“What kind of hospital would I want to care for me or my family?”

This has been a guiding question for Claire Mooney ’07, D.N.P., throughout her career, from working as an intensive care unit nurse to becoming a hospital executive. “I am a lifelong learner,” she said. She has enjoyed providing direct patient care as well as leading a hospital to provide pre- and post-care for patients. She combines her clinical expertise with strong leadership skills to support employees as they care for patients.

After Mooney served in various leadership positions at two local hospitals for the past six years, Penn State Health appointed her as senior vice president and chief operating officer of Lancaster Medical Center, which is scheduled to open in the fall.

“This was one of those once-in-a-lifetime opportunities … to develop from the ground up—people, processes, the whole nine yards,” Mooney said. “This will probably be one of the biggest projects I’ll ever do.” She is excited to shape the medical center from its beginning, putting nurses and other clinicians in leadership positions to create a patient-centric community hospital.

One of the fun aspects of opening a hospital is engaging with the community. A committee commissioned local artists and invited artwork submissions from the public. Art has a powerful connection with healing, Mooney commented, and she looks forward to seeing the more than 300 works from the community, all of which will be displayed throughout the facility.

Mooney says Immaculata’s R.N. to B.S.N. program provided the foundation for her career, allowing her to later earn a health care-focused MBA and a Doctor of Nursing Practice, and also deepening her compassion and exposing her to different nursing specialties. “The B.S.N. program taught me to look at things differently,” she said. One professor took Mooney’s class to nearby mushroom farms to conduct health screenings with migrant workers and deliver winter coats they had collected. “It was so different from being inside the hospital,” Mooney remembered. “This sparked my interest in community outreach.”

Mooney pursued that interest when she was the director of nursing and trauma services and saw an increase in opioid overdoses. Just a few days before applications were due, she heard about a $125,000 state grant to combat the crisis. She spent her weekend, which happened to include the fourth of July holiday, writing the grant. She laughs when she remembers sitting in a Starbucks, working on her laptop, instead of sitting on the beach.

For her, this effort was worthwhile, funding a multi-pronged project with substance abuse prevention presentations in schools and training for local businesses and the community to use Narcan, an overdose reversal medication. “It was so moving,” she said, recalling a woman who was grateful for the training in case she came home to find that her two grandchildren had overdosed.

Mooney has led her health care team to confront not only the opioid crisis but also the COVID-19 pandemic. “There is an emotional, financial, physiological, psychological and spiritual impact for our team, our patients and the community,” she said. Mooney has had to contend with worker shortages, not only in nursing but also in food service and other areas vital to hospitals’ operations. Her goal has always been to lift up her staff, listen to them and show gratitude for their work. “Our staff received a lot of pizza from the community, which is great,” she remembered, “but after a while, that was the last thing they wanted!” So, Mooney brought in an ice cream vendor and other food trucks for her team instead.

Jane Tang, Ph.D., one of Mooney’s former professors who is now chair of Immaculata’s division of nursing, invited Mooney to serve on an advisory council for the university’s nursing programs. Mooney praised Tang for asking her and other nursing leaders how to improve Immaculata’s nursing education. “You don’t see many programs doing that,” Mooney noted.

“I think the biggest thing that brings me joy is developing people and processes,” Mooney reflected. “I’ve had the opportunity to help provide professional development to a number of people, and when I see them succeed, I’m innately happy for them.”