By Julie Geng
Ever since high school, I knew I wanted to be a nurse. What I didn’t know is I would also become a franchisee. A few years ago,
I found the right business match with my Hand & Stone Massage and Facial Spa franchise in Burlington, Ont. Both my nursing career and the franchise keep me focused on health and wellness—and both allow me to keep making a positive impact on other people’s lives.
A healthy focus
I was born and raised in Oakville, Ont., where I still live today. I have one sister, Leslie, who also still lives close by. She and her husband Scott have two young daughters and I have a son, so he gets to play with his cousins a lot.
My mother, Patricia, was a registered nurse (RN) who began her career at Toronto Western Hospital. My father, David, worked for a large international company but always wanted to have his own business. He enjoyed some success with a wedding photography business that he ran with my mother early on in their marriage. He also partnered with his brother-in-law on an illuminated sign company. The combined influence of my parents’ careers and passions shaped my path, both professionally and personally.
When I was a child, we were often outdoors, which I came to enjoy immensely, especially camping, hiking and cross-country skiing. As my sister and I were growing up, we travelled throughout Canada with family and friends on both camping and ski trips. We were like one big extended family.
At school, I was also very involved with athletics, participating in track and field, cross-country running, field hockey and baseball. One of my first jobs, besides a newspaper route and babysitting, was umpiring baseball games. My favourite school subjects were biology, kinesiology and English.
Early on in high school, I underwent minor surgery at Oakville-Trafalgar Memorial Hospital. That was one of the first times I remember being in a hospital and I had no concept of what to expect, so I was quite nervous. Fortunately, I had an amazing nurse who recognized my feelings and went out of her way to make me feel very cared for during my stay.
That was a major turning point for me, as I realized how one person can make a big difference in your life. I began volunteering at the hospital, including four months of co-op placements in the medical ward, operating room (OR) and related areas. By Grade 12, I decided I would go into nursing and began to really focus my efforts in that direction.
Becoming a nurse
I worked as hard as I could, getting a job as a receptionist at a doctor’s after-hours clinic, which helped connect me to the right people. I applied to several universities and got accepted into University of Toronto (U of T), the University of Western Ontario in London, Ont., and McMaster University in Hamilton.
In the end, I chose McMaster. It offered a tutorial-based learning approach to nursing theory, with small groups of 10 to 12 students, which really attracted me.
During the four-year program, I did practical placements in hospitals in my second, third and fourth years, each successively involving an increase in hours. These were great opportunities to gain knowledge and experience.
As I learned about all of the possibilities for nursing positions, I knew I wanted to work directly with patients. For example, I enjoyed a maternal-child nursing placement, but it helped me realize I was eager to provide more support than most mothers and their babies needed.
That led me to Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids), where I did a placement and began working right after I graduated from McMaster in 2003. I started in cardiology, where I enjoyed the challenge of addressing my patients’ acute problems. It was a very complex field where I had to really know both my medical information and my specific patients very well. I found the experience highly rewarding.