Annette Sy, DNP, RN, chief nursing officer, Keck Medical Center of USC, began her career at a small community hospital in rural Illinois, back when nurses wore white uniforms and glass IV bottles stood next to patient beds.

“I’ve seen a lot of changes,” Sy said. “I’ve enjoyed seeing the path nurses are on.”

Sy, who spent her childhood on a dairy farm in Iowa, knew she wanted to become a nurse in high school.

“I enjoy taking care of people and I enjoy science,” she said. “My mom was worried because I didn’t take home economics, I took chemistry instead. ‘How are you going to take care of a family?’ she said. I have been a nurse for more than 30 years. I have never regretted that decision.”

Sy’s grandfather battled emphysema, passing away a day after her high school graduation.

“Caring for him and watching him struggle had a big impact on me,” she said. “I decided I wanted to learn the science behind his disease and be in a profession where I could care for others.”

Today, Sy is responsible for all acute care nursing across Keck Medical Center.


What’s your leadership philosophy?

My philosophy is to take care of our staff so they can care for our patients. I’ve always had an open-door policy. But you can’t lead by staying in your office. I want each of our 1,300 nurses to know who I am and be comfortable approaching me. I make sure I’m on the units often enough so they know who I am. I want our nurses to share their ideas and concerns with me. I want them to know that I am here to advocate for them.


What book is on your nightstand?

Patients Come Second by Britt Berrett and Paul Spiegelman. It’s a great look at how we need to take care of our employees so that they can care for our patients. I need to understand what our nurses need so they can provide exceptional care for our patients.


What’s your favorite hobby?

Hiking and camping. My son, Jonathan, is an Eagle Scout and I’ve volunteered with the Boy Scouts of America for many years. We’ve enjoyed our time with the scouts. We’ve taken trips hiking in Joshua Tree and river rafting in Yosemite.


What personal attributes do you believe have led to your professional success?

Hard work and dedication. Caring for people and treating coworkers like you want to be treated. Above all, treating people with respect.


What’s the toughest part of your job?

What keeps me awake at night and the toughest part of my job is making sure we have enough experienced nurses to care for our very ill patients. Because of the high acuity of our patients, we need the best of the very best nursing team members at their bedside. My job is creating the right environment so that our nursing vision “to transform the art and science of nursing” can be followed.

— Douglas Morino