Kerri Scanlon knew from a young age that she was destined to be a nurse.
Her mother, Mildred O’Connor, had a successful career in the field. And she convinced her daughter to follow in her footsteps.
“Seeing her love of the career, and then seeing her in action in the facility she worked at,” Scanlon remembered, “she just had this incredible love for what she did.”
Scanlon was fortunate to receive a scholarship that allowed her to study at Columbia University. It was there she earned a bachelor’s degree in nursing, and then a master’s in advanced practice nursing.
Now the executive director of Glen Cove Hospital, Scanlon celebrates her 30th year as a nurse.
For the last 25, she’s been an integral member of Northwell Health, New York’s largest health care provider that oversees the operations of Glen Cove Hospital. Having worked closely with Northwell’s leaders for years, when Scanlon was offered the opportunity to lead the hospital in 2019, she couldn’t turn it down.
“Glen Cove, at the time, was really a hospital in transition and needed direction,” she said. “I love Glen Cove. I love the community. I love the people. I was welcomed with great arms.”
Just months into her new role, Scanlon — and health care professionals like her around the world — would face a much different problem: the coronavirus pandemic. As early as February 2020, Scanlon told her Glen Cove team to get ready. And expect the worst.
Epidemics were nothing new for Scanlon. Her career included HIV/AIDS as well as the avian flu in the 2000s. But the first wave of Covid-19 was something she’d never seen before. Glen Cove did all it could to offer the best possible care to its patients, collaborating and completing research with larger hospitals, and opening up an acute rehabilitation facility to treat patients who’d spent months in intensive care.
“It kind of defined us as the little engine that could,” Scanlon said.
The pandemic helped Scanlon identify areas of growth for the hospital, and she says it’s now better fit than ever to advance into the future.
“Is Glen Cove thriving?” she asked. “Is Glen Cove going to be here 10 years from now? Heck yes. We just celebrated our centennial, and the health system is more than ever investing in Glen Cove. We’re budgeted this year to make money, not lose money. And that’s a huge change.”
The 247-bed community hospital offers a lot, including a state-of-the-art brain injury unit, but Scanlon wants people to know the full scope of care Glen Cove provides. It has renowned doctors in the fields of gynecology, endocrinology and breast care — areas of the body where typically women encounter conditions.
A geriatric-only facility is opening in Oyster Bay, she added, to offer age-friendly services to older adults.
Employee happiness is key to running a successful hospital.
“We want to continue to focus on our patients, and focus on our customers, and the only way to do that is to focus on our staff,” Scanlon said. “Because if they’re not happy, our patients aren’t going to be happy.”
A mother of two, Scanlon resides in Nissequogue. Her 26-year-old daughter also works in health care, so Scanlon is used to giving advice to young women wishing to advance in the field.
“My greatest advice always is to focus on doing the best that you can do today,” she said. “Everybody is so focused on what’s the next thing — it’s this generation. They’re constantly under so much stress. The opportunities are greater for women, but I think the level of stress is even greater.”
Women have made excellent strides in health care, Scanlon said, but there’s always work to be done.
“There’s not enough women at the table for (health care) decisions across the country,” she said. “I think its constantly focusing on that, and diversity and inclusion — ensuring that it’s all women we’re including at that table.
“Historically, as women, we didn’t pay it forward to other women. I think that’s changed dramatically — I’m so happy to see this. My biggest thing is mentoring other women.”