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From the Corner Office to the ICU:  Why One Hospital President Traded His Suits for Scrubs

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George Geary, RN, MBA is not your typical nurse. After serving as the president and CEO of Milton Hospital for over seventeen years and overseeing the establishment of the clinical affiliation agreement with Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, he decided to go back to school to become a nurse. “It was time for someone with fresh eyes to look at Milton Hospital. I had been a respiratory therapist before and thought that if I was going to get back into direct patient care I would go into nursing,” said Geary. George Geary graduated from Labouré College in 2006 with his associate’s degree in nursing. This year Geary returns to the College as the 2016 commencement speaker, where he will share his thoughts on life and healthcare with Labouré’s newest graduates.

Already familiar with the South Shore and a Milton resident, it seemed like a natural choice to attend Labouré College for his associate’s degree in nursing. “At Labouré, I could start almost immediately and really liked the flexibility that Labouré offers. Also, I felt like they had a knowledge base about how to work with students who were older and changing careers- it’s a very welcoming place,” said Geary. While at Labouré, Geary learned about patient care from both his teachers and his fellow students. “It is an underlying core value at Labouré to recognize the differences of culture among patients and how that may transmit to their healthcare. Also, the student body is very diverse. I absorbed from my fellow students how the various cultures would deal with an illness- the positives and the negatives,” said Geary.

Upon graduation from Labouré, Geary started work at Carney Hospital in the ICU/CCU. “During the last clinical rotation at Labouré, I was able to work in the ICU/CCU at Carney. Throughout that rotation, I reacquired my respiratory therapy skills and found that though the technology changed, the theory had not. I was able to work very comfortably with patients in the ICU that were on ventilators. When I finished the rotation, the nurse manager offered me a job,” said Geary. He stayed at Carney Hospital for three years and enjoyed the camaraderie and closeness of the team in the ICU. The veteran nurses and staff on the floor were instrumental in Geary’s development as a nurse. “They pushed me but were careful to make sure I was supported. They kept challenging me to do the best that I can. I had nurse preceptors that guided me through,” said Geary.

After working with critically ill patients for a couple of years, Geary decided he wanted to focus more on preventing chronic disease in patients. Now he is working at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts as a program consultant in care management. “What pushed me to my job today was treating patients with chronic conditions and seeing that those conditions were products of lifestyle choices. I wondered if there was a branch of medicine or outreach opportunity that focused on helping patients manage their chronic diseases and conditions outside of the hospital. Then I learned about disease and care management and found that I could bring my clinical skills and administration background together to serve patients in a new way,” said Geary.

Asked to offer advice to future graduates, Geary offers this, “I would say given the pace of change today for future and present graduates, there is the need to stay current- not only in terms of technology but also in terms of changes that are happening in social issues. We have a universal healthcare bill that’s guaranteeing health insurance to all, but high cost is still an issue.” He also noted that healthcare delivery systems are already shifting away from traditional settings like hospital into more community-based programs in order to better manage chronic conditions like diabetes and heart disease. Tools will also need to be adapted to reach the patient, educate them and encourage them. “Who uses their home phone anymore? Not many, but some patients may feel comfortable with tele-medicine or texting. We need to look at all the tools along the continuum,” said Geary.

With over thirty-five years of experience in healthcare, George Geary’s commencement speech will inspire and enlighten the newest nurses and healthcare professionals graduating from Labouré College this Saturday, May 7.

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