The VOICE of UPMC Shadyside Winter 2023–2024

Shadyside’s Amazing Nurses

Nurses are amazing. Nurses bring their knowledge, compassion, and expertise to help and guide people through some of the most profound moments in their lives — from birth through death. Nurses teach people how to live to the best of their health and abilities. They train new nurses. As leaders, they run hospital units and even hospitals. Sandra Rader, president of UPMC flagship Presbyterian Shadyside, is a nurse. So is Kitty Zell, vice president of Operations.

Nurses are crucial to health care, and their roles constantly evolve. Today they can be registered nurses and nurse leaders as well as advanced practice registered nurses — certified nurse practitioners, certified registered nurse anesthetists, clinical nurse specialists, and certified nurse midwives.

“I think that ability to adapt is a key to our success,” says Amy McLaughlin, MSN, RN, vice president, Patient Care Services, and chief nursing officer, UPMC Shadyside.

“We have to be adaptable because change is inevitable. But what doesn’t change is the caring … and the art and science of nursing.”

UPMC Shadyside truly values its nursing talent, as proved by the hospital’s achieving Magnet Recognition® from the American Nurses Credentialing Center. Magnet recognizes the highest standard of care for patients, delivered by nurses who are supported to be the very best that they can be. Only 10 percent of U.S. hospitals are designated Magnet organizations.

And although the heartbreaking challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic caused many nurses to join “the great resignation,” Shadyside Hospital was fortunate to retain exceptionally talented and loyal people. Many of them graduated from the Shadyside Hospital School of Nursing, went on to build a good career at the hospital, and stayed through the hard times. Hundreds more are now students at the school, becoming the nurses of the future.

We thought you might like to meet just a few of these remarkable people.

Meet Amy

It takes a multidisciplinary team to care for our patients. All of our partners are so important. But nurses are, I think, the backbone of the organization.
- Amy McLaughlin, MSN, RN, vice president, Patient Care Services, and chief nursing officer, UPMC Shadyside

She loves “Shark Tank”

Amy McLaughlin, MSN, RN, first worked at Shadyside Hospital as a summer nurse intern between her junior and senior years at Penn State. After stints at the Cleveland Clinic and Beth Israel in New Jersey, she came home to Pittsburgh in 1990 and joined the team in Shadyside’s Cardiothoracic ICU.

“That ended up being my home for the next 15 years,” says Ms. McLaughlin, a calm, thoughtful, and inclusive leader who provides close support to Shadyside’s nurses. “I was the unit director there for 13 years. I loved that busy and exciting environment. We had great nurses there. Susan Hoolahan was the unit director prior to me, and she’s now the president of UPMC Passavant.”

Rising through roles of added responsibility, Ms. McLaughlin was appointed director of nursing in 2015 and vice president, Patient Care Services, and chief nursing officer in 2023. “I’ve had the opportunity to grow with the hospital,” says the board-certified nurse executive.

“I love Shadyside. We have such a rich history. Although our care is internationally recognized, we work hard to retain the friendly, community feel that makes Shadyside special. That is our legacy.”

Ms. McLaughlin both carries Shadyside’s culture into the future and values the innovation that is vital in nursing today.

“I love ‘Shark Tank,’ ” she says. “Those new creators and inventors are inspiring. What’s the next greatest thing that could make people’s lives easier? That’s how we think as nurses. We think about new ways to meet the pent-up need for health care during a nursing shortage. What can we enhance? How are we going to deliver care in different ways?

“A nurse’s life is continual learning. And experienced nurses have a lot of wisdom to pass on. So I think there’s a lot ahead for our profession. It’s definitely an exciting time.”

A great time to become a nurse

People of all ages, talents, and experience are recognizing that this is an especially promising time to be a nurse. Opportunities in this rewarding career seem almost limitless for those who are innovative and hardworking and who want to help people.

Reflecting this trend, the UPMC Shadyside School of Nursing is currently seeing unprecedented growth in the numbers of people who want to pursue a nursing career.

When Shadyside’s School of Nursing opened in 1884, it was the first professional nursing school between the East Coast and Chicago. Today the school offers an accelerated 16-month full-time program as well as a part-time evening/weekend program that can be completed in 32 months.

