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Eileen Whalen, MHA, RN, is president and chief operating officer at The University of Vermont Medical Center.

Nursing is a tremendously varied profession. Nurses are involved in almost every aspect of health care – in many instances leading change and innovation in quality and patient safety.

I am proud to be a nurse. I chose to be a trauma nurse. The pace, the immediacy and the impact that I could have were very appealing to me. I loved the fact that as a trauma nurse, you have to learn very quickly how to size up a situation and make a decision. I love working with a collaborative team when every voice counts. That perspective has shaped the leader that I am today.

While rounding in various areas around the organization, I’ve seen how our nurses are demonstrating leadership at the bedside and beyond:

  • A core group of nurses undertook comprehensive Ebola training – and continues to play a major role in ensuring our preparedness.
  • Several of our nurses have just completed year-long training as fellows for the Vermont Organization for Nurse Leaders (VONL), an organization that promotes professional development opportunities for nurse leaders.
  • Our nurses are involved in every aspect of quality on our inpatient units and our outpatient sites, working to reduce infections in our intensive care units; and to prevent catheter-associated infections – to name just a few of the many projects they are working on!
  • Nurses are also involved in projects aimed at helping people prevent hospitalization. For example, some of our Community Health Improvement nurses have completed training in motivational interviewing to help patients who are struggling with making healthy lifestyle changes.
  • Our nurse educators are dedicated to the concept of nurses training nurses. Whenever we upgrade our electronic medical record system, our nurse educators do an incredible job training nurses in the changes to the system so that these nurses can promote peer support to others.
  • Our nurses are continually learning and teaching – many nurses on the inpatient units and in our outpatient sites act as teachers and mentors for nursing students. And others are students themselves, either pursuing advanced degrees or staying up-to-date on the latest information in our field through conferences and classes.
  • Many nurses are also involved in scientific research, pursuing new knowledge in areas such as living with aortic stenosis, the role of clinical simulation training in pediatric intensive care nursing, and caring for adolescents during the postpartum period.
  • Our nurses are always looking at our systems of care to improve the patient experience. This year, a number of nurses in our outpatient areas participated in a model unit process, identifying areas for improvement.
  • Our nurses are leading the way for patient- and-family-centered care – an approach to health care that recognizes the vital role that families play in ensuring the health and well-being of our patients.

Whatever path we choose, it’s a privilege to be a nurse. I want to commend all our nurses on the tremendous work they do every day on behalf of our patients and families.

To all our nurses,

Congratulations on your commitment to quality and safe patient care and professionalism. It is a joy to provide leadership to such a high-performing team.

Eileen Whalen, MHA, RN, is president and chief operating officer at The University of Vermont Medical Center. 

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