#TheMindBehind Neuroscience Nursing: Charlene Grove

Charlene Grove was born on the day astronauts first set foot on the moon, taking “one giant leap for mankind.”    

“I’ve always been fascinated by the courage of the astronauts, and the teamwork required to make crucial decisions to constant changes and challenges of the mission,” she said.

Now, her intrigue with the astronauts’ mission is influencing Charlene’s new role as director of neuroscience nursing at Barrow Neurological Institute. She’s centering her leadership philosophy on three pillars inspired by NASA astronauts: courage, teamwork, and change.

A Foundation of Courage

Charlene was only 6 years old when she witnessed a circular power saw tear through her father’s right arm in a woodworking accident at their home. She sprang into action; wrapping his arm in towels and helping him ascend the basement stairs before watching him be rushed to the hospital. “Looking back, that took tremendous courage,” she said. “From then on, I knew I was going to be a nurse.”

Charlene landed her first nursing job at a hospital in Scottsdale, Arizona, after graduating with her Associate Degree in Nursing from Mt. San Antonio College in Los Angeles County, California. She then worked at hospitals around the country for several years—her husband’s job as a pilot kept them on the move—before returning to Arizona. That’s when she began her 25-year (and counting) tenure at St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center in Phoenix, home to Barrow Neurological Institute.

Charlene arrived at St. Joseph’s as a staff nurse and quickly climbed the rungs to become a clinical nurse supervisor, then a clinical nurse manager. She joined Barrow in 2005, when the 32-bed general intensive care unit (ICU) she managed converted to a Neuroscience ICU with the construction of the Robert F. Spetzler Neuroscience Tower. She oversaw that unit until officially transitioning to director of neuroscience nursing on Aug. 1 of this year.

Charlene has found that making courage a part of her life equips her with the ability to empower others to do the same.

Teamwork: Better Together

Her father’s influence continued as her coach in youth sports and through his love for Steelers football, both of which instilled in her the value of being part of a team. Leadership is a team sport, Charlene believes.

A photo from 2021 shows Charlene (left) and other nurses holding up illustrations created by kids who wanted to thank nurses for caring for patients with COVID-19.

The role of mentor and coach, and being committed to the process of someone else’s growth and development, is a responsibility she does not take lightly. Charlene is dedicated to those around her and believes that leadership and learning go hand in hand, because when we teach we learn. She has created lifelong relationships, and experienced how perseverance and passion are elements required to build a great team.

For all her fellow teammates, this Abby Wambach quote is for you: “I’ve never scored a goal in my life without getting a pass from someone else.”

Since joining Barrow, Charlene has raised three kids and earned two more degrees. She received her Bachelor of Science in Nursing from Grand Canyon University in Phoenix and her Master of Science in Biomedical Ethics from Albany Medical College in New York.

Perhaps the most unexpected transition for the Neuroscience ICU came in 2020, when their unit transformed into the primary COVID-19 ICU for St. Joseph’s Hospital. The nurses were no longer caring for patients with the neurological diagnoses with which they had become familiar. Instead, they were treating patients with an infectious disease that the world still knew very little about. They faced much uncertainty and had no roadmap, no policies or protocols, and so many questions, doubts, and fears. “The only constant was change,” Charlene said.

Change: Getting Comfortable with the Uncomfortable

Charlene has found that change is often intertwined with courage. “Adversity is challenging; we can doubt our strengths and abilities and become frustrated,” she said. “However, change must start from within.”

She’s demonstrated a willingness to adapt and change in the pursuit of excellence. Having served nearly two decades at Barrow so far, Charlene’s history with the Institute drives her investment in its future. I have every confidence in her ability to succeed in this role.

Virginia Prendergast, PhD, Director of Advanced Practice Nursing at Barrow

With the support of seasoned mentors, Charlene completed a mini MBA certificate, a Nurse Leadership Certificate, and the Nurse Executive Board Certification (NE-BC). She put her newly developed leadership skills into action while managing the COVID-19 unit, earning the St. Joseph’s Transformational Leadership in Nursing Excellence Award in May 2022.

“Charlene’s leadership and collaborative skills were honed during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Virginia Prendergast, PhD, director of advanced practice nursing at Barrow and Charlene’s key mentor. “She’s demonstrated a willingness to adapt and change in the pursuit of excellence. Having served nearly two decades at Barrow so far, Charlene’s history with the Institute drives her investment in its future. I have every confidence in her ability to succeed in this role.”

Aiming for the Stars

Charlene remains dedicated to continuing the Department of Neuroscience Nursing’s renowned culture of excellence.

She plans to develop herself and her leadership team one step at a time, remembering that we cannot reach our individual or team goals with a giant leap. She encourages others to have excitement in the journey, confidence in the process, and trust in the simple steps leading to our destination.

As someone who has always admired astronauts, Charlene is approaching her new role with a fitting mantra: “Don’t tell me the sky’s the limit when there are footprints on the moon.”