Both programs are open to anyone. But if someone already works at UPMC, they can keep their full-time job and go to nursing school part-time, using their full-time tuition benefits to help fund their diploma. They can then move right into a nursing position with all their UPMC experience being credited.

Working and going to school is a big commitment, and nursing students work hard. They attend class two nights a week and spend two full clinical days in the hospital every other weekend — learning in one of the most advanced hospitals in the nation. It’s an intense experience, but the many satisfying ways a nursing career can grow today can make it all worth it.

Meet Donna

With the new nurses, I try to instill the care and compassion and commitment that are part of my work ethic and Shadyside’s culture.
- Donna Kearney, BSN, RN

Carriers of the culture

“Yesterday I interviewed a young nurse from Pitt,” says Donna Kearney, BSN, RN, a clinician (nurse leader) in the ICU.

“She said, ‘I really want to work in a place where everyone enjoys being there and wants to be together. And everybody I talk to from Shadyside really likes it there.’ ”

After earning her diploma from the Shadyside Hospital School of Nursing right out of high school, Ms. Kearney has been a nurse at Shadyside for 37 years.

Starting in the Pulmonary Unit with legendary Shadyside physicians Murray Sachs and Joel Weinberg, she soon met a respiratory therapist who became her husband.

“I really did get my foundation on the Pulmonary Unit,” she says. “We worked with cystic fibrosis kids and all the lung COPD patients. It was a unique population and I loved it.

“But after 10 years, I decided to make the jump to the Cardiothoracic ICU, the open-heart unit. Now, with more heart surgery moving to UPMC Presbyterian, we are transitioning to caring for more thoracic patients. It’s a new challenge, but we’re up for it.”

In 2022, at age 57, Ms. Kearney earned her BSN, going to school online while continuing to work. “And now I’m the clinician in the unit where I’ve worked for all these years. I still do patient care because I want to, but I also am in the office doing administrative work. So I see both sides now. I’m really enjoying it.

“I feel like at Shadyside we’re such a family. For instance, my unit director and I started together on the lung floor. We became friends. She was in my wedding. Now I see the new nurses becoming friends. I love that. You want to like the people you work with. It makes your whole day better.

“With the new nurses, I try to instill the care and compassion and commitment that are part of my work ethic and Shadyside’s culture. We nurses are the carriers of that culture.

“Shadyside is just something you want to be part of. 
 I would never leave. I’m in it for the long haul.”

Meet Shannon

“When all the chips were down, Shannon was there”

Shannon Grainy, BSN, RN, OCN, already had a college degree in speech therapy when she decided to go to nursing school. She was 28 at the time and worried that she might feel too old.

“But I soon learned that nursing doesn’t have an age limit,” she says. “One student in my class was 55. You can go in at any age and start fresh.”

Starting to work at Shadyside in 2018, Ms. Grainy found her passion on a unit specializing in caring for patients with leukemia and other cancers. Nurses are the first to admit that caring for oncology patients is physically and emotionally challenging. Nurses must provide support, education, and extensive care to people during one of the biggest trials in their lives — and the COVID-19 pandemic exponentially increased these challenges.

Now a clinician (nurse leader), Ms. Grainy has earned prestigious Cameo of Caring and Daisy Awards for her compassion, skills, dedication, and teamwork.

As one of her patients wrote, “You [at Shadyside] have an amazing nurse. She shared my journey with me. She made me smile every day. When all the chips were down for me, Shannon was there.”

“I feel like I am where I am supposed to be,” Ms. Grainy says.

“I’m a people person, and as a clinician, I like that I can connect with all our patients plus everyone’s family. And I like the fast pace of being a hospital nurse. I love our patients. I love my management team. My boss, Lindsay Pegher, MSN, RN, has always wanted the best for me and has tried everything in her power to get me to be as great as I can be.

“Nursing is a very rewarding job,” Ms. Grainy believes. “No matter if you’re having the worst day, you’re still helping somebody, even if they’re difficult, even if they’re yelling at you, you’re still helping them. And that should feel very rewarding to you. Nursing is very much a teamwork type of job. You can’t do it by yourself. And my unit has literally the best teamwork I’ve ever seen.”

