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Make the Leap to the C-suite

Analysis  |  By Jennifer Thew RN  
   April 13, 2020

Do you have a desire to move into an executive role that falls outside the pillar of nursing? While there's no one way to do it, here are some tips from nurses who have done just that.

This article appears in the March/April 2020 edition of HealthLeaders. 

Joyce Markiewicz, RN, BSN, MBA, CHCE, executive vice president and chief business development officer at Catholic Health in Buffalo, New York

1. Be open to opportunities at smaller organizations.

These opportunities can allow you to grow your skills and take on projects to help develop business acumen.

"I enjoyed my time working at the inner-city hospital. I learned a lot of life lessons. I was very young and a suburban girl and I learned how other people lived. It was very eye-opening for me and a wonderful experience. It also afforded me the opportunity to do things that I wouldn't do in a bigger hospital," Markiewicz says.

2. Volunteer to develop new skills and experience different environments.

Markiewicz's volunteer work at Meals on Wheels inspired her to work in the home healthcare environment.

Work in a variety of positions at different healthcare organizations to build perspective.

"Each organization offered me something that afforded me greater responsibility and greater opportunity to learn more about the industry," she says.

3. Pursue formal education pathways.

Markiewicz says she realized to continue to grow in the field, she needed to return to school. She earned an MBA while working at a company that supplied respiratory, pharmacy, and durable medical equipment services.

Flo Spyrow, RN, MSN, MPA, MHA, JD, FACHE, president and CEO at Northern Arizona Healthcare, Flagstaff, Arizona

1. Expand your repertoire to positions beyond nursing. 

Spyrow went to law school with the intention of doing defense work for healthcare organizations.

"The CNO was a very traditional role and, at that point in time, nurses were being kind of pigeonholed into 'this is your role.' I wanted to do and experience other things and learn more about healthcare and the delivery of healthcare," she says.

2. Show off your talents, and develop new ones, through interim positions.

During her career, Spyrow has filled a few different administration positions including VP of operations and even CMO, on an interim basis.

3. Take on special projects to show others what you are capable of.

"I also had the opportunity to work on several significant projects, such as purchasing a hospital and affiliating with what is now UnityPoint Health. In that work, I built trust and respect throughout the organization," Spyrow says.

4. Build strong relationships across the organization.

5. Take opportunities when they present themselves.

"[The advice I would give] to nurses is, don't have a defined career path. Take advantage of opportunities that open up for you and have the courage to try them if you think it is work that you could contribute to and that you would be passionate about," Spyrow says.

Karen Testman, RN, CFO at MemorialCare in Fountain Valley, California

1. Pursue your interests even if they are atypical.

When Testman went back to school to pursue a business degree, she became hooked on accounting.

"I took my first accounting class and loved it, and decided I wanted to focus on accounting," she says.

2. Use your experience to connect with clinical leadership and staff.

Jennifer Thew, RN, is the senior nursing editor at HealthLeaders.


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