Clinical Center News
January/February 2016

Dr. Clare Hastings retires as chief nurse

Dr. John I. Gallin presents Dr. Clare Hastings with the 'dirt award' at her retirement gathering.
Dr. John I. Gallin, director of the Clinical Center, presented Dr. Clare Hastings with the 'dirt award' in early December at her retirement gathering.

After a 25 year career at the NIH Clinical Center, Dr. Clare Hastings, Chief Nurse of the Nursing Department, retired Dec. 31.

Hastings first came to the Clinical Center in the summer of 1978 as a staff nurse who had been out of nursing school for about a year.

"I basically grew up here as a nurse," she said.

Hastings left the Clinical Center in 1989 to serve in senior nursing leadership positions at the University of Maryland Medical System and MedStar Washington Hospital Center. In 2000 she returned as the chief nurse.

"I went and got my stripes in what we called the real world and then came back," Hastings said. "One of the things that drew me back was the multidisciplinary environment between the investigators and all the clinical research staff.

During her tenure as chief nurse, Hastings has worked to increase the understanding of the contribution nurses make to the clinical research process. Nurses are an integral part of the research team, she said.

"Nursing leaders always try to advocate for nurses because sometimes nurses seem invisible," she said. "But patients look to nurses to make sense of everything for them. Patients have called nurses the 'glue' that holds the health care system together. "I've worked to formally document the role of nursing in clinical research: the role, the competencies, the practices and the processes."

Dr. John I. Gallin, director of the Clinical Center, presented Hastings with the 'dirt award' in early December at her retirement gathering. The award includes dirt saved from the groundbreaking ceremony for the Mark O. Hatfield Clinical Research Center in 2004.

"Clare is well known locally, nationally and internationally as a leader and mentor in nursing, and played an important role over the past 10 years in defining and documenting Clinical Research Nursing as a specialty," he said. "We will miss her and send our best wishes as she moves into a continued life of service to others."

During Hastings's time at the Clinical Center, the role of nursing has evolved.

"The stature of nursing has grown. Nurses have improved their ability to speak about what they do and I see them more recognized," Hastings said.

Some of the major accomplishments overseen by Hastings, with the help and support of her nearly 700 Nursing Department staff, include:

  • Moving the nursing department to the new Clinical Research Center in 2005, which required a major reconfiguration of all research teams and unit locations.
  • Developing metrics to measure the impact of nursing on clinical quality, which have allowed the Nursing Department to benchmark where it compares to other hospital facilities.
  • Creating a shared governance environment within nursing here that encourages staff participation and decision making, which has become a pipeline for emerging leaders in the nursing discipline.
  • Establishing a small but very high-impact nursing research program, which has received two strong Board of Scientific Council reviews.

As she ventures into the next stage of her life, where she plans to continue helping others, Hastings said what she will carry with her is the kaleidoscope of people she has meet and worked with here – patients and staff.

"I've always loved what I do. It's all about the people. I think everyone will tell you that," she said. "NIH leaves a mark on people, a very inquiring turn of mind that makes them question what they see and want to make a difference."

Dr. Gwenyth Wallen will serve in the role of Interim Chief Nurse for the Clinical Center. Wallen is the Deputy Chief Nurse for Research and Practice Development at the Clinical Center, and has led the development of the Nursing Department's clinical research portfolio as well as a comprehensive program for education, evidence-based practice and performance metrics for nursing at the Clinical Center.

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