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Outdoor headshot of Gustavo Castaneda.

Nursing alum finds fulfilment in leading teams

January 5, 2024 — 

Gustavo (Gus) Castaneda’s nursing purpose is embedded in a desire to improve patient care and see members of his team succeed.

“Developing profound empathy towards people who are going through difficult times is one of the reasons I love nursing,” he says.

The nursing leader attributes his career success to the outstanding mentors who indirectly and directly helped him nurture his inner purpose.

Castaneda immigrated to Canada at age seven from Guatemala and grew up in Winnipeg. He completed his bachelor of nursing at UM in 2003.

He was working as a clinical resource nurse and co-chairing the nursing practice council at Health Sciences Centre (HSC) when the chief nursing officer there noted his leadership skills and suggested he consider earning a master’s degree.

That inspired him to return to UM. His master’s, completed in 2014, focused on health-care administration. He took a specific interest in emotional intelligence – the ability to understand and manage one’s own emotions, and to recognize and respond effectively to the emotions of others.

Growing in self-awareness over time, understanding how others perceive him and learning to manage his emotions, he says, helped him to mature as a leader.

During his master’s studies, he had the opportunity to travel to Manitoba’s Northern Health Region and spend time with the same nurse leader who had encouraged him to pursue the degree. “It was a chance to say, ‘Thank you for leading me in this direction,’” he remembers.

Castaneda’s graduate degree prepared him to hold a series of manager and director positions at Victoria General Hospital, St. Boniface Hospital and HSC.

He emphasizes the importance of continually developing skills and growing as a leader. He holds a black belt certification in Lean Six Sigma, a team-focused managerial approach that seeks to improve performance by eliminating waste and defects. He also recently completed a quality management certification from UM.

He says managing and leading teams has enabled him to appreciate people with mixed skill sets and competencies. His greatest satisfaction comes from seeing members of his team develop, succeed and climb the ladder.

“I don’t consider my team members as them working for me,” he says. “It’s me working with them. They go on to make a difference in the lives of patients.”

While Castaneda held the director of medicine position at St. Boniface Hospital from 2017 to 2021, he was a key driver in supporting health care in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

He now works for the Government of Manitoba as a process improvement specialist and is actively involved with the College of Registered Nurses of Manitoba as a practice auditor.

What’s his career advice to current and future graduate students?

“Find mentors who are interested in your personal development. Find meaning and purpose in your education and your work to help you build resilience. Improve your listening skills to help you build knowledge.”

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