Does she have any advice for anyone wondering what to do with their life?

“If you like helping people, go to nursing school and find your hopeful place. I mean, I love Shadyside.”

Meet Ryan

I find what I do very fulfilling.
- Ryan O’Keefe, RN, BSN

“I knew this was where I wanted to be”

Ryan O’Keefe, RN, BSN, was working in promotion for Sony Music when he realized that if he wanted to take his career to the next level, he would have to move to New York or Los Angeles.

“But the majority of my family is in Pittsburgh, and I didn’t want to move.”

A friend suggested he think about nursing. “That intrigued me,” Mr. O’Keefe says. “My mother was a nurse, as were all her friends. I grew up seeing what satisfying careers they had. So I got my associate degree in my 30s and was lucky enough to land the job I really wanted — on the orthopaedic unit at UPMC Shadyside.

“When I was in nursing school, I had three rotations at Shadyside, so I knew this was where I wanted to be,” he explains. “I enjoyed those clinicals more than any other hospital that I was at. And seven and a half years later, I’m still working on 3 West.”

What makes Shadyside special? “Patients are just overwhelmed by how nice our staff is,” says Mr. O’Keefe, now a clinician, “from the nurses I work with, the doctors, the physical therapists to the dietary people taking meal orders, the whole team — patients say everyone here is so kind. They’ve never experienced anything like that at any other hospital.

“And everybody’s on board every day as far as knowing exactly what each patient needs and how we can optimize getting them home and making sure that they have success when they get home as well,” he adds.

“But maybe the most important thing about nursing is knowing that every day you have four or five patients that you have to take care of, and they might not be having their best day, and even if you’re not having your best day, you have to go in and try to help them in any way that you can. And that’s rewarding, knowing that you made a difference to their recovery.

“I find what I do very fulfilling,” Mr. O’Keefe concludes. “My friend steered me in the right direction.”

Meet Chelsea

What I love that you receive so much support from all the faculty and from all your fellow students.
- Chelsea Johnson, medical assistant and nursing student

“I have to keep going for my kids”

When Chelsea Johnson started working as a medical assistant at UPMC in 2010, she “fell in love with nursing.” The single mother of three tried going to nursing school at a community college but gave up because she felt she was getting little support from the school or her teachers. Then she took advantage of UPMC’s offer to go to the Shadyside Hospital School of Nursing, with the promise of a nursing job when she graduated.

“What I love most about the Shadyside program is that you receive so much support from all the faculty and from all your fellow students,” she says. “At Shadyside, there hasn’t been one instructor that hasn’t helped me. They’re very reachable, they’re very open, they’re very honest, and I truly feel like everybody here wants you to succeed. And with that support system, I feel like I can succeed. I know I’m going to graduate.”

This year, Ms. Johnson received the Betty Rowe Ramseur Nursing Scholarship, endowed through the Shadyside Hospital Foundation by Rebecca McCrea Kamen to honor her longtime friend from nursing school.

Enrolled in the part-time night and weekend nursing program while she works full-time at UPMC Children’s Hospital, Ms. Johnson goes to class two nights a week 
 and then has clinical rotations at UPMC Shadyside every other weekend.

With three kids at home, ages 15, 13, and 7, the 35-year-old Ms. Johnson finds her nursing studies “hard, strenuous, and time-consuming. But I always tell my kids that the children I work with are not fortunate to be healthy like you are. So that’s the reason that I’m here and I’m trying to do this. I want to help people. I think my kids enjoy hearing about that aspect of it.

“And my kids have become so invested in my future. So they’re like, ‘Mom, you can’t quit. We know it’s hard, but you have to be a nurse.’ So I have to keep going for them.

“I mentor a lot of students,” she adds, “and I always tell people, ‘Listen, if you want nursing, if you really, really want it, it’s definitely doable.’ You just have to be willing to sacrifice. My life is my kids are first and then nursing immediately after. Nursing just kind of has to come at the forefront of everything if you want to do it.”

The Shadyside Hospital Foundation is especially supportive of nurses and nursing students. You can help with a gift of any size. 
Visit or call the Foundation at 412-623-6600.