Alumna Follows Her Dreams into Nursing Leadership
Patricia Riley was born and raised in the small town of Wilmerding, PA—a town made famous by George Westinghouse when he opened his Air Brake Company in the late 1800s.
An only child, Patricia was a very active student at Westinghouse Memorial High School, which is now part of the East Allegheny School District. At Westinghouse, she was a member of the chorus, the Girls Athletic Council, the Spanish club and played powderpuff football.
As her senior year at Westinghouse came to an end in 1966, Patricia decided she wanted to pursue a career in nursing. However, her dream was shattered when a guidance counselor told her that she would never be a nurse and that she should focus her efforts on pursuing other options, such as secretarial work.
Although Patricia did not want to accept the guidance counselor’s advice, she interviewed for a secretarial position at Westinghouse. “I didn’t do well on the typing test, but I didn’t want the job anyway,” she says. “I only accepted the interview because I was told I would never be a nurse.”
Faced with no job and no plans for postsecondary education, Patricia decided to take matters into her own hands. In the fall of 1966, she registered for classes at the newly-established Community College of Allegheny County. Patricia took classes at Boyce Campus, which, at the time, were held at Gateway High School. While taking general education courses at Boyce, Patricia met Lawrence Riley, a security officer at Boyce. The two soon married and Patricia left CCAC to raise their three sons David, Garrette and Joel.
Although she left CCAC to raise her family, Patricia never let go of her dream of being a nurse. Therefore, she re-enrolled at CCAC in 1976, this time at South Campus in West Mifflin. On June 2, 1979, Patricia graduated with an AAS in nursing, and on June 6, began working as a staff nurse at the former Braddock General Hospital.
While at Braddock, Patricia found her calling as a psychiatric nurse. After several years as a staff nurse for the general psychiatric department, she accepted a position as nurse manager for the hospital’s newly-created Gero-psychiatric unit. As nurse manager, Patricia was responsible for the hiring, orientation and evaluation of staff members, in addition to maintaining day-to-day operations for the unit.
Patricia was then promoted to a position as nurse clinician, and following that, she was named the outreach services coordinator for Braddock General. In this position, Patricia worked to develop a program to serve under-treated residents in the Braddock community.
In 1995, a year before Braddock General was consolidated into the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) health system, Patricia left the hospital to work for US Home Care as a manager in the Mental Health Services division. After a year in this position, Patricia accepted a position at Allegheny General Hospital, which is part of the West Penn Allegheny Health System.
At Allegheny General, Patricia worked as the supervisor for the Psychiatric Consultation Liaison Services department. In this position, she reviewed charts and records of patients who received inpatient medical services and conducted psychiatric evaluations, performed mental status exams and coordinated with other disciplines to determine the most appropriate level of care for the patients.
After three years with Allegheny General, Patricia returned to the UPMC health system to serve as nurse manager for the Diagnostic Evaluation Center at the Western Psychiatric Institute & Clinic (WPIC). Two years later, she transferred to UPMC Braddock where she was a nurse clinician for the hospital’s outreach program. In this position, Patricia managed the enrollment of children and families in the state-funded Children Health Insurance Program (CHIP). She received state recognition and also received the UPMC Braddock “Reaching Out Award” for her work with the CHIP program.
She then returned to WPIC where she was a nurse clinician with the hospital’s Sequenced Treatment Alternatives to Relieve Depression (STAR*D) study, which is the largest and longest trial (to date) of clinical depression in the US to determine what treatments for depression work for patients in the “real world.” Patricia participated in treatment research and support of depressed and suicidal adolescents, and she conducted educational and support groups for parents.
In 2005, Patricia left WPIC and accepted a position with Mercy Jeannette Hospital in Jeannette as nurse manager of the gero-psychiatric unit. In 2007, Mercy Jeannette Hospital was purchased and consolidated into the Excela Health system. Patricia left Jeannette and is now the nursing recruitment coordinator for Mercy Hospital in Pittsburgh, the newest hospital added to the UPMC organization.
With 29 years as a registered nurse, Patricia enjoys her job as nursing recruitment coordinator at UPMC Mercy. In addition to her nursing degree from CCAC, Patricia also completed her BSN in nursing from Carlow College, MS in professional leadership and organizational management at Carlow University and her MSN in nursing leadership, also from Carlow University. Patricia uses her education and experience to educate nurses and those interested in health careers. She has presented lectures on nursing entrepreneurship at Carlow University, served as a guest lecturer for the Pittsburgh region’s National Association of Orthopaedic Nurses, was a five-time presenter at the Allegheny County Mental Health Provider Association conference, developed and presented health and wellness classes for hi-rise residents in Allegheny County and is a certified Crisis Prevention Institute instructor, which enables her to conduct classes and provide certification for hospital staff and security officers. Additionally, she has served as a co-instructor for the Allegheny County Police Academy.
Patricia is currently widowed and resides in Swissvale. She enjoys spending time with her three sons and four grandchildren. If she’s not involved with organizing a project at work, she is always busy helping her friends or volunteering at her church. She credits CCAC with paving the way for her dream of becoming a nurse. “CCAC helped me find my source of inner strength,” she says. “The college set me on course for my nursing journey.”
Patricia’s nursing journey has returned her to CCAC, where she has served as a substitute instructor for the CCAC Boyce Campus nursing assistants’ program. Patricia also addressed nursing graduates at North Campus as the keynote speaker at commencement. She recently spoke about nursing leadership and professionalism at the CCAC Alumni Fall Career Seminarsin October, and is currently teaching CCAC nursing continuing education programs. She advises current and future CCAC students to “dream it, believe it and then do it. Never let anyone tell you what you cannot do.”