As a police officer in Hamilton, Ingrid Boiago saw hundreds of cases of #elder abuse. She found one woman covered with lice head-to-toe, dehydrated, and emaciated. Her toenails had grown under her feet, and she was confused because her daughter had given her too much medication. Today, that woman is a resident at Dundurn Place Care Centre, the Hamilton long-term care facility where Boiago is now clinical director of #nursing. It’s a job that allows her to weave her nursing and policing skills together.
She investigates complaints at the home, and says her background in law enforcement in Hamilton – where many Dundurn residents have spent most of their lives – has given her unique insight into the poverty and poor health many of them faced.
Boiago graduated from Hamilton’s Mohawk College as an RN in 1980, but spent the last 20 years on the Hamilton Police Service, including four years investigating crimes against seniors. Her career has been full of serendipitous twists. After university, she wanted to be a doctor. But when she didn’t get into medical school, her father suggested she try nursing. By the time she graduated, she’d found her passion in psychiatric nursing. “I love figuring out why people do and say the things they do,” she says.
After nursing school, Boiago worked on an acute psychiatric ward. She met doctors interested in forensics, and began working with them in local jails to determine if inmates were mentally fit to stand trial. She faced violent murderers and pedophiles, but was never fearful; she was fascinated. She began assisting her psychiatrist colleagues with their research and was working on a tool to predict if a criminal would reoffend when her career took an unexpected turn.
She called the Hamilton police looking for statistics, and they offered her a job.
At the time, the force was looking to get into behavioural sciences, including forensic psychiatry, and they thought her background was a perfect fit. She decided to apply, and was hired. Then in her late-30s, she spent 16 weeks at police college alongside men in their 20s running, marching, and having her bed inspected every morning. “We had to do nursing corners, so I made everyone’s bed,” she recalls.
Boiago joined the force in 1994 and spent time on patrol, worked on domestic and sexual assault cases, and in the fraud office. She always maintained her nursing license, and when she joined the Crimes Against Seniors/Senior Support Unit in 2010, she approached her work with a nursing lens.
She would help people find housing if needed, or connect them with community agencies. Other officers didn’t understand why she bothered, but she couldn’t ignore her desire to improve health. Having a nurse on the force proved helpful when her colleagues noticed some seniors had trouble living independently.
In 2011, she became certified to assess adults to determine their ability to make their own decisions about their property and personal care, a position only open to regulated health providers. “Any doors that have been opened have been because of my nursing,” she says. “It’s part of who I am, and what’s shaped me. In hindsight, it made me a much better police officer.”
Last year, Boiago decided to go back to healthcare. She was about to be moved off the seniors’ unit and back to patrolling the streets. “I’m almost 60 and I didn’t think I could go back to chasing kids and stolen cars,” she says.
She decided to apply for a nurse educator position at Dundurn. She got the job and then, a few months later, the clinical director position opened up, so she applied for that too. “I feel like I’ve finally found my place,” she says, suggesting it’s because of the different jobs she’s done. “I feel more rounded in terms of having all those experiences. Who knows what I’ll do next.”