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SP Associate garners 45-year award for nursing at Providence Hospital

Sisters of Providence Associate Connie Canata recently received a Service Award at a ceremony at Providence Hospital recognizing her 45 years of nursing service there.

Connie (below, right) will tell you that for about as long as she can remember her life has been intertwined with that of the Sisters of Providence, the nursing profession, and Providence Hospital. The daughter of the late Peter Popko and Phyllis Popko, Connie’s mom was also an Associate. Of her four siblings, one is Sisters of Providence President Kathleen Popko, and another is Associate Frances (Fran) Popko. Fran co-directed the Associate Program in the 1900s.
After the award ceremony


Connie’s initial history with the Congregation dates back to her elementary school years when she lived in Holyoke and the Sisters were her CCD (Confraternity of Christian Doctrine) teachers.

Then, at age eight, she met the Sisters in another setting. “I was hospitalized with a broken leg at the old Providence Hospital (for acute care) on Dwight Street. The Sisters were the nurses there and I remember watching them go about their duties and thinking I might like to do that someday.” That inspiration took root and by her sophomore year of high school she was back at Providence Hospital, not as a patient but working, part time, as a junior nurse’s aide.

Post graduation Connie studied nursing at the former Saint Vincent Hospital School of Nursing in Worcester. Again her path would cross that of the Sisters of Providence who had opened the school in 1900 and for the most part served as the school’s faculty.

There Connie learned the Sisters’ holistic approach to nursing—the importance of treating the whole patient—not the body alone, but mind and spirit as well.

Applying for a position
In 1966, nursing school diploma and RN credentials in hand, she returned to Holyoke and applied for a position at the “new” Providence Hospital at 1233 Main Street. With the exception of the time off she took between 1969 and 1973 to devote to her family, she has been a Providence Hospital nurse, in one capacity or another, ever since.

Aerial view Providence Hospital
Aerial photo shows the "new" acute care Providence Hospital Connie Canata walked into as a 1966 graduate nurse. (Click photo to view a larger image.)

Initially hired as a medical/surgical nurse, her career includes IV therapy, and operating room nursing, too. In 1996 the Hospital transitioned into Providence Behavioral Health Hospital and that change brought Connie opportunities “to do something different” so she accepted a position in the hospital’s detox unit. From 1997-2002 she nursed “in the adult psych unit,” and from 2002 until today as “a dosing nurse” in the hospital’s two methadone clinics.

Connie then and now“Nursing is not an easy profession, but it is a job that has a lot of rewards,” Connie commented. “And if you are not happy with one kind of nursing, nursing is always evolving so there are so many other nursing opportunities to choose from.”

Her approach to nursing in the methadone clinics remains a holistic one. She says, “Some (people) feel methadone is an addiction in and of itself. But if you have a disease you treat the disease with the medication you have, and today we have methadone. It is so important, too,” she stresses, “not to think of methadone patients as addicts but as people, everyday people, you see wherever you go. You need to meet them where they are and help them to turn their lives around. It is a chronic disease so important to develop a rapport with them because so often people find themselves coming back. That is a good thing,” she stressed, “a very good thing that they feel they can.”

Connie has been an Associate since 1995 and currently serves on the Associate Core Committee.


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