News & Events

Remembering Dorothy McCabe

The Massachusetts Nurses Association is sad to announce the loss last week of Dorothy Upson McCabe, one of its most respected staff members and a guiding force in the development of the MNA’s industry leading program for the continuing education and clinical support for nurses throughout the Commonwealth.

McCabe, whose nursing career spanned more than 50 years, served the MNA as its Director of the Division of Nursing from 1996 to her retirement in 2017, where she oversaw the growth and development of the MNA’s clinical education program for nurses, its nationally renowned health and safety program, and her work with the MNA’s Congress on Nursing Practice to provide cutting edge clinical support to MNA members on the front lines in MNA’s 85 local bargaining units.

“Dorothy McCabe was a true advocate for nurses whose legacy is marked by her commitment to ensuring that staff nurses throughout Massachusetts had access to the best education to build their professional practice, the tools to advocate for their patients at the bedside and the protections nurses need to be safe in the workplace,” said MNA President Donna Kelly-Williams, RN. “While we mourn the loss of this great friend and colleague, we also celebrate a life and career that was a testament to what it means to be a nurse.”

Under McCabe’s leadership, the MNA Nursing Division created a program of continuing education that became the largest provider of ongoing clinical education for nurses in the Commonwealth, providing hundreds of education programs targeted to the needs of nurses throughout the state, serving several thousand nurses each year. This included the modernization of the MNA’s CE program to include extensive online education offerings.

For nurses in the field, McCabe personally delivered hundreds of programs to nurses in local bargaining units including a vital program to teach nurses their rights to accept, reject or delegate an assignment at a time when nurses working conditions and patient loads were a major patient safety concern and a threat to nurse’s license to practice. She also was a member of the state’s Coalition for the Prevention of Medical Errors, and oversaw specific programs for nurses and nurse administrators on how to create systems to prevent medical errors, which are now a leading cause of death in America.

McCabe also played a role in providing position papers and guidance on cutting edge nursing issues through her work with the MNA Congress on Nursing Practice. Responding to concerns raised by frontline nurses, McCabe oversaw the development of MNA positions on such issues as the inappropriate floating of nurses, misguided ED triage policies known as “pull to full” Tele nursing and the MNA’s position on the controversial Magnet program. In all this work, McCabe used her expertise in nursing research and clinical practice to promote the need for safe patient limits for nurses and safe staffing practices to ensure safe patient care.

“Beyond her great skill as an educator and advocate, Dorothy stood out as a consummate professional who did all that she accomplished with dignity and class.” Said Julie Pinkham, MNA Executive Director. “We have not only lost a great professional, we have lost a good friend. She will be missed.”

McCabe held several degrees, with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing from Boston College, a Master of Science in Nursing from Boston University, a Masters in Education from the Rhode Island College as well as Certification in Nursing Administration. Prior to joining the MNA she served in a number of capacities with New England Baptist Hospital, including as a nurse administrator and director of nursing education and quality improvement.

She leaves a loving family including her son Charles and his wife Sara, daughter Cynthia and her granddaughter Fiona as well as a brother Paul Upson.
There will be a funeral mass at St. Theresa Parish in Sherborn on Friday, April 20, at 10 a.m. with burial at Pine Hill Cemetery, Sherborn. In lieu of flowers, please consider giving to Beth Israel Deaconess Nursing Education Fund:

Office of Development
Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center
330 Brookline Ave. (OV)
Boston, MA 02215

The following video, which captures the MNA's love and respect for Dorothy, was adapted from a video that was presented to her upon her retirement: