how Hackensack Meridian Health’s nursing department—nationally honored for excellence—plays a critical role in patient care

by Jessica Jones-Gorman • Photos By Amessé Photography

As a nursing administrator with a concentration in women’s health, Maureen Sintich has crisscrossed the United States, providing care for countless numbers of patients and helping to implement nationally recognized healthcare centers in hospitals throughout the country. But when she was hired as senior vice president of nursing and chief nursing officer by the Hackensack Meridian Health network in August 2014, she saw a great opportunity to play an important role in the future of healthcare.

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“I’ve worked for a number of wonderful systems throughout the span of my career, and advocated for a lot of patient needs,” Sintich said. “But when I heard about what this healthcare system was doing—transitioning patients from solely an acute-care model, facilitating more care across the entire continuum—I knew this was something I wanted to be a part of.”

Sintich defines her transition to Hackensack Meridian as a growth opportunity, a chance both to learn with a respected health network and to support a nursing team in an organization that shares her own personal values. And with generations of nursing already in her blood, those values became even deeper rooted over decades of experience.

“I believe nursing is a calling as well as a profession,” Sintich said. “My grandmother was a nurse; she graduated nursing school in 1931 and spent 40 years at the bedside. I listened to her stories throughout the years and always admired her career path, but I did not decide to go into nursing until she passed. Now, when I look back on my journey, I realize what an influence she was.”

Sintich, who grew up in Hammond, Indiana, earned her bachelor’s degree in nursing from the University of South Alabama, a master’s degree in nursing from the University of Texas Health Science Center, and a master’s in business administration from the University of North Carolina. Most recently she completed a doctorate in nursing practice from New Jersey’s Chamberlain College of Nursing.

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She started her career at Franciscan Health, the former St. Margaret Hospital in Hammond, the same facility where her grandmother finished nursing school and the hospital where three generations of her family were born.

“I started out in NICU, and I just loved working there because it felt like it was just a part of my DNA,” Sintich said.

She later moved to New Orleans, where she worked in a small community hospital before taking a position at the Tulane Medical Center as coordinator of the hospital’s breast cancer screening program.

“At that point, I realized I wanted to further my education and focus on women’s health,” she said.

Even while pursuing a master’s degree in Houston at the University of Texas, she flew back to New Orleans each week to continue working at Tulane, and was later asked to further develop the women’s healthcare program at the hospital as executive director of the Tulane Xavier National Center of Excellence in Women’s Health.

“I was responsible for program development and implementation of all aspects of the Women’s Center,” she noted. “We expanded the breast cancer screening program and participated in the development of a federally funded national women’s center—one of only 18 in the country at the time. It was then I realized that in this role as administrator, I was able to advocate for an entire population.

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“Prior to that point,” she continued, “I didn’t think about an expanding leadership role because what I really loved was taking care of people. And while I missed treating patients on a one-to-one basis, in this job I was able to touch the lives of so many more. It was a major turning point for me.”

A few years later, Sintich was recruited by North Carolina Baptist Hospital, the primary teaching hospital for the Wake Forest University School of Medicine. She worked for Wake Forest for 14 years, developing its women’s health service line. She was also tasked with administrative responsibility for several other service lines, including oncology, behavioral health, and critical care. The Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center had been recognized by the Magnet Recognition Program for Excellence in Nursing Services in 1999, and it continued that excellence under Sintich’s leadership.

Today, as chief nursing officer at Hackensack Meridian, Sintich is focused on carrying on the strong tradition in nursing that the system had already established.

Although some of its individual hospitals had earned Magnet Status, Meridian Health became, in 2012, the nation’s first healthcare system to have been awarded that designation at all of its hospitals. Most recently, Bayshore Community Hospital earned the honor for a second time.

Magnet recognition, which is the highest national honor for nursing excellence, is something less than eight percent of U.S. healthcare organizations have achieved.

“Hackensack Meridian Health is committed to creating a culture of excellence and innovation in nursing because we know how critical nurses are to the overall patient experience,” Sintich said. “There are approximately 6,000 hospitals in the United States, and just about 400 are Magnet recognized facilities. That data alone signifies the level of excellence required to accomplish the designation. There is a long tradition of nursing excellence in this network, and Hackensack Meridian is focused on adhering to those standards.”

In the future, Sintich said, the role of nursing will become even stronger.

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“There’s a lot of uncertainty in the industry…people are unaware as to where exactly healthcare is moving, but regardless of the political landscape, nursing will be maintained and sustained over the long term,” she said. “We’ve already seen a bit of a shift from an acute-care environment to more community-based care, and as that continues, we will see extending roles for nurses in an outpatient setting.”

An easy transition, Sintich said, especially since nurses are the largest group of healthcare professionals.

“The work of a nurse is not easy,” she concluded. “But they are a group of dedicated professionals who deliver critical patient care on a daily basis. They make a difference in people’s lives, and there will always be room for that in any healthcare model.”

Hackensack Meridian Health
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