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MBA student, and registered nurse, works between hospital and classroom

Posted by Connor Dalton on May 16, 2024 in News

When Moira MacArthur became a nurse at the age of 21, she learned early on in her career how to adapt to high-stress situations.  She started working at the Halifax Infirmary on an orthopedic trauma unit, caring for acutely ill patients with critical injuries and complex diagnoses.

“Being a nurse has made me a much more empathetic person — and my experience working in healthcare has provided me with lots of perspective on life,” says MacArthur.

That understanding of others, and flexibility, has helped her navigate Dalhousie’s MBA program, which she’ll graduate from this spring. She’s excited to see where her new skillset, combined with her lived experience in healthcare, will take her in her career.

Business or nursing

When MacArthur was choosing an undergraduate program after high school, she couldn’t decide between business and nursing. Her initial decision was business, but her parents encouraged her to consider nursing, which they viewed as a ‘noble profession’. She had a seat in both programs and chose nursing two weeks before her semester was due to start at St. Francis Xavier University.

After completing her degree, she settled in Halifax and began working as a nurse in 2016. After her time working in the orthopedic trauma unit, she transitioned into working as an operating room (OR) nurse at the Victoria General Hospital. Then came COVID-19, and a time of great change in the healthcare system.

Navigating change: Transition from frontline to MBA

During the pandemic, like many other nurses, MacArthur moved between units, depending on where she was needed most. Seeing the healthcare system having to adapt quickly made her appreciate the gravity and importance of the decisions being made. That spurred her to revisit her interest in business and apply to Dalhousie’s MBA program, which she felt could open more opportunities.  

As someone who enjoyed working as a front-line nurse, she says it was a hard decision to make.

“I felt as though leaving my full-time job to become a full-time student was a significant risk”, says MacArthur. She entered the program in June 2022.

Getting out of her comfort zone

After two intense years back in a classroom, it’s a risk she feels has paid off. MacArthur sees growth in herself as a leader. She says the MBA program “did a really great job of pushing us outside of our comfort zones and helped us learn how to navigate complex situations.”

MacArthur picks out business acumen, group collaboration, and networking as areas where she’s improved. Before enrolling in the MBA program, MacArthur had never delved into spreadsheets, budgets, or attended networking events. Now, she approaches these tasks with confidence and feels prepared to cultivate successful teams.

From the hospital to the classroom

To maintain her nursing skills, and to earn an income while studying, MacArthur worked part-time in the OR during her MBA studies. She would find times in her schedule to walk between classes and shifts at the hospital.

MacArthur says she enjoyed the structure of a busy schedule and loved being able to stay connected to her colleagues. “Being busy allows me to get into a good routine and be a lot more productive,” says MacArthur.

Using her front-line experience

As part of her program, she completed an 8-month Corporate Residency at the Nova Scotia Health Innovation Hub, a centre of excellence for health research and innovation in Atlantic Canada.

Mia Furlong is a manager at the organization and directly supervised MacArthur.

“I noticed right off the bat how keen she was to step outside her comfort zone in the business world and to take on some new challenges,” says Furlong.

One of her projects was supporting the development of a robotic surgery centre of excellence. This involved working together on a strategy for how surgical robotics could be introduced to Nova Scotia’s hospitals, and both say it was a highlight of the work term. Furlong says having someone with real-world experience in an operating room was incredibly valuable because MacArthur could assess how robotics would impact hospital staff.

Furlong says MacArthur “got a lot more comfortable speaking up and giving her opinions. Oftentimes they were just such a different way of thinking.”

Starting a new chapter

Having already settled into a new role as a health services manager on the Orthopedic unit where she first started her nursing career, MacArthur is adapting to working on a new side of healthcare.

She's excited about celebrating with her classmates at convocation on May 22, as they’ve been a highlight of the MBA program for her. She sees them as ‘friends for life’ and has learned a lot from their diverse experience and backgrounds.

Earning her MBA felt like 'a leap’, but with her new approach and skills, it’s already opening new doors in the industry she’s passionate about.

“I’ve come to realize that going beyond your comfort zone can lead to new opportunities that wouldn’t have surfaced otherwise,” says MacArthur.