Melissa Macogay, D.N.P., M.B.A., R.N., has been a part of the Johns Hopkins family for more than 20 years. She has consoled families at the bedside, helped set the standard for nursing excellence at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital and led the organization’s 1,000-plus nurses through a pandemic. Now, as vice president and chief nursing officer at Johns Hopkins All Children’s, Macogay opens up about her career, work and home families, and advice for those pursuing the passion of nursing.
Describe what you do in a normal day.
I start with a workout, gratitude journal and establishing top three things I need to accomplish for the day. Next, I spend the workday supporting and advocating for an environment that our nurses and caregivers can be their very best, delivering the very best care. Most days, I have a lot of meetings (now on Zoom) within the hospital, our health care system and with our community partners. After a day of lots of meetings, I like to get out and walk the campus, our units, our cafeteria and lobbies to interact with our staff and our families. That helps keep me grounded on our important work. At night, I try to enjoy a meal with my husband and time for us to unwind our days – we are empty nesters now that our daughter is a freshman in college.
What did you want to be when you grew up?
I thought I would be a doctor or teacher and decided I wanted to be a nurse while I was in high school. My boyfriend was diagnosed with leukemia, and we spent many years in and out of the hospital with an incredible team of compassionate, smart, dedicated nurses that forever impacted my life. While he passed away, after that experience, I always knew I wanted to be a nurse and make a difference in others’ lives just as those nurses did for me.
What made you want to work at Johns Hopkins All Children’s?
I started at The Johns Hopkins Hospital’s pediatric ICU in 1999 in the nurse residency program. I moved to Florida in 2007 and started at All Children’s as a travel nurse in the cardiovascular ICU and signed on as a full-time staff member in 2008. Being a freestanding pediatric hospital is what attracted me. From the moment I walked into our old hospital facility in 2007 through today, it is the heart and dedication of the people working here that keep me still believing this is the best possible place to work.
How has COVID-19 impacted you?
COVID-19 has been really hard both personally and professionally for many reasons. It has certainly been a learning experience for all of us, but as hard as it has been, I consider myself fortunate because my family remained healthy. So many others have not had that same outcome, so for those people, and their families, we must keep doing the hard work.
How did it feel to lead the hospital to Magnet® designation?
Being a Magnet organization feels like the best validation there is for our nurses and our organization. Our nurses are so focused on creating great working relationships, thinking of new ways to do things, committed to learn, growing and sharing their best practices with others and always striving to provide the best possible care for our patients. As a leader, it was my proudest moment because our nurses were so deserving of this prestigious recognition and it was magnificent to see the pride, excitement and spirit of excellence across our organization.
You recently completed your doctorate. Why did you want to go after that and what was the process like?
The doctorate program is designed to bring new research into practice therefore creating better outcomes. By doing this, we advance our care and our nursing profession. As a nurse leader, I felt it was important I was a role model for this important work and have a responsibility to our profession and the nurses I serve, to leverage opportunities I may have in my role to best support policy, practice and our outcomes. I also focused my doctorate work on moral resilience and interventions, to strengthen moral courage to combat nursing burnout and turnover.
Is there any advice you have for those considering a nursing career?
Nursing is the most rewarding career because every day you have a chance to make a difference in someone else’s life. However, it’s important to take time to care for yourself as well, physically and mentally. You can’t spill from an empty cup.
What do you do to take your mind off work?
I like to listen to live music. I also love traveling, live comedy shows and love Broadway and musical theater. I’m looking forward to the days we can begin doing those things again.
Tell us about your family.
My husband, Gene, and I met in Key West on a vacation 22 years ago and will be celebrating our 20th wedding anniversary this year. He’s my greatest partner and biggest cheerleader. He’s a respiratory therapist by background and faculty at St. Petersburg College. Our daughter, Gabrielle, is a freshman at UCF and is my pride and joy. I’m so very proud of the beautiful young women she is becoming both inside and out — a kind soul with incredible talent and much smarter than me. I think the world is a better place because she is in it. We also have a 1-year-old sharpei named “Perry wrinkle” who joined our family during the pandemic. We offered to puppy sit him for the weekend, fell in love with his playful spirit and wrinkles, and never returned him.
Do you have a favorite book?
I have many — right now I am reading Untamed by Glennon Doyle.
Is there anything you want patients/families to know?
Don’t underestimate the importance of your mental health and wellbeing. Take time to rest, exercise, go outside, fuel your body with something healthy — and reach out to ask for help on the hard days — we all have hard days.
And lastly, thank you for trusting us to care for your child — I would do the same.