Maria Gatto, MA, APRN, CHPN, BC-PCM, NP, AHN-BC, HNP
Cathy Sivak, NursingSchools.com
When did your interest in the field of nursing start?
I always knew at a very young age that I was meant for caring, to help people heal. When I was very young, I told my mother I wanted to be a nurse, and I was told no. She was and still is my biggest inspiration, even at the youngest age. Saying no to me was her way to provide challenge, support, and development of my spirit if this was my chosen path in life. My mother was a head nurse at a nursing home. She knew that it was a calling, not a profession, and unless you have that calling, that it’s best not to go forward.
Describe your current role as the Corporate Director of Palliative Care at Bon Secours Health System.
My role at the Bon Secours Health System is the director of palliative care services throughout the entire healthcare system, which is a not-for-profit Catholic Health System that includes 19 acute-care hospitals with a total of 4,850 licensed acute beds, one 54-bed psychiatric hospital, one independent living and six assisted living facilities, numerous ambulatory and community health services, and six long-term care facilities with 1,189 licensed beds. Bon Secours Health System consists of more than 20,000 caregivers helping people in 12 communities in nine states.
You were a trailblazer in the integrated palliative and holistic care field after attaining nurse practitioner degrees in both specialties. Tell us about your experiences.
It was very fortunate that I was able to work in the first New Jersey Palliative Care Service at Monmouth Medical Center under an earlier graduate of the Palliative Care Nurse Practitioner Program. They supported the integrative holistic palliative care concept, but needed someone to create the process and do the practice. I practiced IGM acupressure along with being the palliative care practitioner with the palliative and hospice patients.
From my practicum, I went to work at Flushing Hospital Medical Center in New York as a palliative nurse practitioner. It was a palliative care service that was grant funded, therefore I had to show outcome reports at 6 months and end of year. It was the most challenging environment; the area was extremely multi-culturally diverse. From there, I had many other jobs, all encompassing my holistic and palliative care background. I went through all the levels, up to corporate. I also taught and co-developed the IGM holistic modality curriculum. One of our graduates was a Bon Secours palliative nurse that I knew all during my student years, leading me to my opportunity there.