As director of Patient Care Services, Neurosciences and Critical Care at Baystate Medical Center, Jaime Caron ’99, oversees a 32-bed intensive care unit, a 37-bed acute care unit, a nine-bed neurology unit, a 12-member Rapid Response Team, and approximately 230 full-time employees. It’s a high-pressure role where the stakes are quite literally life and death, but Caron knows how and where to direct her energies for the greatest good.
Caron began her nursing career in 2007 after having worked as an emergency room coordinator at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. “I had this vision of what nurses did,” she said, “but when I saw what they really did, like jumping on stretchers to administer medication to save people’s lives, that’s when I decided to go back to school for my nursing degree.”
Caron, who has an MSN/MBA from the University of Phoenix, and whose credentials include Cardiac-Vascular Nursing and Nurse Executive Advanced board certifications, began her college career at AIC with an academic scholarship and a passion for softball. Originally planning to become a physical therapist, she made the dean’s list all four years, played NCAA Division II softball and soccer, won an athletic scholarship, but eventually had to make a tough decision as a scholar-athlete. “Physical therapy didn’t really jibe with sports,” Caron said. “The pre-reqs all had labs that ran into the afternoons, and by junior year, I realized it wasn’t feasible. But I had taken so many English and history courses, I was able to graduate on time with an English degree.”
She remembers a number of faculty, coaches, and staff members who helped her along the way and left a lasting impression. “Professor Mary Lou Longo, who taught anatomy and physiology, was just amazing,” said Caron. “She was really down to earth. She knew if you were having a hard time and would check in with you. English Professor Henry Barton was wonderful. Coach Judy Groff would help you get these work study jobs that you wouldn’t lose your mind doing. Louie, who ran the equipment room, was a super nice guy. He got me the game clock operator job for the football games. Billy Bedard was an assistant coach who stands out. It was such a low-key, nice kind of place. Everyone was so friendly and welcoming.
“I’m still friends with most of the people I played softball with,” she added. “They’re lifelong friends. The community at AIC was incredible. Every race, every gender—everyone just got along.”
After graduating from AIC, Caron worked for several years as an accounts receivable coordinator for Yushin America, Inc., in Rhode Island before moving to Boston and into the world of the ER. After earning an associate’s degree in nursing from Becker College, Caron was compelled to continue her studies after witnessing some of the dysfunction in the health care system. “My mother passed in 2009 and it propelled me into management. Some of the things that happened were devastating. The system just felt broken. I had been taking a little hiatus from getting my master’s, but those experiences inspired me to get it done so I could make a difference.”
Caron worked in cardiothoracic intensive care at Rhode Island Hospital briefly before returning to Baystate where she became a clinical nursing supervisor, nurse manager, and is now a director of Patient Care Services. “My worlds collided, so to speak, and positions opened for someone with a business background who could also write. I love the clinical part, but if I do pursue a postgraduate degree, it would be in more of a business track, such as a nursing and healthcare innovation doctorate.”
If Caron’s professional life isn’t enough to keep her busy 24/7, she and her partner have two children, aged 3 and 13; they both started new jobs this year, and they recently bought a new house. “My partner is a public interest attorney and an opportunity came up for her, just as it did for me. Our days begin around 5 a.m. getting everybody ready and out the door, which can be a challenge. There are a lot of similarities between 3- and 13-year-olds. They’re changing so much, learning new things and how to navigate in the world. It can be exhausting, but it’s also really rewarding.”
Caron makes it a point to unwind on the commute home. “I listen to the radio and try to be mindful not to touch the phone.” She enjoys home improvement projects, and confesses that a little manual labor goes a long way toward preserving her sanity. “I used to do construction with my brother, and I think people would be surprised at how handy I am.”
At the end of her long and demanding day, Caron knows that she’s exactly where she’s supposed to be. “At AIC, I learned to be myself. I had a hard time doing that when I was in high school. You’re always trying to fit in. But in college, I learned how to be me, apart from my parents, apart from what the world wanted me to be. I think that was the greatest lesson of all.”
-By Ellen Dooley