Terry McDonnell credits MGH Institute education and experience at Mass General Hospital as critical to career success

When Terry McDonnell graduated from the MGH Institute with a master’s degree in nursing, and then a doctorate a few years after that, she was well on her to advancement within a new career. But she never imagined the kind of success that would come. 

“I was going be a nurse practitionenr in the ICU and I was going to be happy doing it,” said McDonnell. “Nursing opens doors that you really can't even imagine are out there to be opened.”

The doors McDonell has walked through since earning her masters in 2005 and doctorate in 2013 have been substantial. Today, she is the Chief Nurse Executive and Senior Vice President for Patient Care Services for the Duke University Health System, a system with 24,000 employees that includes Duke University Hospital, Duke Raleigh Hospital, Duke Regional Hospital, and the Watts College of Nursing. McDonnell is responsible for more than 10,000 of its registered nurses, advanced practice providers, nurse practitioners, nurse midwives, medical assistants, nursing assistants, and surgical technical assistants. 

“Every day is an adventure,” said McDonnell. “As part of a growing health system, we all wear multiple hats. There's the vertical of nursing and patient care services. But then at the executive level, you also are responsible for the horizontal of participating in strategic thinking and leading the health system with your colleagues to deliver the safest, best quality, patient experience you can.”

McDonnell started at Duke last summer after being recruited from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center in Seattle, WA where she was Vice President of Clinical Operations and Chief Nursing Officer where she oversaw nursing, pharmacy, and lab operations. During her seven years there, a 150,000-square-foot innovation center was designed and built. 

“We delivered that on time and under budget, despite the pandemic,” said McDonnell. “It was a wonderful time there. We grew the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance from a $750 million a year entity to a $2.1 billion entity.”

While McDonnell’s route may have taken her South with a detour out West, her roots are back East at Massachusetts General Hospital where, after earning her master’s degree, she joined the hospital’s first oncology nurse practitioner team. Over the course of the next dozen years, McDonnell built her career at MGH, earned her doctorate, and eventually became director of clinical services for the MGH Cancer Center, a position she held until being recruited by the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center in 2017. 

“It was a crazy, wild ride being exposed to all kinds of things that I never could have imagined I would have been doing when I started as a direct-entry student back in 2002,” marvels McDonnell.