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Spotlight on Mary Donovan, NP

Mary Has Taken Care of Boston Shriners Hospital Patients for Over 40 Years

Mary Donovan is a nurse practitioner in the outpatient clinic. Mary has worked at Shriners Hospitals for Children — Boston for 40 years, during which time she has held many roles. The focus on pediatric, family-centered and critical care is what drew Mary to the hospital. Her work with resilient patients is what makes her stay. We recently spent some time with Mary to learn more about her story.

How did you come to work for Shriners Hospitals for Children — Boston?

In 1980 I was working at another pediatric facility and one of my colleagues left to start working at Shriners Hospitals for Children — Boston. She encouraged me to follow her and told me that Shriners [Hospitals] was the place for me because it had pediatric, family-centered care and critical care. Over my 40 years of working at Shriners [Hospitlas], I have held many roles such as an acute care unit nurse, OR nurse, manager of the OR, assistant director of nursing and more. Today I am a nurse practitioner in the outpatient clinic. As I look back over the past 40 years, I could not be happier with my decision to specialize in treating burn-injured children. The reward of knowing I had some impact on helping a child or parent cope with this most difficult time in their lives is immeasurable.

What is your role as a nurse practitioner in the clinic?

I have many different tasks as a nurse practitioner in the clinic. I see children that come in for outpatient burn care management and follow-up. The diverse role includes performing a history and physical, postoperative or discharge follow-up management, dressing changes and scar evaluation. Since many of the children are international patients, we are their primary care providers when they become ill. This became increasingly important since the COVID-19 pandemic began.

What do you love about your job as a nurse practitioner?

I love the kids and their families. It is amazing how resilient they are. One minute you will be taking care of their injuries, which can be very painful for them, and the next they are hugging or playing with you. Being here for so long has allowed me to see these children grow up and start their own families. They come back and visit or send me messages about how well things are going for them. It is so rewarding.

I also love the care team here at the Boston Shriners Hospital. Sometimes we see children with really big burns who spend a lot of time with our nurses and doctors. We become family to these children. This means a great deal because going into the OR can be a scary experience. Knowing they have a nurse who is looking out for them gives them the reassurance they need. I think this makes Shriners [Hospitals] unique.

What are some of your strongest memories from your time here?

I will never forget my first day. To be honest, I was scared to death. I had never worked with children with significant burn injuries before. I walked onto the acute unit and saw two boys with no hair on their heads, full bandages and with missing fingers, laughing and playing catch. They were kids just being kids and I knew it was going to be okay. Later on at my time at Shriners [Hospitals], I was in the OR when a 2-year-old boy was sent here straight from the scene of a burn. His injuries were severe, but he went on to not only survive but to thrive. Another patient was a year old baby with a devastating injury. After about a year she survived, and with her strong family support went on to live a happy fulfilling life, which includes riding her horses. Her mom later gave birth to her baby sister and named her after three Shriners nurses (Janet, Annette and Jeanne).

Another patient I treated was a 2 1/2-year-old boy who had a 97% burn. He would take charge of his care by telling me what the next step was during his dressing change, whether that be changing gloves to wrapping the bandages. He too is thriving and is now an avid skier and golfer despite his loss of fingers.

It is memories like those that really stick out to me. It shows that even when children have been injured, they are resilient.

What has motivated you to work at Shriners Hospitals for Children — Boston for so long?

The staff is so dedicated to the work we do, and we could not do it without the incredible support of the Shriners fraternity and the camaraderie of the staff. If there is a need to be met, Shriners [Hospitals staff] steps forward. I can pick up the phone and call anyone in the hospital and they will want to help. Our patients always come first and we make sure they have everything they need.

Is there anything else you would like to share?

Shriners [Hospitals] has been so welcoming to my family. I have two sons, Michael and Nicholas, who were both Boy Scouts growing up. For his Eagle Scout project in 2012, Michael built two raised flower beds for a wellness garden, located on the third-floor outdoor play deck. The garden consists of two fruit, vegetable and herb gardens. In 2016, Nicholas expanded the garden by creating lower, handicap-friendly garden beds. It is great that Shriners [Hospitals] allowed my sons to do this, and it has proven beneficial for our patients, as nurturing and cultivating the garden is a fun and therapeutic activity for many children.

Thank you, Mary, for your unwavering dedication in taking care of children at the Boston Shriners Hospital!

Mary, Doctor Sheridan, Shriner

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