Our Stories

A mom-and-daughter nursing team

Toronto, May 13, 2017

By Emily Holton

Marie McKenna Houghton (left) and her daughter Susan Fay
Marie McKenna Houghton (left) and her daughter Susan Fay. (Photo by Yuri Markarov)

With Mother’s Day around the corner, we’re profiling a mom who inspired her daughter to become a St. Michael’s nurse. Marie McKenna Houghton graduated from the St. Michael’s School of Nursing in 1956, and worked here for most of her career. Today, her daughter Susan Fay is a RN in the Trauma/Neurosurgery ICU.

We spoke to Marie in the fall.

“I was born at St. Michael’s in 1936. My mother’s sister was a nurse here and two of my father’s sisters were St. Michael’s nuns. A lot of my girlfriends wanted to be teachers, but that wasn’t me. All the women in my family were nurses and I wanted to be a nurse too.

I started St. Michael’s School of Nursing when I was 17. I remember my first time looking after a patient. He was an 18-year-old heart patient on bedrest, and the nuns told me he needed a complete bed bath. He was as horrified at the prospect as I was! He ran to the bathroom to put on his shorts, while the other patients in the room laughed. I bathed him in his underwear!

I grew up in the country, so it was very exciting to move to Toronto. But we worked six days a week and the school was very serious. We had to wear a plastic collar that stood up around our necks, with white shoes and nylons. After I graduated, I worked all over the hospital on three-month rotations. I was happy doing anything, because I liked it all. I knew St. Michael’s from top to bottom; I could go anywhere here and feel comfortable.

Susan and I worked here at the same time for eight years. I knew this would be a good place for her to be, and it was nice to have someone following behind me. At first, everyone said to her, ‘Oh, you’re Marie’s daughter!” But in a few years, it changed and it was more common for people to say to me, ‘Oh, you’re Susan’s mom!’”

About St. Michael's Hospital

St. Michael’s Hospital provides compassionate care to all who enter its doors. The hospital also provides outstanding medical education to future health care professionals in more than 29 academic disciplines. Critical care and trauma, heart disease, neurosurgery, diabetes, cancer care, and care of the homeless are among the Hospital’s recognized areas of expertise. Through the Keenan Research Centre and the Li Ka Shing International Healthcare Education Center, which make up the Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute, research and education at St. Michael’s Hospital are recognized and make an impact around the world. Founded in 1892, the hospital is fully affiliated with the University of Toronto.

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