Mary Lou England, RN, came to McLean Hospital at age 23, right out of nursing school, and she never left. Now, almost 31 years later, she serves as a clinical coordinator for the Schizophrenia and Bipolar Disorder Inpatient Program. “My career has been shaped and influenced by the many women I have encountered over the years,” said England. “It’s been a long career, but I plan on sticking around!”
England can point to a specific moment early in her career that set her on her path. Taking part in a McLean internship program for recent nursing school graduates, England was inspired by a presentation from a seasoned nursing veteran. “She sat at the head of the table, and I was so taken and inspired,” England recalled. “That was a defining moment for me.” She said that the woman was “an educator and leader in the most engaging way.”
The speaker was Carol Glod, RN, PhD, a nurse and teacher who has enjoyed a long, successful career in health care and academics. “She doesn’t know this, but she became a role model for me, and it became my professional goal to someday make it to the head of the table—just like she did,” England said.
England said that she has had many role models and mentors to help her along. “It started within my family,” she explained. “I have two older sisters who have shown me their spiritual selves, loyalty, and resilience in life.”
England said she has been inspired by many of her colleagues during her years at McLean. “These are nurses, doctors, mental health specialists, social workers, and researchers—some, like me, are mothers and some, my dearest friends,” she said. “A little bit of all of them is in me.”
Having benefited from these mentors and role models, England hopes to inspire others. She serves as mentor to new nurses who work with her, as well as to the psychiatry residents who come through the program. “My goal is to pay it forward,” she said. “I remember what it was like to be a person just starting out, and I think about what I would want from a mentor.” She said that she tries to “take them under my wing and give them reassurance and nurture their careers. I try to help create a safe environment to learn. I think it’s important to take some of the pressure off and let them know that no one has to be perfect. Even I am still learning.”
Looking back on her many years at McLean, England is grateful for her many mentors and colleagues and enthusiastic about helping those just beginning their professional lives. However, she said, “The real privilege is the journey that we take every day, working side-by-side with our patients and offering safety, hope, and encouragement.”