Moving Forward: Three Veteran Nurse Leaders Plot a Steady Course

December 29, 2022

There is a new look and feel to McLean’s Nursing Department!

Linda M. Flaherty, RN, PMHCNS-BC, McLean’s chief nursing officer for over 25 years, retired in June, leaving behind an enduring legacy of nurse leadership and a department well positioned to meet current and future health care challenges.

Many have wondered how the Nursing Department would fare without Flaherty’s steady guidance. The hospital created a thoughtful plan for “keeping the ship afloat” through this time of transition.

Christine Tebaldi, PMHNP-BC, interim chief nursing officer, and Jeanne McElhinney, MS, RN, BC, and Paula Bolton, MS, CNP, ANP-BC, interim associate chief nursing officers, have been charged with maintaining stability—quickly learning the intricacies of the department and how to navigate the currents.

Working alongside the nurse directors and other nurse leaders, they have managed COVID outbreaks on units, staffing shortages, a Joint Commission survey, an OSHA inspection, and the myriad day-to-day operational issues facing a department with over 500 nurses and 520 mental health specialist/community residence counselor staff.

Steering the Ship

Tebaldi, McElhinney, and Bolton, have been in their new roles for a little over three months and believe that an important reason why the transition has gone so smoothly is because of the hard work and support of every member of the nursing department.

Here are some of their thoughts about the challenges and opportunities facing nursing at McLean in the coming months.

Christine Tebaldi, PMHNP-BC

I feel tremendous gratitude working with this dedicated group of nursing leaders and staff. Our shared goal of providing top-quality, compassionate care offers inspiration to both meet the challenges and grow to new heights.

The demand for our services has never been greater and McLean is well positioned as a leader in psychiatric mental health nursing to meet the need. Our specialized programs, our unique settings, and our staffing patterns demonstrate our best-in-class clinical care.

By leveraging shared resources within Mass General Brigham and working to align policies for our setting, we are seeing added value. As we forge ahead and face what each new day brings, there is an impressive sense of pride and commitment from our nursing staff.

Partnering with Jeanne and Paula is a true privilege. Their commitment to nursing and the mission of McLean is unmatched. We are so fortunate to have them leading the way. The three of us want to hear about our nurses’ experiences and what we can do to support their work and professional development.

Hands encircle a ring of blue paperdolls
Flaherty’s legacy continues on as Tebaldi, McElhinney, and Bolton “keep the ship afloat”

Jeanne McElhinney, MS, RN, BC

I value enormously the opportunity to work side by side with Christine and Paula. They are amazing nurse leaders, and I’ve learned so much from both of them. Each of us brings different skills and experiences to the table, and I’ve enjoyed collaborating with them for the benefit of the nursing department and our patients.

I also appreciate my new relationship with our nurse directors, who have given me many insights into their patient populations, programs, and challenges. They’re reaching out to me to brainstorm issues they face and that has been very gratifying.

Our staffing shortages are real and that, on top of the mental health surge that has accompanied the COVID pandemic, has made our work even more stressful and demanding.

I think the three of us agree that we are here to support and assist nurses, mental health specialists, and community residence counselors so they can provide high-quality care to our patients.

It can’t be emphasized enough that we are eager to hear from our nurses. If you have any concerns or ideas about how to improve what we do, please reach out.

Paula Bolton, MS, CNP, ANP-BC

I anticipate some bumps along the way as we try to recover from the effects of COVID-19 and the staff shortages that are being experienced across our hospital, the Mass General Brigham system, and health care in general.

Although we are at a different place with COVID than we were at the start of the pandemic, staff still face COVID transmission that affects them personally and affects our patients.

Fortunately, staff have become adept at recognizing COVID symptoms and identifying patients who may be infectious early enough to prevent further transmission. However, utilizing PPE on a daily basis has added stress to our work environments.

I believe that McLean nursing staff share the hospital’s vision to provide the best care for our patients and their loved ones and to help educate the next generation of nurses while contributing to care innovations.

Christine, Jeanne, and I are working together to support our staff in the work they do with patients and to encourage shared opportunities to improve care. We are depending on nurses, mental health specialists, and community residence counselors to communicate issues and help problem solve during this time of leadership transition.

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