Gary Shaw: The Exit Interview

Why Did The NCH President Resign After Just Two Years?

Written By: Jason Graziadei | Photography By: Brian Sager

Yesterday we reported that Nantucket Cottage Hospital President and CEO Gary Shaw had announced his resignation after just two years on the job. His final day at NCH will be Feb. 28. Shortly after he had informed hospital staff and the Board of Trustees, Nantucket Current caught up with Shaw yesterday to ask him about the decision and to reflect on his tenure at the helm of the island’s hospital and second largest employer.

It’s time,” Shaw said. “Trisha (his wife) and I made the decision to move to Nashville to be with our grandkids.”

Shaw said he plans to put his house in Tom Nevers – which he purchased at the end of 2019 and refurbished – on the market and move off-island by the end of the summer.

Nearly all of Shaw’s tenure as president and CEO coincided with the COVID-19 pandemic. Just weeks after he arrived on-island, the nation and Nantucket went into lockdown and the hospital completely changed its operation to respond to the threat of the virus. That, he said, was one of the primary factors in his decision to abruptly resign. 

“I feel like I’ve given five years of my life in the last two,” Shaw said. “Covid has been clunky and the challenges of navigating a pandemic were large, but I’m in a good place and I’m happy.”

Even so, it was clearly not Shaw’s original plan to leave after just two years when he took the job and moved to the island from Minnesota in 2019. He had not even unpacked all of the boxes he arrived with. So what changed and when? 

“Probably the fourth wave of Covid,” Shaw said. “That takes a lot to navigate working through a pandemic. All I can say is it’s always difficult to call it an end, but I do feel this is the right time.”

Shaw emphasized that his decision to resign was his alone, and that he was not being forced out by the NCH board or its parent company Mass General Brigham. 

“There is not an MGB or MGH piece, they didn’t want me to go,” Shaw said. “This is my decision.”

While he had not yet had a chance to make the rounds to talk to hospital staff in-person, Shaw said his phone was buzzing with messages from colleagues and others wanting to know why he had decided to step down. 

“I expect that people will be happy for me, and people will want to know what the board will do and who they’ll hire,” he said.

While Shaw earned accolades for his steady presence during the hospital’s early response to the pandemic, the last year was marked by significant turnover at NCH, not just in the clinical departments, but also in the C-suite. The hospital’s chief nurse, vice president of quality and patient experience, vice president for facilities, vice president for development and community relations, as well as its chief medical officer, all either left the organization, were let go, or stepped down from their leadership post. Beyond that turnover, the hospital currently has 55 vacant positions across all departments, nearly 20 percent of the entire workforce.

“Everyone in the country is experiencing staffing fluctuations, whether you’re using agency people or full-time staff,” Shaw said. “NCH like all hospitals, normally has about 40 to 50 positions open. I’d like to see the hospital fill them with full-time people on the island, and have less reliance on agency (traveling staff) people. The board is working on a housing plan for different levels of support, and there will be some communications from the board on that and it will be exciting.”

But overall, Shaw said he was satisfied with what he had accomplished, the relationships he had forged, and the timing of his announcement that he is moving on from Nantucket.

I feel valued, I feel I’ve made difference, I’ve grown, personally and professionally, and I feel very proud of how this organization leaned into supporting the community through all waves of the pandemic,” he said “I’m super proud of the board’s commitment to Nantucket Cottage Hospital, and I’m proud that Mass General and MGB are behind us.”

Disclosure: the author of this report Jason Graziadei previously worked at Nantucket Cottage Hospital from 2013 to 2021, including during Shaw’s first year at NCH. N Magazine publisher Bruce Percelay is a major donor to Nantucket Cottage Hospital and the co-chair of the 2022 Boston Pops on Nantucket fundraiser for the hospital. 

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