Early in her nursing career, Ashley Nicole Williams thought about pursuing nursing administration and was accepted into a program, but then decided she wanted more bedside experience. It was the best decision she’s ever made.
“I had so many opportunities as a nurse to take on leadership roles within my unit,” explains Williams. “Instead of pursuing administration to become an executive, I chose to follow my desire to make change and become a leader and remain involved in patient care. That’s when I asked my manager what school she went to for her master’s and she said Walden, so I did my research and I enrolled.”
Serendipitously, Williams started her new nurse manager position on the same day she began her Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) program at Walden. “At first, I thought it might all be too much—the new job and going to school full time. I was nervous and I doubted myself,” she says. “But, I’m so glad I did it because nothing I wrote about or discussed in class was hypothetical. It was all about my real experience on the job.”
Williams works at MedStar Washington Hospital Center, which has provided a lot of opportunity for her advancement and growth over the 5 years since she became a registered nurse (RN). “After just a year of being an RN, they recognized my leadership skills, and combined with my clinical grades, I was asked to train new graduate nurses,” explains Williams. “Then I was asked to participate in a hospital-wide fall prevention committee. I got involved with the organization on a larger level and got a different perspective about why and how we practice care within a hospital setting.” As part of the committee, she gathered data from her medical stroke unit for 3 months and presented recommendations to improve fall outcomes and the quality of patient care. She then became a charge nurse, making clinical decisions, staffing assignments, and other changes as necessary.
It hasn’t all been easy, but she’s implementing what she learned at Walden and leaning on her faith in God, friends, family, and fellow parishioners to get her through the stressful times. “My co-manager left and now with my director I’m managing a staff of 60. Walden taught me people management skills, and hearing different perspectives from my colleagues allows me to keep an open mind and know when to address certain situations with my staff,” she says. “I’ve definitely grown more and realized it’s not about me. A leader helps others achieve and grow, often sacrificing personal feelings to make sure staff and patients are cared for properly.”
Now, Williams is building on her initial findings on hospital-wide falls and applying the recommendations to her unit. “I want my unit to focus on quality and safety, and I deployed a team of nurses and technicians so that each associate on the unit practiced policies and procedures for patients who were prone to infections or high-risk falls. They document and conduct audits while practicing correct care, and wound and fall rates have decreased because staff are more aware and holding each other accountable.” She hopes to one day share results on the success of the program—which sprung from a Walden assignment—with her hospital leadership.
“I am a leader who aims to drive change and help improve patient outcomes,” says Williams.—Jen Raider