Drafted Back Into Service during the Pandemic, Jeanette Ives Erickson Finds an “Experience of a Lifetime”

Jeanette Ives Erickson head shotIn 2017, the Senior Vice President and Chief Nurse at Massachusetts General Hospital retired after 21 years—or so she thought. In April, at the height of the pandemic, Jeanette Ives Erickson got a call (at 5 a.m., no less) pressing her back into service for the most challenging assignment of her career. The Governor of Massachusetts and Mayor of Boston had tapped her as co-leader of Boston Hope, a medical center to be constructed inside the cavernous Boston Convention and Exhibition Center. She oversaw the development, in just four days, of a 1,000 bed hospital including a special section for the homeless and hired 1,000 staff. But on the seventh day, she hardly rested. If anything, Ives Erickson, who was inspired to pursue nursing by the legendary Sister Consuela White, nurse leader and educator of the Sisters of Mercy (who passed away in May at 91), has been busier than ever.

Boston Hope patients were beneficiaries of an extraordinary outpouring of donations including clothing and footwear. They were treated to performances including original songs composed by writers and musicians who sat down with nurses to hear about their experiences on the front lines of patient care. Ives Erickson even made the time to talk with colleagues in other cities who were interested in replicating music therapy into their pandemic crisis care.

Recognized by Johnson and Johnson as one of their “15 Nurses Who Disrupted Healthcare through the COVID-19 Pandemic,” Ives Erickson tells Regis College Assistant Professor Lawana Brown we need to have a collective sense of responsibility to move on. “We are all in this together,” she says, “and until we behave that way, we’re never going to get out of this.”

So, Ives Erickson will have to hold off on retirement for the foreseeable future and it appears that is just fine with her. In what she describes as “an experience of a lifetime,” Ives Erickson discovered it was impossible to compartmentalize her time. “All my waking hours,” she tells Brown, “I’m a nurse.”