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Leading Care: Colleen Mattioni and the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania

In this interview, Colleen Mattioni ’87 BSN, MBA, DNP, RN, CNOR discusses her leadership in advancing nurses and health care through administrative roles. 

She is Chief Nursing Executive, Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, Penn Medicine

Colleen Mattioni

How did you rise to this leadership position?

I am fortunate to have spent my career at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania (HUP), an organization that is committed to succession planning as well as the professional growth and development of its employees. Early on, I took advantage of all that Penn Medicine had to offer with respect to professional development opportunities. As a clinical nurse, I volunteered to serve as charge nurse and offered to lead unit-based projects. I made it known that I was interested in leadership, and my director at the time mentored me to be her successor. She ensured that I was placed in a position to have stretch assignments and increasing levels of responsibility. I started as a clinical coordinator, and progressed to nurse manager, associate clinical director, clinical director, associate chief nursing officer and finally to chief nursing executive. I recognize that my advancement would not have been possible without leadership support and amazing teams that continuously challenged me to progress.  

Who influenced you?

The person that influenced me to think about Nursing Leadership as a possibility was Marianne Saunders ’81 BSN, MSN, RN, CNOR, also a Villanova Nursing College alumnus. At the time, Marianne was a nurse manager in the operating room. I have always been impressed with her ability to bring people together in a collaborative way to provide the best care possible for our patients. She has remained my leadership role model throughout my career. 

Why are you enthusiastic about your work in this role?

To ensure that the work of the professional nurse is visible and society recognizes the contributions nurses make to improve health care outcomes. I am enthusiastic about having the ability to make a difference in the daily lives of my team and our patients. The Future for Nursing 2020-2030 provides the framework for nurses to provide a leading role in the future of healthcare. I am excited to participate in the work that is outlined in the report. 

What are the issues you deal with and what’s the biggest challenge in your area?

As a CNE, you are responsible for all aspects of nursing practice. It is imperative that nursing practice be evidence-based. Where is evidence is lacking, the nursing team must engage in research to inform best practices. It is also critical that a CNE be a good financial steward so that nurses have the resources they need to care for patients. The CNE needs to make visible the contributions of nursing to all levels in the organization.

At present the biggest challenge is how to address burnout and employee wellness given the increasing complexity of our patients and all we have experienced as a society

How are you effective in your role? What’s critical to your success in the role?

Critical to the success of any leader is to be available, visible and approachable. I welcome diverse opinions and remain open to new ways of doing things. I have tried hard to cultivate a team of thought leaders, and ask clinicians on the front lines to tell me what they need. Most importantly, I foster a culture of inquiry, evidenced-based practice, and research.

How does innovation fit into your role as leader?

Innovation is integral to our work because it impacts the quality of healthcare. Innovation leads to new processes, products, models and technology that influence the health of society.    

Is there anything you wish you’d done differently on your rise to this position or while in it?

No. Every experience has been a learning opportunity.

What’s your advice to someone who wants to be a leader in their area of interest?

Join and become an active member in their professional organization. Obtain their certification in their specialty. Engage in research or evidenced-based practice projects. Disseminate outcomes via publication and presentations at conferences. Network with peers and thought leaders in the areas of interest. 

What is your leadership philosophy?

I would describe my leadership style as a blend between Transformational Leadership and Democratic Leadership. I enjoy collaboration and working in teams, and do not subscribe to a formal hierarchy. My goal is to inspire and empower my team members to challenge the status quo and be innovative thinkers. I derive a great deal of satisfaction from seeing my team members be acknowledged for their successes. 

What’s your hope for our profession?

It is my hope that members of our profession will read the Future of Nursing Report 2020-2030 and start to actualize the recommendations in the report.  

What thoughts would you like to add about the effect of the pandemic on your work? Do you foresee changes in the future, including opportunities for nurses where they can have a positive impact?

Nurses can have a positive impact wherever they practice. They are uniquely poised to address healthcare inequities and social determinates of health, both of which were highlighted by the pandemic. The pandemic forced us to accelerate our thinking on how healthcare is delivered, and nurses were equal partners in re-thinking our models of care. We saw a rapid expansion of Telemedicine and Homecare services. Due to state waivers, our Advanced Practice Providers had less restrictions placed on their practice. This resulted in increased access to care and high-quality patient care outcomes. I believe that many of these innovative care models will remain and expand in the future.