Northwest Organization of Nurse Leaders News

September 2021 Leader Highlight

For September Leader Highlight, NWONL presents our 2021 Advancing Leader Award recipient Gretchen McCullough MSN, RN of OHSU. We congratulate Gretchen for her obtaining the nomination and selection by her NWONL peers. 


The Advancing Leader award recognizes a Nurse leader with demonstrated resilience and courageous leadership. They are advanced leaders in their organizations and have demonstrated courage as they lead their teams of nurses. They consistently collaborate on strategic initiatives and lead with emotional intelligence. These leaders are often behind the scenes orchestrating large projects in complex systems. They are a mentor and coach and provide steadfast reassurance to their teams and organizations. They consistently exude adaptability and are steadfast in their ability to show up and contribute to the nursing profession.

Gretchen's nomination attested to the above and culminated in a statement by her nominating peers that distinctly conveys why they nominated her for the award. It is worth sharing: 

“Gretchen McCullough is a resilient, courageous, and compassionate leader serving as the Associate Chief Nursing Officer at Doernbecher Children’s hospital. Gretchen is an experienced leader who came to the Organization just months before the devastating COVID-19 pandemic. Gretchen did not hesitate to step up, however, though she was new. She used her skills as a pragmatic and compassionate nurse to lead others through resilience. She supported and grew a terrified and reactive team at high risk of COVID exposure through the pandemic. She advocated for her team through listening and translating their needs at the highest levels of the Organization. She sat on the Emergency Operations Committee, the PPE committee, and the COVID task force- advocating for her team and other workforce members with a reasoned and science-based approach. Gretchen also had the calming presence to tame reactive leaders from different areas during meetings on more than one occasion. Gretchen was available, approachable, and grew her leadership team during this difficult time. She knew that challenging her direct reports to lead through adversity and stress would make them stronger. She allowed them the autonomy to lead while still supporting them. Out of her leadership, we have several new strong Director level leaders in Doernbecher who are ready and prepared to take on any new challenge. While others were merely reacting to the next needed change Gretchen was thinking ahead and anticipating the next need. She managed to partner with and help open a NICU in our partner hospital in Hillsboro during this time as well as a pediatric unit. Gretchen championed a group to evaluate the model used to provide patient safety attendants in our Organization. This work resulted in restructuring the current model to be more collaborative. Under the new model, our assistive nursing personnel will have a more engaging role while still keeping patients safe. Gretchen also modeled and encouraged resilience and self-care for all of us in the institution. I will never forget how she lifted others and checked in at just the right time to support her peers during the pandemic. “

The Selection Committee wanted to relay that the robust selection of nominations submitted all are worthy of recognition. It is exceptionally difficult to capture the sentiment and demonstrated characteristics for an award of this magnitude. On behalf of the Selection Committee and NWONL Board, thank you to our Members for supporting their peers, all nominees, and again congratulations Gretchen!

-cmw