Debra Burke, DNP, MBA, RN, NEA-BC, is the chief nurse and senior vice president for Patient Care at Massachusetts General Hospital. On her inspirational journey as a nurse, Debbie has received over 25 awards and recognitions for excellence in health care, including the One Hundred Award from the Mass General Cancer Center and the H. Richard Nesson Award for Collaboration, Innovation and Excellence. She currently serves on the Autism Care Collaborative and has served on advisory boards for numerous initiatives throughout Mass General, including the Mass General and Massachusetts General Hospital Physicians Organization (MGPO) Diversity Committee Implementation Team. In this short Q&A, she discusses her career in nursing, helping women and girls enter the sciences and more.

How long have you worked at Mass General?

I’ve been at Mass General since 1981. I came here right out of nursing school and have worked in a variety of jobs throughout Mass General. Now, I have the privilege to serve as chief nurse and senior vice president for Patient Care. 

Describe your journey into health care.

I entered nursing at the suggestion of my cousin, who was a nurse. She knew that I loved science and she saw nursing characteristics in me. So, I went to nursing school and have always loved the choice that I made.

What is special about Mass General?

The most important thing about Mass General is the care that we provide to our patients and their families. Everything we do is centered on that value. We also care for one another at Mass General. It’s a supportive, exciting and dynamic place to work.    

How can we encourage more women and girls to enter the sciences?

It is our responsibility to speak to young women about the many careers in the sciences that are available to them. Mass General also offers observational experiences for young people to learn about different careers. We need to be willing to meet with those young people and talk about how exciting our careers are.