Cy Gearhard ~ St. Luke's Health System
For nearly 40 years, Cynthia “Cy” Gearhard has provided, directed and championed excellent nursing care and epitomized leadership excellence at St. Luke’s Health System. Cy currently serves as St. Luke’s vice president of patient care services and chief nursing officer. She has been employed at St. Luke’s for more than 35 years in various clinical and nursing executive leadership roles, delivering and designing compassionate care and pursuing an unwavering commitment to advancing health care in Idaho.
As chief nursing officer, Cy is accountable for St. Luke’s Magnet participation, the Nursing and Patient Care Center of Excellence, Clinical Informatics, Clinical Learning and Student Services, Clinical Nutrition and Care Experience. Under her leadership, St. Luke’s has received multiple Magnet designations from the American Nurses Credentialing Center; in 2015, St. Luke's Boise and Meridian hospitals earned their fourth Magnet designation, joining a list of only 30 hospitals in the nation at the time to attain that status.
“Cy is a truly remarkable leader,” said Marshall Priest, M.D., who retired from St. Luke’s in 2017 after working closely with her for decades. “In my 38 years working at St. Luke’s, I don’t think I’ve known anyone like her. She has done so many things and done them all so well. She’s incredibly bright and incredibly motivated and loyal to St. Luke’s.”
Cy devoted 25 years to developing and expanding St. Luke’s heart, vascular and adult critical care services. She started at St. Luke’s in the mid-1980s as a clinical nurse specialist. Impressed by her approach, work ethic and acumen, Dr. Priest advocated for her to take over as director of St. Luke’s Boise Coronary Care/Cardiac Observation Units – a unit that needed a significant overhaul. She served in that capacity for 14 years.
“There was a complete culture change, from a situation where nurses did not want to work there to where nurses were lined up at Cy’s door, trying to get in there and work for her,” Dr. Priest said. “She had made such a tremendous difference in the leadership, in the care that was provided to our cardiac patients at that time. It was a remarkable change, and not something anyone else within St. Luke’s could have accomplished as she did.”
Gary Fletcher, a long-time St. Luke’s executive, then tapped Cy to serve as administrator for St. Luke’s Heart, a role she served in for 11 years. Dr. Priest recalled that she spent the first two days on the job in the cardiac surgical theater, watching heart surgeons, building relationships with them and connecting with nurses, technicians and other team members.
“That’s how she would dive into a situation to become engrossed in the knowledge that was available to her to develop a working relationship with the people on the heart surgery side,” Dr. Priest said. “She became incredibly successful in leading the cardiovascular division, and is largely responsible, from an administrative standpoint, for where it is today.” She spent more than a decade advocating for – and ultimately establishing – a cardiac rehabilitation clinic.
For the past six years, Cy has worked to develop St. Luke’s nursing structure and to advocate for shared leadership and expanded professional pathways for nurse leaders. “I don’t know anyone at St. Luke’s who has had such a remarkable career,” Dr. Priest said. “She has never pined for the spotlight. She’s not that kind of person. If you talk particularly with the nurses who worked for her when she was in the patient care arena, they would tell you the same thing.”
Cy earned her bachelor’s degree in nursing from Washington State University and her master’s degree in nursing from Oregon Health Sciences University. She is a recipient of St. Luke’s President’s Award.
Raised in a family of educators, Cy became interested in nursing at a young age. She had an aunt who was a nurse, and a family friend led the nursing school at Washington State University. She loved science, especially biology, enjoyed people and embraced team sports.
“All of these qualities have served me throughout my career, of course, because nursing is nothing if not a people-oriented, team effort,” Cy told St. Luke’s employees in 2014.