Nurse directors Jeanne McElhinney and Ann Rapoport share many qualities. They are both exemplary leaders, committed to creating top-quality clinical programs for patients and work environments where staff members learn, thrive, and grow. The pair also led their units through an unprecedented expansion that has added 31 badly needed beds to their programs.
And for all of this, they were recently honored with one of McLean’s most prestigious nursing honors—the Margaret C. Tibbets Award. Each was nominated by her unit’s staff—the nurses of the Schizophrenia and Bipolar Disorder Inpatient Program and the Short Term Unit (STU) respectively.
“The building project was a massive undertaking with endless details, relentless deadlines, and many decisions—and it took place while the units undergoing renovation were still operating,” said Linda Flaherty, RN/PCNS, senior vice president for Patient Care Services. “Throughout the six months of construction, Jeanne and Ann were the consummate professionals. They supported their staff by their calm presence, sense of humor, and their ever-present commitment to compassionate care. We opened on schedule, in large part due to their hard work in recruiting for all the new positions.”
Leader, mentor, and advocate are how Jeanne McElhinney’s staff describes her. AB2, as the unit is known, has a reputation as a tight ship, in the best possible sense. It’s a preferred assignment for float nurses because the safety of patients and staff is paramount.
Jeanne is accessible, supportive, and collaborative. She tells her nurses to call her anytime they need help, day or night, and she means it. She encourages their feedback and has institutionalized her philosophy of openness in many ways, including holding biweekly meetings where staff members can voice their concerns.
She has created an environment where professional development is valued. It’s important to her that her nurses are continuously improving their skills and advancing in their careers: monthly teaching sessions are held on topics related to the unit’s patient population. And it’s no surprise that AB2 has graduated a large number of nurse practitioners and that nurse-researchers thrive on the unit.
Jeanne is always there for her staff on a personal level as well. “My door is always open,” is her mantra and she is a confidante to many, who appreciate her compassionate and sensible guidance. Jeanne is known for her wonderful sense of humor, which often catches people by surprise and her humility: she introduces herself to new staff as “Jeanne, a nurse.” But they soon learn what an outstanding leader she is.
An experienced and accomplished nursing director at McLean for many years, Ann has created a work environment that values excellence and best practices. She is the leader who nurses seek out when there is a problem to be solved or an issue to be chewed over—whether it involves work/life balance, an employee’s career aspirations, or difficulty with a patient. She is pragmatic and thoughtful, respectful and understanding. Her colleagues know that when the occasional tornado blows through the unit, Ann is the eye of the storm, the composed, unruffled presence who will bring calm again.
And she always makes sure that the patient is front and center: she continuously assures that the STU’s nursing care standards and policies are compassionate and respectful and that patients receive safe, top notch care. She expects a lot from her staff and they in turn deliver.
Ann has worked hard to recruit nurses who reflect the diversity of the patients they care for. Ann encourages collaboration among nursing staff and across other disciplines and she practices what she preaches: she believes in shared decision-making and often seeks out staff input about unit policies or creates organizing committees to tackle the thornier issues. She also encourages nursing staff to be active, vocal members of each patient’s treatment team. Ann sees every staff member and patient as an individual and makes an effort to get to know each one.
Ann is constantly learning and growing and she encourages her staff to do the same. She invites speakers to staff meetings to share their expertise on topics such as DBT/CBT or best nursing practices for patients with borderline personality disorder.
Please join the staff of both units in congratulating their nurse leaders. “I can’t think of more deserving recipients of this award,” said Linda. “Job well done!”