10 Questions with Joan Macallister
After working on Nantucket for the past seven years, the new Oncology Nurse Navigator is excited to return home to Cape Cod and is looking forward to the next chapter of her life—both personally and professionally.
When Joan Macallister accepted the job as Oncology Nurse Navigator at Cape Cod Hospital two months ago, it felt like a homecoming. Macallister grew up in Barnstable, attended Barnstable schools and raised four daughters with her husband, Duncan, on the Cape and on Nantucket, where she worked as an oncology-certified nurse at Nantucket Cottage Hospital for the past seven years.
Macallister is no stranger to Cape Cod Healthcare. At age 17, Macallister worked in the kitchen at Cape Cod Hospital, and several years later, worked as a nursing student on South 2 for one summer while studying at Northeastern. She also worked as a nurse at the Riverview School in Sandwich before moving to Nantucket with her husband. But when she found out about a new position at Cape Cod Hospital, Macallister knew the timing was right to move back to the Cape.
As the first Oncology Nurse Navigator for a new pilot program at Cape Cod Hospital, Joan Macallister says her role is similar to putting together a puzzle—gathering all of the pieces, looking at the big picture and figuring out the next steps for a patient who may have a suspicious finding on an X-ray or in routine lab work. The nurse navigator role is about “meeting the patient where they are in their journey and saying, ‘Hey, we’ve got you,’” says Macallister, who helps coordinate doctor’s appointments, identifies barriers such as transportation and insurance issues, and expedites the treatment process.
Macallister she feels a personal connection to the role since her mother received care at the oncology center from 2006-2012. “I feel like I’m really giving back to the cancer center,” says Macallister, who works with Shelley West, Director of Oncology and Nursing and Infusion Services at Cape Cod Hospital; Katie Michaud, Executive Director, Oncology at Cape Cod Healthcare; and Jeffrey Spillane, MD.
During a recent conversation with Macallister at Cape Cod Hospital, she enthusiastically talked about the nurse navigator program and her nursing career, but she also shared with us her favorite movies and books (hint: a young wizard is involved), what she’s most excited about, what she would choose for a career if she wasn’t a nurse and her hidden talents!
What was your very first job and what did you learn?
When I was 15, I worked as a cashier and bagger at Stop & Shop in Hyannis—in the previous location that is now Kohl’s. The most important takeaway as a bagger—don’t mix the meats with the produce and always put the eggs on top (she laughs). I still like to pack my own groceries.
What brought you to Cape Cod Healthcare?
For the past seven years, I worked at Nantucket Cottage Hospital as an oncology nurse. Several months ago, my friend (Jan Nash) in oncology at Cape Cod Hospital alerted me to the nurse navigator job. We really wanted to come home. We kept our house here in Barnstable while we lived on Nantucket. We were ready for a change and I love it on the Cape. We always knew we’d end up back at this house. We’re officially moving Sept. 30.
What was it like living on Nantucket?
I loved the beaches. You could get to an equally great beach 10 to 15 minutes away from one another. My kids, who initially didn’t like it there, ended up loving it. It’s a very diverse population. People are from Eastern Europe, Central America, South America.
Anywhere there is a beach. I love Mayflower Beach in Dennis. I love the way the tides go in and out. Surfside Beach on Nantucket is also just so beautiful.
If there was one food you could eat forever, what would it be?
Favorite binge TV show, book or movie?
I’m still addicted to all of the Harry Potter movies and books. We are a big Harry Potter family. My oldest is 29 and she got us all addicted. We read all of the books together as a family multiple times. We are always quoting Hogwarts.
What life advice would you give to others?
Do the job that you love and not the one you have to do. I always knew I wanted to be a nurse from the time I was little. Nowadays, people make choices based on money and advancement. After Covid, it’s really shown us you need to be in a job you truly love, even if it’s hard sometimes. I still love nursing. I know a lot of people switched careers because of the pandemic. There were a couple of days where I thought, “I’m done,” because of Covid. You have to figure out what your life’s passion is.
If you could have another career what would it be?
Sometimes in nursing, I feel like I’m a detective. I’m looking for results and answers. I’d probably be a detective or a spy.
Do you have a hidden passion or talent?
I used to make all of the costumes for the drama club at Barnstable High School. I would take time off from work so I could sew for the different shows. I always had so much fun, working with the kids and behind the scenes. It was fun designing and making the different costumes so they could come on and off easily between scenes or fit multiple people. My entire family is passionate about the theater, either on stage or behind the scenes. My husband likes being on stage and I’m in the costume closet.
Is there anything on the horizon you are most excited about?
My oldest daughter, who lives in Miami, is engaged and getting married in a year and half. As our kids grow up and leave the nest, I’m looking forward to starting the next chapter, especially since we are back on the Cape. We have a lot of friends and family who are happy we are back. I’m excited to shop at Trader Joe’s again!