Georgetown Alumna Serves as New MedStar Montgomery CNO

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June 29, 2020 – This past March, Dr. Claire Piccirillo (G’00), who earned her master’s degree at Georgetown, became the new chief nursing officer of MedStar Montgomery Medical Center (MMMC), in Olney, Md. 

“Just as I was getting to know the team, mostly through emergency preparedness, COVID struck,” she said, adding that the medical center had its first patient with COVID-19 on March 13. “The pandemic certainly sped up my orientation.”

The institution is located in Montgomery County, which, as Piccirillo noted, “was the second hardest hit in Maryland.”

Dr. Claire Piccirillo (G’00) in a head shot photo
Dr. Claire Piccirillo (G’00)

‘Nothing Short of Heroic’

“What I hoped to be doing [when I started] and what I ended up having to do are two very different things; however, they do amazingly have the same goal in sight,” she said. “MMMC is a community hospital in the MedStar Health system. What I have seen here in my short few months is nothing short of heroic.”

Piccirillo said that during these months in her role she has witnessed the organization providing excellent care, conducting innovative research, fostering support among colleagues, and focusing on safety. 

“Due to the pandemic, I was able to see MMMC at the worst time in health care performing at its best,” she said, highlighting her efforts to ensure the voice of the nurses is present at “the table.”

In addition, she said, MMMC has collaborated closely with MedStar Georgetown University Hospital and MedStar Washington Hospital Center on patient care during the pandemic.

Community Among Colleagues

Piccirillo, who earned her doctor of nursing practice (DNP) degree at Johns Hopkins University, spent most of her career at MedStar Georgetown, where she worked for more than 20 years.

“I was lucky to have wonderful mentors who not only taught me safe practices and leadership skills, but also moved me along into different roles and positions to gain more experience,” she said. “Basically, they saw something in me I did not know existed.”

While she held leadership roles in different units – medical, surgical, telemetry, intermediate care, and the post-anesthesia care unit, Piccirillo said her management style has been consistent. 

“One of my biggest highlights was when a nurse said to me, ‘Thank you for giving me my best friends,’” she remembered. “I did not understand, so she clarified what a manager meant to her. I hired great people and kept them. That environment fostered their relationships, which in turn provided patients with great care.  I decided wherever my career landed, as a true north, I wanted to provide nurses and staff with a great place to work and build my career for them.” 

Looking Ahead

Piccirillo said that she and her colleagues have been reflecting on the “new normal” in the context of COVID-19.

“What do we keep, what do we do differently, what do we never do again, and how can we change health care for the better,” she said. “The opportunities can be found in the challenges. It is a great time to be in health care and be a part of the cure. Nursing is the most trusted profession, and I think we have gained even more trust as a profession through this unfortunate time.” 

Her degree at Georgetown – through a former program called “integrated health systems” that served as a precursor to today’s graduate program in health systems administration – “prepared [her] for what was to come in health care.”

“The program laid the foundation for finance, business, health care, and leadership for me,” Piccirillo said, noting how the perspective she gained has helped her appreciate and navigate MedStar’s multi-hospital system. “I was able to look back on what I learned and use it to help me grow professionally over the years.”