Why I became a nurse: Continuous learning


By Nancy D., MS, RN
Clinical Excellence Coordinator

I practiced as a full-time registered nurse for 42 years, and I have never been as proud to be a nurse as I am today. I find it hard to believe that I’m in my fifth decade of nursing and am still eager to accomplish and learn more.  

The amazing part of my nursing journey is the continuous learning and the breadth of opportunity to practice in a variety of settings and specialties. As a young nurse, my passion for the science of improvement hit me early. For the next 40 years, every position I held was focused on improvement in both academic and community inpatient and outpatient care settings. For over a decade I contracted as a consultant for the federal breast and cervical cancer early detection program and traveled to 64 states, tribes and territories doing improvement work with health care providers.   

In the late 70s and early 80s, my mentors included Dr. Edward Deming and Dr. Avedis Donabedian. Deming’s 14 principles for business process management systems were used by Toyota to create the Lean business management method we currently use at Salem Health. Equally important in my professional development as an improvement specialist was Dr. Donabedian’s research in quality in health care and medical outcomes — the Donabedian model of structure, process and outcome, which I quote almost daily in my current work. 

Mentoring in nursing is also a crucial cornerstone for who I am today. As Maya Angelou stated, “In order to be a mentor, and an effective one, one must care. You must care. You don’t have to know how many square miles are in Idaho, you don’t need to know what is the chemical makeup of chemistry, or of blood or water. Know what you know and care about the person, care about what you know and care about the person you’re sharing with.” 

As the clinical excellence coordinator, I have the privilege to work directly with nurses and their colleagues daily to improve empirical outcomes. I take pride in continuously mastering my coaching and mentoring skills to build passion and capability in those I serve. This was never a “plan B.” It was my plan A, and I would gladly choose it again.

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