Dr. Angela Patterson uses the leadership skills learned while getting her Doctor of Nursing Practice degree to expand the reach and services at MinuteClinic.

For Angela Patterson, Chief Nurse Practitioner Officer, MinuteClinic and Vice President, CVS Health, the mandate for nursing leaders is clear. 

“We need to deliver high quality care that improves outcomes and reduces costs,” says Patterson, a nursing veteran of 37 years who earned her Doctor of Nursing Practice degree from MGH Institute of Health Professions in 2016. “As leaders, we need to successfully contribute to the development and execution of healthcare delivery practices that are sustainable and make a difference. We need to be leaders who contribute and can be great partners and collaborators within the broader healthcare landscape.”

On any given day, Patterson is tackling that and more. Her responsibilities include providing vision and governance for MinuteClinic’s 3,500 nurse practitioners, physician assistants, and nurses who staff more than 1,100 clinics, located inside select CVS Pharmacy stores, across 35 states and D.C.; overseeing the operational and business elements of those clinics; crafting short term and long-term strategy; ensuring high quality experiences for both patients and employees; and advocating for nurse practitioners in the boardroom. 

“There’s no real typical day and there’s a lot going on, a lot to keep track of,” she says. “But I love it and wouldn’t have it any other way.” 

The scope of the company’s clinics has grown considerable though the years. No longer a venue of just vaccines and minor illnesses, today’s clinics also offer wellness exams, treatment, and management of chronic conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, reproductive support, and behavioral health therapy. 

“We’re able to care for a very broad range of health care needs while also looking at the patient holistically and ensuring that all their care needs are met,” says Patterson. “Are they up-to-date with vaccines? Do they have their medications? Access to care is really important.”

Patterson started her nursing career at Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital, then took on similar roles at two local colleges and at a medical practice. In 1989, she became co-owner and clinical director at Atreva Health Care, a position she held for 18 years. She also taught nursing at Simmons University for a decade. “Teaching was one of the most enjoyable things I did,” she recalls. “I would travel to countries like Nicaragua and bring nursing students and we would do intercultural immersion trips.”

This exposure to Third World health care provided Patterson with an entry point into retail health. “I think that really set the stage for me when retail healthcare first came on the scene in 2000 as something that was really innovative and novel,” says Patterson. “Having seen patients in dirt floor huts and not having the power of a prescription pad really brought me back to the basics of healthcare. There were no barriers between the patients and the providers, so that really spoke to me. In some ways, it’s similar to retail health.” 

Advancing a Career

So, Patterson joined CVS Health in 2007 and began working her way up the company ladder. While she was enjoying a successful career, she felt the need to pursue a doctorate in nursing practice.

“I felt as a nursing leader in a growing organization, it was important that I role model and demonstrate what our profession’s agenda was nationally, and I wanted to role model not only a commitment to our organization, but our commitment to our profession.” 

Patterson enrolled in the Institute’s DNP program, where the encouragement, support, and networking with fellow professionals at her level were key. “When you're in the chief nursing officer position, it can be pretty lonely from a nursing perspective,” she says. “But I was able to network with other nurses who are working in leadership roles or aspiring to be in those roles, and I could learn from them. It created such a wonderful community. I still have friends from my program who have been tremendous colleagues and mentors and supporters over the years.” 

Learning foundational concepts and the “nut and bolts” of key areas came in handy too, as did statistics, research techniques, clinical quality, patient safety, and data. But it was the leadership sprinkled throughout the program’s DNA that made the difference. 

“You can read about leadership, but this was an individual personal approach because having coaching that was just focused on me in that space was really, really important,” notes Patterson. “It was this personal refinement of one's own leadership, taking everything that you learned and really distilling it down to understanding: Who you are as a leader? How do you want to show up as a leader? How do you do that? What do you need to change so that you can influence nurses and nurse practitioners so that they trust you, respect and admire you? I think this is probably one of the biggest challenges for nursing leaders to hit the nail on. The IHP really helped me to refine that and to bring it into its full realization.” 

For those considering the MGH Institute, Patterson says to expect a rigorous and rewarding experience. “The quality of the program is exceptional and is recognized. When I share that I received my DNP through the MGH IHP, it’s recognized as a high-quality, top-tier graduate program for nurses and nurse practitioners and that's important. I worked hard, but I got so much more back in return, and I feel like I made absolutely the right decision to come to the IHP. 

“Going to the IHP helped me to become a better leader in this space,” she adds. “It made a big difference in my ability to be an effective nursing leader. I owe a lot to the IHP.”