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Nursing and Patient Care: How Philanthropy is Making a Difference

Debra Burke, RN, DNP, MBA, NEA-BC

Profile in Medicine

Nursing and Patient Care: How Philanthropy is Making a Difference

Mass General Chief Nurse and Senior Vice President for Patient Care Services, Debra Burke shares how philanthropy is transforming nursing and patient care.

Paul Goldsmith
March 31, 2023

As Chief Nurse and Senior Vice President for Patient Care Services, Debra Burke, RN, DNP, MBA, NEA-BC, oversees more than 7,000 nurses and other health care professionals at Massachusetts General Hospital. Dr. Burke, who has spent her entire career at the hospital, recently discussed how philanthropy is making a difference for nurses at Mass General, and how the new building will improve patient care delivery.

This is a difficult time for nurses nationwide. How is philanthropy making a difference for nurses at Mass General?

To provide the best care in the world, it’s critically important that we not only do our best to make Mass General attractive to new nurses and patient care service providers, but it’s even more important that we retain these talented professionals. To do that, we work hard to make sure that what we offer is unique in comparison to other hospitals — and that’s where philanthropy is so transformative for us.

What types of things are made possible through philanthropic support?

With the help of philanthropy, we’re able to do things that normally most health care organizations are not able to do when it comes to professional development. For example, we’ve been able to create fellowships that help our nurses get valuable experience as educators or nurse researchers, which allows them to grow their careers and become future leaders. With support from our donors, we’ve created a system for staff to advance their own ideas and innovative solutions to problems they face. Recently, we received a gift directed at nurse well-being, which will enable us to give out individual grants to help our providers and staff better manage their stress.

What is an example of a meaningful gift a donor could make to support Mass General nurses?

One of the biggest impacts a donor can make is through the creation of a chair or scholar. My position is endowed, and that funding allows me to support various programs that would otherwise go unfunded. Right now, my funding is going to support a program for our environmental service workers and dietary staff who want to enter the medical field. We send them for training to become nursing assistants; we pay their salary while they’re doing this training; and we guarantee them jobs when they finish. That just wouldn’t be possible without support from our donors.

What kind of impact will the new building have on nursing and patient care services?

Believe it or not, the individual private patient rooms will probably have the greatest impact on our health professionals and the care they provide. These patient rooms in the new building will provide a space for patients to heal or recuperate. But, they will also make it easier for providers to communicate with patients and families, offering them the privacy that is not possible in our double rooms. Sometimes patients receive difficult news or want to ask personal questions. It’s hard to do that when a roommate can hear everything. Private rooms will also save time — because we won’t need to move patients out of their rooms for things like physical therapy. The new building will also provide space for health professionals to collaborate easier. We are all looking forward to this new building.

To learn more about how you can support nursing and patient care at Mass General, contact us.