Excellence in Nursing: Meet Our 2017 Honorees
Pittsburgh Magazine highlights the unsung heroes of the health care field: our Excellence in Nursing honorees, chosen by our panel of distinguished nursing professionals.
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Surgery has always been the flashier side of health care — there’s a reason a new TV show about it seems to debut every season. As a young nurse, Amber McGeehan was interested in what went on behind those operating room doors.
“Once you get there, it’s a completely different story,” she says with a laugh. “But I fell in love with it.”
For the last three years, McGeehan, 41, has been the operating room manager at Heritage Valley Beaver and the Heritage Valley Surgery Center. McGeehan has spent most of her career in surgical services, first as a staff nurse, then as a perioperative educator at Salem Regional Medical Center in Salem, Ohio, and finally as director of surgical services at East Liverpool City Hospital in East Liverpool, Ohio, before coming to Heritage Valley.
McGeehan, who lives in Calcutta, Ohio, with husband, Tim, and a teenage daughter and son, holds a BSN from Wheeling Jesuit University, an MSN from University of Phoenix and an MBA from Chadron State College. She also has earned her CNOR, denoting competency in the specialized field of perioperative nursing, Certified Surgical Services Manager; she’s also a Fellow of the American College of Healthcare Executives.
“There are not many people with the same amount of certification at her age,” says Kathy Harley, Heritage Valley’s vice president and chief nursing officer of surgical and procedural services. “She’s balancing a challenging career, a family and continued education and certification, and she’s doing it very well.”
McGeehan’s goal for every day she comes to work is to “do the greatest good for the greatest amount of people.” She believes excellent patient care comes from promoting competency and engaging employees to perform at their best.
“I want people to be passionate about the field they’re working in and to always follow evidence-based standards,” she says. “I always tell my staff, ‘I’m not telling you this because it’s what Amber said. It’s because research has shown that if we do these certain things, that patients have better outcomes.’’’
She also isn’t afraid to speak up when she sees a behavior out of line with optimal patient care, says Harley. “She’s standing up for the patients, and that’s what it’s about,” she says. “It’s why we come to work every day.
“Amber has earned the respect of the surgeons she’s worked with, the staff reporting to her, and her colleagues quite quickly,” Harley adds. “She is very open, honest and genuine. She wants to take things to a higher level. She gets that the patient is the center of it all and we all have to be rowing in the same direction if we really want to effect change.”
As the ever-changing nature of nursing is particularly evident in surgical services, McGeehan strives to remain current by attending conferences, maintaining relationships with vendors and working closely with surgeons. Her biggest challenge, however, is the increasing demand for perioperative nurses. She requires all prospective hires to shadow in the operating room for a day so they can get a sense of what happens behind those closed doors. She wants everyone who works in her operating rooms to find the work as fulfilling as she does, as that translates into better patient care.
“I am just all about creating optimal patient experiences,” she says. “Every patient makes a difference. Every family makes a difference. There’s not one insignificant patient or person. I always have that in my mind. The patients are placing their lives in our hands. We have to take this very seriously.”