Gretchen Berlin, RN
Health care is in Gretchen Berlin’s blood—both of her grandmothers were nurses, and she always had a great respect for the profession, knowing that she wanted to have a career in health care from a young age. Since Gretchen wasn’t sure which part of the health care field she wanted to focus her studies on, she was thrilled to learn that Penn Nursing and Wharton offered a unique joint-degree option* that would allow her to explore multiple angles. She applied to the special Penn program early and never looked back.
After graduating from Penn, Gretchen joined the global management consulting firm McKinsey & Company as an analyst where she worked on a variety of efforts throughout the health care ecosystem. Her role evolved to leading multiple teams in client service, until she took a new position as an associate director at a National Health Service (NHS) hospital in the United Kingdom—an experience that allowed her to personally observe the differences of a nationally integrated health system. At the NHS, Gretchen was a part of the commercial team at Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust (GSTT) and worked on developing private-public partnerships to expand access to care, responding to national tenders for GSTT to provide specialized services for England, and developing clinical strategies to consolidate specialty care across locations.
Upon her return to the US, Gretchen rejoined McKinsey & Company’s office in Washington, DC, where she now leads their work in the federal health care space and consults in Provider Performance Improvements which includes workforce transformations focused on improving nursing care models as well as satisfaction and retention across the private and public sector. She leads teams who work with clients to address strategic or operational challenges, helping them understand issues so they can best design solutions to be rolled out across organizations. Through her consulting, she also helps organizations identify the best areas they should pursue for sustainable growth or improve health equity in their communities.
Gretchen credits the unique Penn Nursing and Wharton program with being instrumental in her career. The rigorous clinical training and analytical focus forged a great foundation for her to build upon. She shares that while there were many amazing Penn Nursing faculty members who influenced her (she’ll never forget Dr. Kathleen McCauley’s tap dancing), she was most shaped by Dr. Julie Sochalski and her counsel for the health care management program. Dr. Sochalski’s systems-level thinking and focus on positive change has made a lasting impression on how Gretchen thinks about health system improvement.
In her role as a consultant, Gretchen believes the skill set learned through a nursing education builds strengths in communication, listening, and empathy which are extremely important not just as a consultant, but in all that you do! When in conversations with clients or colleagues, she has utilized her nursing training to structure her questions, confirm their understanding, and actively listen—all skills that are helpful in identifying solutions to the problem being faced.
“Throughout my career, my clinical background and nursing education have been invaluable in ensuring a holistic perspective of impact on patients and communities. As a nurse, you learn how to listen to and work with people who are going through trauma. You also learn how to think on your feet and improvise.”
Gretchen finds the work she does with front-line workforces to be most meaningful, largely because it supports nurses and other clinicians at scale. A past project that resonated with her was one that supported building a professional nursing model (with increased focus on continuing education and interdisciplinary involvement) for a public sector organization. The model ended up supporting nurse satisfaction, retention, and patient outcomes across thousands of nurses. Gretchen was not only proud to be part of such an important project, but happy to know the model and impact has been sustained. She is continuously heartened by the real win-win opportunity that exists to support nursing staff with a full care-team model, allowing nurses to practice at the top of their license, maximizing time for patient care, and ultimately saving costs as well.
Gretchen continues to utilize her nursing background and has dedicated her career to helping health care service organizations be as effective and efficient as possible so that they can provide the best care. So where does Gretchen see her work taking her in the future? She plans to continue to drive health system improvement and would love to see more equitable access to care for all individuals across the country, with as many disparities in outcomes eliminated as possible!
Random Fact: Gretchen is from Lancaster, PA and spent some of her early summers selling produce on the side of the road!
*About the Dual Degree in Nursing and Wharton: this joint degree program combines a BSN degree from the School of Nursing with a BS degree in Economics from the Wharton School. Students in this program select the Health Care Management and Policy concentration in the Wharton half of their curriculum.