For 14 years, Suzi Waddill-Goad has owned her own operational and compliance consulting business, working with hospitals, clinics, private practices, and other healthcare organizations on everything from cost reduction initiatives to clinical or regulatory turnaround efforts. With many years of ICU and emergency room, operations improvement, patient care services, chief nursing, and interim leadership experience under her belt, Suzi hung out her own shingle after getting an MBA and leaving her employer of six years, Kennewick General Hospital in Washington state, where she and her husband had moved in the mid-1990s.
Several years after starting her consulting business, Suzi wanted to further her education. “I got an executive education certificate as a black belt in lean six sigma,” she says. But as much as she learned, Suzi wanted more. “A nursing colleague of mine knew the American Sentinel University nursing dean, so I reached out and the university was launching the Doctor of Nursing Practice Educational Leadership. I loved the idea of a terminal degree in nursing, as well as the practice emphasis, curriculum and executive leadership focus.” In 2010, Suzi joined the second cohort of the DNP Executive Leadership.
Connected to other nurse leaders
One of the many things Suzi enjoyed about the DNP program was the ability to get to know other leaders from all around the country. And in 2012, those connections became especially useful when she was asked by Sigma Theta Tau International Honor Society of Nursing to consider writing a book. “They were seeking an author for a book about nurse burnout, which happened to fit nicely with the doctoral research I was doing on leadership fatigue,” Suzi says.
As she worked through the details with Sigma Theta Tau, she considered involving a few of her DNP cohort members in the project. “I had lots of data on leadership fatigue through surveys I’d done with leaders around the country,” she says. “But it occurred to me that some of my fellow students have different experience than me, and could offer insight into this topic through a different lens.”
Nurse Burnout, the book
Suzi approached three other DNP students to contribute chapters to the book she was writing: Rita Haxton, who had spent many years as a CNO for different hospital systems in South Dakota, Debra Buck, a nurse educator in Michigan, and Holly Jo Langster, a nurse practitioner and nurse administrator for Baptist Health in Little Rock, Arkansas. After graduating from American Sentinel in 2013, Suzi worked to complete the book manuscript.
“It was a great experience for all of us, and allowed me to publish some of the doctoral research I was doing,” says Suzi. Nurse Burnout: Overcoming Stress in Nursing was published in January 2016. Thereafter, Sigma Theta Tau approached Suzi to write another book on nurses in business, which will come out later this year.
For Rita, who is now the vice president of oncology and inpatient surgical services and interim vice president of women’s and children’s services for Baylor University Medical Center in Dallas, contributing to a book was an enhancement of her DNP experience. “I’m very proud of the book and the input and collaboration that went into it,” says Rita, who wrote chapters on healthcare as a business, professional integrity and culture. “It’s really a testament to American Sentinel and how the DNP cohort structure fosters relationships with colleagues all around the country. We wouldn’t have had this opportunity if we hadn’t all been in the same DNP Executive Leadership cohort.”
Connected for life
After a four-year move to Tennessee, Suzi is now back in Washington, still consulting with healthcare organizations around the country. Collaboration continues to be a theme in her career. “The DNP was something I wanted so I could have more credibility and perpetuate what I had already done in my career, but I gained so much more than that,” she says. “It was a great experience because of the people I met, and we all remain close today. Going forward, I plan to continue to partner with colleagues whenever the opportunity arises. It keeps things interesting.”
Inspired by Suzi’s story? A DNP with a specialization in executive leadership prepares master’s-educated nurses for leadership roles in the healthcare system. When you acquire new knowledge, you can apply it to nursing practice in ways that enhance patient care and improve outcomes.
Read the other student success stories for more inspiration.