Marci Holden



Fanshawe College, Pre-health Sciences Certificate 2004

University of Western Ontario, Bachelor of Science in Nursing 2008

Durham College, Post Graduate Certificate in Critical Care 2009

Marci Holden has not one, not two, but three different jobs. Despite this, she’s still not entirely sure what she wants to be when she “grows up.” Because, quite honestly, she’s still very much in the process of growing.

Refreshingly honest, this Canadian free spirit is always up for new adventures and following her heart. Whether she’s working in the ER, traveling to far corners of the planet or cooking up delicious dishes, one thing’s certain: Marci loves being around people—and loves paying it forward.

“It takes patience, resilience, and empathy [to be a nurse],” Marci says. “I don’t think these qualities only apply to work, though. You need to be patient in everything you do. We’re not all given the same learning opportunities and this is what differentiates us.”

I’ve learned this one the hard way: Every moment is a teachable moment.

How did you discover your current job?

It all started when I was 14 years old. My first job was working in a kitchen at a nursing home. I really liked to cook, but always thought that if I did it for a living, it would take the fun out of it. But I really liked working with people, which led me to the health care field. My original plan was to become a medical radiation technologist, and while I was preparing for that and living with my sister (a pediatric emergency room nurse), I became interested in nursing. She would come home after 12-hour shifts in tears of joy and grief, but she always had amazing stories to tell. So I followed her path. But three years later, after working full-time in intensive care while doing a post-graduate certificate in critical care, then moving on to general surgery and ER, I was burnt out. Or, as I like to say, “All cared out.” 

So I did the unthinkable and gave up my full-time job in the ER to become a casual nurse and run away from it all. During an extended trip to Europe, I discovered my second love: travel! Before that trip, I had only done Caribbean vacations and a solo-backpacking trip to Singapore and Indonesia. My mindset changed and I made it my mission to work to travel – not the other way around – and now I’m a travel agent! But I’m not done yet: in Europe, I made an amazing friend who’s also a chef. So, I’m contemplating dropping it all again to become a chef’s apprentice in Denmark.

How do you organize your day?

I work mostly night shifts, so my days are never organized. I live by my alarm. I eat and sleep when I need to, try to be awake during normal people hours and find the time to tackle my ongoing to-do list. My iPhone organizes my life; it’s the only way I try to keep track.

What challenges keep you awake at night?

Nothing. I’m usually too dog-tired to stay awake. But if something did, if would be my everlasting to-do list. Sometimes difficult night shifts in the ER keep me up in the morning. I probably shouldn’t share my coping mechanism for that one; it usually involves a wine glass.

Was there ever a moment in your career where you’ve thought, “I made it!” What was it?

I had that moment when I got the job in ER. It’s what I had been working on since before I started nursing school. I sculpted my education to become an Emergency Room nurse. When I finally got the job, I was elated. I got a new haircut, new glasses, and a new career. I was ready to succeed.

Is work/life balance ever a problem with you? If so, what is one no-fail tactic you use to create balance?

Work/life balance is always a problem with me — as it should be for everyone. I don’t think you ever get it right. When you get your first job after you graduate, your life is your job as you build your career. Before, I lived and breathed nursing every moment of every day; I didn’t have any work/life balance. Now that I’m working on it, I’ve learned to “cut the fat” on all non-essential things to make more room for my essentials, like traveling. To take care of others, you have to first take care of yourself. I’m going through a period of it being “all about me” and I’m okay with that.

What are some of the rules you live by?

I’ve learned this one the hard way: Every moment is a teachable moment. It’s the motto I live by. We’re all human; we all make mistakes. Just don’t make the same ones twice. Learn from it. Grow from it.  

Also, there’s no need to put someone down for a mistake. I can guarantee you, they’re harsher on themselves than they deserve, so they don’t need more of it from you. If you grow a culture where every mistake is a teachable moment, you can use that information to eliminate precipitating factors and decrease the chance of another. If I make a mistake, I’m sure I’m not the first, but I try to be the last.

What qualities does it take for someone to be successful in your line of work?

It takes patience, resilience, and empathy. I don’t think these qualities only apply to work, though. You need to be patient in everything you do. We’re not all given the same learning opportunities and this is what differentiates us.

This one is hard to live by, but easy to preach. I struggle with this every day. Resiliency is key to survival, in life and in your job. Things change, and so do you – you have to be flexible enough to embrace the changes to remain successful. Empathy is simple. We all just need to remember we come from the same helix of life. My DNA is not any better than yours; we are all equal. You can be what makes the difference for one person.

If you could suggest a book to other independent thinking women, what would it be?

I recently read the book, Looptail, by the founder of G Adventures Bruce Poon Tip. It’s about a Canadian entrepreneur with a vision to create a company founded on the idea of the looptail: paying it forward, or karma. I have never been so proud to be a Canadian and a traveler with G Adventures! It’s a must-read on my list.

[Writer’s Note: I had the honor of rooming with and befriending Marci on a G Adventures trip in Italy two years ago!]