. That is lovely.

Therese Courtenay: So I think she would be one person that's been a role model, and I'd like to keep being. There are other people, I think, in the professional world, where I look at them and they've just got it all. I mean, they're just amazing socially, emotionally, professionally. They just seem like they're the whole package, and I do admire them. I do admire them, so I think that would be kind of a little bit of lots of different people with that.

Japhet De Oliveira: Hey, that's good. Create the actual model that needs to be.

Therese Courtenay: Yeah.

Japhet De Oliveira: Yeah. That's great.

Therese Courtenay: I think too, people who have remarkable vision and are able to share that are pretty inspirational also, I think. I guess I'm thinking about some of our leaders here on the North Coast Network, their ability to share the vision and create that, and I really have that growing appreciation for that. Yeah.

Japhet De Oliveira: There is a difference, right? Between those who have ideas and those who, as you just said, share a vision and actually can create something from it?

Therese Courtenay: Yes, yes. Yeah, because having an idea doesn't mean that you can implement it, and it doesn't mean that you can even share that vision very well, does it? Yeah, you're right. That's true. More than just a good idea.

Japhet De Oliveira: Yeah, so working with a team like that, with leaders who can do that, as you said, that's exciting.

Therese Courtenay: Yes, it is exciting, I think, and to have alignment within that team as well is really exciting.

Japhet De Oliveira: Yeah. That's true. That's true.

Therese Courtenay: Yeah.

Japhet De Oliveira: Good. All right. That was 85. Where would you like to go next?

Therese Courtenay: Well, we can go to 90.

Japhet De Oliveira: 90. All right. Tell us about how you overcame a seemingly insurmountable obstacle.

Therese Courtenay: Japhet, I would say grief probably felt insurmountable at times, and so I think that would be something. How do you overcome grief? I think that's not an easy answer. I think that's just an everyday thing. I don't really have a good answer for that one, but I would say reflecting, thinking about good things. Writing down three good things, I would say, was probably one practical way. I would write down what three good things on a daily basis, and that was helpful. But I don't really have a good answer for overcoming things, except to put one foot in front of the other to reflect, to think about. Being empathetic and compassionate to oneself, going through things, and then intentionally, deliberately trying to do some brain training by writing those good things down. Even if they're really as small as, "I went for a walk today," or "I called a friend," or that sort of thing. Yeah.

Japhet De Oliveira: Grief is not easy.

Therese Courtenay: No, it isn't.

Japhet De Oliveira: I had a friend, literally a couple of days ago, who asked me, and I'm going to ask you this question, but he said he has this weekend, he's going to go visit a good friend of his. The friend has terminal cancer, and he's not quite sure what to do or to say. What would you say to that person?

Therese Courtenay: To the person who's visiting?

Japhet De Oliveira: The person who's visiting? The person who's visiting?

Therese Courtenay: Oh, yes.

Japhet De Oliveira: Yeah.

Therese Courtenay: Presence is just a huge thing. Walking alongside somebody during a time of need, right? There's not stuff, really, to say unless you have something important that you feel need saying. I think it's more taking a moment to enjoy the life that's left and the quality of that moment. I think walking alongside, you don't know what you're walking into sometimes when you visit people, and I think just reading the room a little bit and being sensitive to that, and not feeling like you really have to see much, except be present, be a comforting presence, and doing one's best to put one's own baggage out of the room as you walk in.

Japhet De Oliveira: It's very true, very true. Be about them. Yeah.

Therese Courtenay: Yeah. You're there for them. If there's something that needs to be said to kind of clear the air maybe, that's helpful, but sometimes that's not really helpful, because if it's led by the person, that can be good. But sometimes it can be just more of-

Japhet De Oliveira: More stuff to carry?

Therese Courtenay: More stuff to carry for that person. Yeah.

Japhet De Oliveira: Yeah. No, that's true. That's true. Some things are better left not said.

Therese Courtenay: Yeah, yeah.

Japhet De Oliveira: Yeah. No, it's true. Hey, thank you for that bonus question. We have time for two more, the final two. Where would you like to go for your last two?

Therese Courtenay: Well, we can keep going if you like. What did we just do? 90? We can do 95.

Japhet De Oliveira: 95? All right. Oh. Tell us about how you see your personal faith and your life intersecting.

Therese Courtenay: Yeah, so my personal faith is, I suppose, grounded in nature, the beauty of the world, enjoying that, enjoying people, feeling like maybe this isn't the end, and that there's more than just this world. I think a life of service, I think, really is the intersection for me. I can't imagine a life without service, and I think what I do in that life of service intersects with my faith, in that I feel like I have meaning and contribute when I have a life of service. That can be such a small thing. It can be just chatting with someone in the hallway, or it can be helping out a patient when I see a call light going off, or it can be arranging for the right staffing this weekend for the hospital. It can be so many small things. I think that's what matters. Then, taking time to enjoy the fact that we exist in this world right now, and with the hope maybe that there's more, and one day we get to join people we love in some other space.

Japhet De Oliveira: That's beautiful. Beautiful. All right. Your last one, which number would you like to go for?

Therese Courtenay: Okay. Well, I guess it has to be 100.

Japhet De Oliveira: Okay.

Therese Courtenay: Since we've gone up.

Japhet De Oliveira: That's okay. All right. So question 100 is interesting. It's this. Tell us about one question that you would rather not answer.

Therese Courtenay: Oh. I think, for any of us, and I think I'm no different from most people, a time where I felt ashamed, I guess, would be a question I would hate to answer, would find difficult, or would want a more intimate relationship in which to answer that question, I guess. Shame. I mean, BrenĂ© Brown has done so much work on shame, and I think she spent a good part of her career writing about shame, and how difficult it is to manage your own shame in a situation and talk about it. So yeah, I think I'd be like most people would not want to do that instinctively. You have to be pretty brave to address your own shame.

Japhet De Oliveira: I think you qualify that really well when you said that it really matters who you share it with, right?

Therese Courtenay: Yeah.

Japhet De Oliveira: Yeah? So you can handle those questions, but it depends on who you're sharing with, the trust that exists inside the space, and then it's really healthy, and to be vulnerable and to be open about those things.

Therese Courtenay: Right, right. And some situations, that would just be TMI.

Japhet De Oliveira: Yeah. It would be be. It would be. It would be. Well, Theresa, it's been fantastic. Thank you so much for taking the time to share and to share all your stories and experiences as well. I want to encourage everybody who's listening to do the same thing, just to meet with someone, ask them good questions, listen, see where the conversation goes, because we all get transformed. We all learn. We all become better people by hearing how other people have grown and become who they are, and you're a phenomenal leader, and I'm thankful that you're part of even Adventist Health for so many years, so it's a real blessing. Thank you for your time.

Therese Courtenay: Thank you. It's been a pleasure to chat with you.

Narrator: Thank you for joining us for the Story & Experience Podcast. We invite you to read, watch, and submit your story and experience at The Story & Experience Podcast was brought to you by Adventist Health through the Office of Culture.