Five Questions With:
Jacqueline Somerville

Registered nurse Jacqueline Somerville was named as Southcoast Hospitals Group’s senior vice president and chief nursing officer. She comes to the role with more than 30 years of experience in nursing and health care, including posts at the hospital of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, and Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. 

Somerville remains a faculty member at the Watson Caring Science Institute and is an adjunct faculty member at the Northeastern University School of Nursing and Massachusetts General Hospital Institute of Health Professions. 

PBN: What have you learned from serving in major metropolitan areas such as Boston and Philadelphia that you feel will serve you well in your new role in New Bedford? 

SOMERVILLE: Whether metropolitan or community based, I have learned that each organization has its own unique culture. Job one as a new leader is to identify the unshakeable strengths that are foundational to the institution’s success and celebrate and honor those strengths.

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The next step is to identify opportunities to reinforce and build upon those foundational strengths. And whether in Boston or New Bedford, that requires leaders to create a vision for the future in which all employees can see their relevance and value of what they contribute. After aligning stakeholders – including employees, patients and communities – you must have the discipline to execute and breathe life into that vision.

PBN: Do you have priorities in mind as you settle in at Southcoast Health?

SOMERVILLE: First, to not get lost while navigating the three campuses! That I have accomplished thanks to the welcoming staff who make anyone who looks lost feel cared for and welcomed.

Secondly, to meet as many of the wonderful nurses, staff and teams as I can and to have the opportunity to witness their incredible work and care firsthand. I am currently shadowing a nurse in each clinical area across the three institutions to observe their practice, learn about the support system that enables their ability to deliver outstanding, person-centered care, and to also identify the barriers that keep them from their goals.

I then want to validate my observations with nurses and work with our unit-based practice councils to prioritize our collective focus.

PBN: How integral to patient outcomes are nurses’ duties?

SOMERVILLE: The evidence is clear that across the continuum of care nurses make meaningful contributions to advancing the health of individual patients, families, communities, nations and the globe. They do that through service in care settings, through research that advances the state of nursing science and by influencing public policy. Here at Southcoast, I get to witness their impact everyday as they help ease discomfort, prevent infections and falls, all while advancing the best possible human experience.

PBN: What have you found to be at the core of providing support for nursing staff?

SOMERVILLE: Nurses want and deserve a voice in shaping their professional practice environment. They are leaders at the point of care, closest in proximity to the patient and community, who see the strengths and areas of improvement in our current health care system.

Nurses at Southcoast are unique in that they are providing care to their own friends, family members and neighbors. They have a real connection and personal investment in ensuring that they provide the highest quality care. I’ve found that giving nurses the tools, time and opportunities to learn and grow in service to their patients is what nurses need and want.

PBN: How is technology continuing to change the nursing profession?

SOMERVILLE: Technology has created numerous efficiencies in health care, which is a great benefit to our patients. The key is to ensure that technology serves nursing and does not drive nursing practice.

I believe it is critical to engage nurses in the design, evaluation, deployment and optimization of technology when it comes to the embracing various technologies. Their front-line insight is a value to creating the right balance of efficient treatment, compassionate care and a healing environment.

Elizabeth Graham is a PBN staff writer. You can email her at graham@pbn.com

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