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ER director recognized for improving patient care

Summary: Nancy Burke, director of emergency and outpatient services at Adventist La Grange Memorial Hospital, earned the organization’s pillar award for increasing employee engagement and improving patient care. She is pictured with Mary Murphy, left, chief nursing officer.

La Grange – Nancy Burke, RN, MSN, ACNP, loves being a nurse and loves to travel. During her 30 years in nursing, her two passions have merged beautifully. She has been on every continent except Asia and Antarctica.


Her travel story began in 1986, when she accompanied a woman with advanced breast cancer to the patient’s native Nairobi. A physician requested Burke to serve as an official U.S. medical escort. Burke already had a passport and was able and willing to leave at a moment’s notice.  Burke stayed by her patient’s side all during the flight, administering pain medication. She was working in the intensive care unit at the now closed Michael Reese Hospital. She has also been a flight nurse and a heart-lung transplant coordinator for Rush University which took her coast to coast.


A resident of Darien, Burke has served as director of emergency and outpatient services at Adventist La Grange Memorial Hospital for five years. Working within Adventist Midwest Health has afforded Burke new travel opportunities. With other Adventist staff, she has been on two mission trips to Costa Rica as a nurse practitioner. On her recent trip, she was part of a team that treated more than 2,000 patients in 4.5 days.


Burke’s priority is always patient care, whether at home or away. Under her leadership at Adventist La Grange Memorial Hospital, employee engagement scores have increased, the number of patients who have left the emergency room without being seen has decreased, and the hospital has become chest pain certified.


For her commitment to Adventist Midwest Health’s mission of extending the healing ministry of Christ, Burke was one of five Adventist Midwest Health leaders to receive the organization’s pillar award at the quarterly leadership development institute in January.


“Nancy settles for nothing less than the highest standard of patient care possible and works hard to achieve that goal,” said Mary Murphy, Adventist La Grange Memorial Hospital’s chief nursing officer. “She’s been a remarkable leader and an inspiration in improving patient care in our emergency room.”


With Burke in charge, employee engagement scores among emergency room staff have risen to the 85th percentile from the 40th percentile over the last two years.


“I’m all about patient care. I expect our staff to respect every patient that comes in for our help,” Burke said. “When I interview someone for a job, I tell them they have to be kind, be smart, and be punctual. I expect a lot from our staff; positive attitudes create a positive culture.”


Burke said she began the transition to higher employee engagement by making sure her staff had the equipment they needed. For example, when she discovered that some of the blood pressure cuffs weren’t working properly, she quickly replaced them. Burke is a certified acute care nurse practitioner, and when the ER waiting room is full, she reaches for her stethoscope to help with triage, and to help make sure all patients are seen.


In 2007, more than 300 patients left the Adventist La Grange Memorial Hospital emergency department without being seen. In 2010, that number decreased to just 100 patients out of a total of 25,000 emergency room patients.


“We started the policy of ‘pull until full,’” Burke said. “We have 15 beds in the emergency room. If one or more of those beds are empty, we immediately bring in patients from the waiting room. We can also start evaluating patients – drawing blood, for example – when they are still in the waiting room. Patients get admitted faster, and beds open up more quickly.”


When a patient does leave without being seen, Burke follows up with a phone call.


“I apologize and ask them if we can do anything for them, and if they’d like to come back,” Burke said. “Sometimes they do come back. At least I can talk to them and make sure they’re all right. My goal for patients left without being seen is zero.”


Burke is particularly proud of helping Adventist La Grange Memorial Hospital become chest pain certified. The hospital’s “door to balloon time” is a remarkably low 62 minutes. The door to balloon time is the time measured from the patient’s arrival until the patient is seen in the cardiac catheterization lab and a balloon is inserted to open the clogged artery. The industry standard is 90 minutes or less.


“If my family needed emergency care, I’d want them to be treated here,” Burke said. “I know we give good care.”


A native South Sider, Burke grew up in Chicago’s Beverly neighborhood. She has a sister and two brothers and loves spending time with her nieces and nephews.


Burke was a diploma graduate from Michael Reese Hospital in Chicago. She received her bachelor’s degree in nursing from Lewis University and her master’s degree in nursing from Rush University in Chicago.


Burke said she appreciates being recognized with the pillar award, but she is quick to give credit to her staff.


“This wasn’t just my award; it’s a team effort,” Burke said. “I’m very proud of the emergency department. We really give excellent care.”     


Pillar award nominations are solicited from Adventist Midwest Health’s senior leadership teal. To be eligible, nominees must demonstrate commitment to the organization’s “S.H.A.R.E” standards of behavior: Sense, Help, Acknowledge, Respect and Explain. They must also demonstrate measurable results on the quarterly goals set for their departments. These goals are organized under the seven categories, or pillars, of spiritual life, people, clinical, service, community, growth and stewardship.



Adventist Midwest Health includes Adventist Bolingbrook Hospital, Adventist GlenOaks Hospital, Adventist Hinsdale Hospital and Adventist La Grange Memorial Hospital. To find a physician, visit


Media contact: Lisa Parro, senior public relations specialist, Adventist Midwest Health,; 630-312-7508