1. Zangerle, Claire DNP, MSN, MBA, RN, NEA-BC


This year, Gail E. Latimer, MSN, RN, FAAN, FACHE, received the American Organization for Nursing Leadership's (AONL's) prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award, which honors an AONL member recognized by the nursing community as a significant leader in the nursing profession who has served AONL in an important leadership capacity. Latimer served as a member of the AONL board of directors and as chair of the AONL Foundation. In her career, she held a series of executive nursing roles that showcased her ability to refine nursing work processes to make them measurably more efficient and improve the patient experience of care. In 2004, she became vice president and chief nursing officer (CNO) of Siemens Health Services, a global medical technology company, and later served as CNO of Cerner Corporation. This is an abridged version of an interview conducted by former AONL board member Claire M. Zangerle, DNP, MSN, MBA, RN, NEA-BC, chief nurse executive, Allegheny Health Network at the AONL's annual meeting in San Diego in April 2019.


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Dr Zangerle: How you would describe your career journey in 1 word?

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Ms Latimer: Resilience. I look at resilience as a way to bounce back from failures and success. I usually try to take 5 minutes to experience the feelings from what's just happened and then move beyond that to what I need to do. These situations can be tragic, such as when we've learned that one of our nurses has been injured in a serious car accident. The 1st thing you think about is her family, you think about the staff on that unit, but then you also need to realize there are patients who still need taken care of on that unit. As the leader, you need to be resilient and lead the group through these types of situations. You can also use these 5 minutes when something good happens. Many of you have gotten the call that your facility is designated as a Magnet(R) hospital. You hear the cheers in the room and you're feeling really exuberant; you want to enjoy that moment longer than 5 minutes. But you have to remember patient outcomes need to be achieved; we need to continue moving forward.

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Dr Zangerle: What was the riskiest decision in your career?


Ms Latimer: It was making a decision to leave my position as chief executive officer (CEO) of a hospital to join Siemens. Siemens courted me for a good 4 to 6 months. And I volunteered to interview [candidates] for the company's 1st chief nurse. I was very supportive of the role and helped write the job description, but never saw myself in that role. I had been in the CEO position for 4 years; I had a lot still to accomplish, and I didn't see myself taking that risk [to leave]. At the time, I was 50 years old and had been in hospitals since I was a young nurse; I understood the operations. And I thought my career would end in hospitals many years into the future. My father said to me, "What's holding you up?" I said to him, "What do I do if I don't like the job and if I'm not happy?" He asked me what I would do, and I said I'd resign and call [a search firm] and get a job." And he said, "Okay, so what else is holding you up?" I said, "Well, what happens if they fire me?" And I realized I would have the same solution; I would simply get a new job. My message to you is always have an alternative, whether it's calling [a search firm] or whatever that might be. Look at your options and take the risk. In the end, I was thrilled that I stepped forward and joined the Siemens team.


Dr Zangerle: You clearly were able to take those risks because of preparations you made and forethought. What would you suggest to this audience about preparing yourself for whatever's coming next in this evolving healthcare world?


Ms Latimer: The 1st thing that comes to my mind is follow your passion. As you think about opportunities that come before you, if there isn't a passion there or there isn't a connection, it's not going to feel right when you make that change. The 2nd thing: Make sure you have the right education. [I regret never finishing] my doctorate degree and recommend to young nurses to earn a master's degree before starting their families. Then push forward and get that doctorate degree. Lastly, plan your experiences. I very strategically planned my moves. When I left the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC), I moved to a large hospital in Chicago as a CNO. I knew I needed to go to a big operation, and there were no CNO opportunities where I was. Later, I wanted to work in an organization that had a network and multiple hospitals in multiple states. I found that with the Bon Secours Health System; then I was recruited to be a CEO in a health system in the Philadelphia area. So I strategically moved around, and when Siemens leaders were interested in me, one of the things they noted was that I'd worked in multiple parts of the United States, and I had merger and acquisition experience.


Dr Zangerle: Besides work experiences, there's another side to life as a nurse leader. You can't be a really good leader without having some balance. How did you find balance?


Ms Latimer: I learned balance the hard way. I was a nurse manager of a neurotrauma unit at UPMC Shadyside, and there was a lot that needed to be done to build the team. [To improve patient care] I was [working with] a group of nurse leaders on the unit. But I also knew I had to have my sleeves rolled up and be at the bedside often [while we were] building our competencies and expertise. And I guess I was starting to get a little haggard. Gail Wolf, PhD, RN, FAAN, the CNO, saw my symptoms of exhaustion. I remember being in her office at 3 PM, and she told me I needed to go home. I told her I would go [after finishing several tasks], probably at 6 PM She said "No, I'm serious. I want you to go home. Your gas tank is on empty. In fact, there are no fumes in your gas tank." Again I tried to tell her I could continue working; she said something that stopped me in my tracks. "You need to go home, and if you don't go home," Gail said, "I will have a security guard escort you to your car. I mean it." I realized I had no fuel in the gas tank, and I never wanted to put myself in that situation again.


Dr Zangerle: Have you learned to model balance for others?


Ms Latimer: Yes, but it took some time. When I was a hospital CEO, I remember coming out of my office at 7 PM and looking down the hallway. The lights in the offices of the chief financial officer (CFO), CNO, and chief operating officer were on, and I knew they all had children. The CFO had preschoolers. The other 2 had high school students. I was busy in my office, and they felt compelled to stay. And from that moment, I learned that I needed to be a better role model for balance so my people would go home at a reasonable time. I started engaging with them, asking, "What night does your son play soccer? What night is the basketball game?" I never had to get a security guard to get them out, but I intentionally encouraged them to leave to create that balance.


Dr Zangerle: I have 1 final question. What do you see in the future for nurse leaders?


Ms Latimer: The future is very, very fascinating to me. In the late 1980s when I was working with medical robotics, I would never have thought a driverless car would be operating in my lifetime. I think about some of the cancers now we are able to treat using genomics and cancer's becoming more of a chronic disease. As I think about the future, I think about a world where we will be preventing and predicting disease. More care will be delivered at home. But I believe there will always need to be nurses. Somebody is going to always have to touch me and take care of me, no matter the illness I have. It's not going to be the way it is today at all, but I know it's going to be very, very exciting. And nurse leaders will help create that future.