“What would Judy do?”
Judy Perron, MSN, RN, was humbled to see Emergency Department nurses wearing T-shirts printed with this phrase during a recent shift as she prepares to retire after 33 years of service to the Brigham.
“I really appreciate this gesture, and I hope it means I have set a good example,” said Perron, a nurse administrator on nights and weekends.
ED nurses made the shirts — some of which also read “Keep calm. Judy is on.” — to honor the expertise, dedication and support that Perron is known for, not only in the Department of Nursing, but also throughout the hospital and in the local community.
“Everyone has a ‘Judy story,’” said Janet Gorman, MHA, BSN, RN, NEA-BC, associate chief nursing officer of the Emergency Department and Float Pool. “She has touched so many staff and helped so many patients and families.”
‘This is What I Wanted to Be’
As a nurse administrator, Perron serves as a resource to nurses and other staff throughout the hospital, working to make sure they have what they need to care for patients and respond to challenging situations and emergencies.
“There is nothing I don’t like about my job,’ said Perron, who works five nights a week and every other weekend. “I like the variety. We see different things all the time, and there’s a great camaraderie on nights among all the services. If something isn’t going right, there are people who will help you out, no matter what.”
Despite her busy schedule, Perron makes it a priority to support nurses during difficult situations that they haven’t dealt with previously.
“One of the hardest things you can experience as a nurse is the first time a patient dies,” she said. “I try to take time with nurses as they go through this, listen to them, hold their hand and let them cry because that’s what they need to do.”
The ability to support staff in all kinds of situations is what drew Perron to the nurse administrator role, even as a student nurse. “I really respected the nursing supervisor at the small community hospital where I was a student nurse,” she said. “I knew this is what I wanted to be, and I made that my life’s goal.”
After working at several community hospitals, Perron joined the Brigham in 1988 as a nursing supervisor for the night shift.
In her time at the Brigham, she has also held other roles, including a per diem cardiac nurse and nursing director of the Emergency Department for five years, after which she returned to the nurse administrator role.
“At her core, Judy is a problem-solver without equal,” said Ron M. Walls, MD, chief operating officer for Mass General Brigham, who worked closely with Perron when he was the Brigham’s chair of Emergency Medicine. “No matter the problem, or whose problem it is, Judy could solve it. And she did, for all of us, over and over again.”
A Lasting Legacy
Perron has made a quiet impact on countless staff and patients throughout the Brigham in her current and prior roles.
“Judy has become an icon at the Brigham,” Gorman said. “Her operational knowledge of the institution is exemplar. She knows who to call and how to get things done.”
Years ago, Perron and a staffing coordinator were “the stimulus” for Au Bon Pain expanding its operating hours overnight on the main campus.
“There was no place for staff to get food at night,” Perron recalled. “When the hospital president was rounding, I talked to him about this need. We were grateful when the administration met with Au Bon Pain and they agreed to open 24 hours a day.”
She also influenced the response to medical emergencies. As co-chair of the CPR committee (now the Emergency Response Committee), she undertook a major project to improve the code carts throughout the institution.
“At the time, the carts were different depending on the unit,” she said. “We worked to standardize the carts so that each one contains the same equipment to respond to codes, even at off-campus sites. It was a big quality improvement initiative.”
During her time in the ED, Perron worked on a research project with her colleagues to develop an emergency severity index – a triage algorithm – that is now used nationally. She also created a program to support newly licensed nurses in the ED.
Other accomplishments include shaping the nurse administrator role, helping to design the Duncan Reid Conference Room as an incident command center and contributing a chapter called “Off-shift Nursing Administration – Shaped by a Vision,” to the book “Change Leadership in Nursing.”
Perron has also been involved with crisis management and response to various emergency situations, including snowstorms, floods, the Boston Marathon bombings and planning efforts around potential needs in the aftermath of Sept. 11, 2001.
Ruth Jones, BSN, RN, nurse in-charge for the Neurosciences ICU, noted that she was fortunate to shadow Judy for her clinical rotation and to work with her on nights for 21 years. “Judy is compassionate, empathetic, kind and supportive,” Jones shared. “She has been a strong patient advocate who puts the needs of the patient first and foremost.”
Paul Sedgwick, BSN, RN, CCRN, of the Cardiac Intensive Care Unit (CCU), agreed. “Judy’s commitment to excellence and BWH is unmatched,” he said. “She plans for any possible scenario, knowing full well that her actions can affect the entire facility. We are all better for having worked with her, often imitated, but never duplicated.”
What Would Judy Do?
As Perron prepares for her last regular shift on Oct. 31, she reflected on the reason she stayed at the Brigham for more than three decades. “I’ve always enjoyed the people I work with,” she said. “The Brigham very much has a community hospital feel with how people all seem to know each other. I also appreciate the respect that physicians have for nurses at the Brigham.”
A mother of four, Perron is looking forward to spending more time with her family, including her husband. The two celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary this summer. “My husband has been really patient all these years as I work nights and weekends, and he’s looking forward to having me home,” she said.
Perron also plans to work on a per diem basis and looks forward to continuing as part of the Brigham family, although with a lighter schedule.
For those who will be wondering “What would Judy do” after Oct. 31, Perron is sharing two pieces of advice that have guided her throughout her career, especially during challenging situations or when she devises one of her “crazy strategies” to fix a problem.
“If you always keep the patient as the focus of your practice, you’ll never go wrong. And always treat your colleagues with respect. Every role in the hospital is important,” she said.
As Perron moves forward with her next chapter, she wanted to share a message of gratitude with her beloved Brigham family:
“I just want to thank the Brigham for giving me all these years.” – Judy Perron