Nancy Kelleher, MSN, RN, connects with a patient about plans for discharge

Nancy Kelleher, MSN, RN, connects with a patient about plans for discharge

Nancy Kelleher, MSN, RN, of Care Coordination, approaches her patient cases with grace and dignity. No matter a patient’s background or situation, Kelleher treats all patients with the respect they deserve.

“Every patient I care for is important to me,” said Kelleher, who works on Tower 14AB, a general medical service with medically complex patients. “It’s essential that I spend time getting to know the patient and their situation so that I’m able to develop the best discharge plan for everyone involved.”

Kelleher, who began as a nurse care coordinator at BWH in 1994, works closely and collaboratively with many members of the interdisciplinary team, patients and their families to ensure patient care is well coordinated across the continuum from pre-admission to post-discharge.

For her compassion, knowledge, collaborative approach to care, leadership and many other outstanding qualities, Kelleher has received this year’s Essence of Nursing Award, the highest honor presented to clinical nurses at BWH.

“What strikes me about Nancy is her commitment to her work and patients,” wrote nominator and Care Coordination Program Director Terri O’Sullivan, MPH, MSN, RN, ACM. “As a care coordinator, her nursing practice reflects her exceptional commitment and her nursing assessment reflects analyzing the current situation and developing a plan with the patient, family and team that looks beyond the current patient condition.”

When Kelleher first engages with a patient and their family, she initiates discussions with all who are involved in their care around discharge plans, to meet their individualized needs. Her leadership and clinical expertise directs the team’s focus on the issues at hand and possible strategies to solve problems, O’Sullivan wrote. She communicates the necessary steps required and joins in to be part of the solution. If the team encounters a barrier, she quickly regroups to think of an alternate plan, which can include reaching out to community resources.

In her narrative, Kelleher reflected on one of her most challenging cases, involving a patient who suffered from severe neurological deficits following a traumatic brain injury. When the patient’s family expressed that caring for him at home would not be possible, Kelleher helped them through the process of finding a long-term care facility that could care for the patient around the clock and ensure his safety. Because of the patient’s limited insurance, Kelleher reached out to his insurance company early in the process to advocate for placement in a facility due to his need for 24-hour care.

“When I look back at this case, both the patient’s tragic circumstances and the family’s limited insurance and resources presented complex challenges,” she said. “I was concerned for the patient’s physical and mental well-being and also for the family’s well-being. I was determined to provide the best discharge plan for the patient and family.”

In a letter of support, Christine Dutkiewicz, MSN, RN, CCM, Kelleher’s nurse director for the past 21 years, praised her leadership qualities, specifically at weekly Clinical High Risk Rounds: “Nancy often helps focus other staff when complex cases are being reviewed and discussed. She makes suggestions on how to minimize barriers to patient discharges and often asks the right questions to help a colleague on the team plan a challenging discharge.”

Matthew Vitale, MD, associate director of the BWH Hospitalist Service, has worked closely with Kelleher on 14B for the past nine years.

“It is clear that a deep commitment to patients and their families is the primary engine behind Nancy’s work,” wrote Vitale. “She represents so clearly the elements and values of highly effective patient-centered care that sets BWH apart. I continue to learn from Nancy every time I’m on service and benefit from her guidance whenever we tackle an issue together.”

One of Kelleher’s favorite parts of the job is collaborating with house staff. She especially enjoys making daily huddles an educational experience for the team, sharing her insight into what would be best for patients and learning from her colleagues, too.

“It is truly a team effort to provide a high-quality level of care to each patient,” Kelleher said. “I am proud of my Care Coordination colleagues and their dedication to delivering the best and safest discharge plans.  It’s an honor to be associated with this exceptional group of nurses and social workers who make up Care Coordination.”

Added O’Sullivan: “Nancy is described as a most valued member of the team and stands out as one of the best individuals to work with at BWH. She is extraordinarily flexible, willing to meet early or late with the team, patients and their families. She demonstrates amazing insight into facilitating transitions of care from inpatient to outpatient.”

Kelleher won a Housestaff Nursing Award in 2015, which recognizes the outstanding service and commitment to care by nurses at BWH.

She received her MS in psychiatric nursing from Boston College and BSN from Northeastern University.