Mon | Sep 25, 2017

Guardian exec's journey from nurse to VP

Published:Monday | January 4, 2016 | 1:00 AMRandy Bowman
Constance Hoo
Constance Hoo
Constance Hoo
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As a little girl, Constance Hoo could only imagine herself as a nurse. But today, she is Guardian Life's youngest female vice-president. "I've always wanted to be a nurse, mainly to find out how to avoid getting sick and how to get better. I also loved Madge Sinclair in Trapper John MD, and my mother's cousin (Pauline Davis, nee McNish), who was a young nurse at the time. I admired them both and wanted to be a nurse," she shared with Flair.

As a child, Hoo was often tucked away in a corner reading. When not engrossed in the pages of whatever grabbed her attention, her time was well spent serving as a Girl Guide - from Brownie, straight to Ranger.

"I was also made to participate in the usual activities - swimming, piano, netball - and was very active in church (St John the Baptist Catholic Church) as a teenager," she revealed.

After her formative years at Our Lady of the Angels Preparatory School and then Merl Grove High School, 16-year-old Hoo studied at Kingston School of Nursing (KSN), becoming a registered nurse.

 

ACCELERATED STUDIES

 

"I started a degree programme, however, when the opportunity arose to pursue a Commonwealth Executive Masters in Business Administration (EMBA) at University College of the Caribbean, I accelerated my studies by devoting the time to completing the EMBA," shared Hoo.

But what prompted the sudden change after years of dreaming, studying, and practising nursing? "After KSN, I was assigned to Bustamante Hospital for Children and eventually to an area I loved: Accident and Emergency Department. But during Christmas of 1997, which is usually a very high-volume season, I was the only RN on duty in a packed department of children with asthma, gastroenteritis, poisoning, fevers - the usual accidents that occurs with children during the holiday period - along with the coughs and colds. It was also a pay week, and when I had the chance to collect my cheque, which was in the region of $8,000 at the time, I stopped at the matron's office to tell her that I already worked $8,000 since the eighth of the month."

It went downhill after that. Hoo continued: "I was very curt with my patients that evening as I resolved to embark on studies for my advancement or find another job. For the remainder of the month, I researched pursuing studies in paediatric nursing, A&E nursing, and midwifery but was turned down at all angles as my graduating batch at the hospital was not due to pursue any courses at that time. I even tried to do it privately and was told that I would need permission from my matron, which was not going to have a positive outcome. So, I applied to every insurance company in the telephone book as I was aware that nurses assisted in completing medicals for insurance. I got a job 10 months later at Dyoll Life as provider relations officer."

That was just the beginning of Hoo's 'insurance journey'. "With the PR job, I was responsible for maintaining an adequate network of health-care professionals who would extend credit facility by accepting the health insurance card and conducting audits to prevent and detect possible questionable transactions. This position exposed me to the issues health-care professionals encounter with insurance companies, and I took some delight in contributing to amicable resolutions.

"This was also during the time of the financial downturn, and my manager at the time, Beverly Thompson, provided genuine encouragement and guidance to prepare for any eventuality in the work life of her staff. This was where I thought that I could emulate some of her traits if I were to ever become a manager.

"The health portfolio of Dyoll Life was acquired by First Life, where I was a customer relations officer for both life and health insurance. My co-workers at the time are some of the best team players I've had, and so how we worked together was also another element that I know I would have wanted in my work space. We remain friends to this day, even though we have gone in different directions."

But through it all, Hoo did not give up on her childhood dreams. She still wanted to practise nursing full time. "I seriously considered and actually initiated actions to sit exams to practise nursing overseas but heard that Guardian Life was to launch a health insurance product, and so I waited, and as soon as the news broke, I applied and was employed as a provider relations officer. I dived into this new health insurance product on the market, committed to playing my part in its success, doing and learning whatever was required to see it through."

 

Growing passion

 

As time went by, Hoo's passion became integrated into her career and intensified over the years. She was promoted to manager of provider relations and then given additional responsibilities to manage the MedeCus Health Claims Department. She then moved on to become manager of the Policy and Member Services Department. After that, she headed the Group Life Department, and most recently Pensions.

After 10 years at Guardian Life, Hoo firmly believes that she has made positive contributions to the various departments in which she has worked. "Of course supported by very good teams. My teams challenge me and I feed them with challenges as well push their limits as mine are pushed. It makes us realise that we can achieve more than we thought we could and that, to me, is satisfying."

The 41-year-old single woman who publicly claims the children of her relatives and friends, enjoys driving to the country, going to the beach, reading, playing games, and spending time with her family. She is also a member of the Alliance on Aging and the Alzheimer's Disease Outreach Programme. She is also very interested in organ donation and would love to see one established in Jamaica or the Caribbean. "I would even be willing to work on getting this in place. It would be very beneficial to our region."

Before returning to her very busy schedule, Hoo advised: "Despite the dreams for oneself, be open to surpassing those dreams and achieving at a higher level. Find what you love and commit to it. Twenty years ago, I never thought that I would be at this level and in this field, but fortunately, I still love my job and the challenges presented. There is nothing like your own independence. I got this early from my mother. Aside from satisfying my clients' needs and expectations, independence is one of the most gratifying experiences in life."