At the age of 20, Ruby Gill immigrated to the United States from India. She was in the middle of her college education and planned to attend medical school, but had to set her endeavors aside when her father was laid off from his employer not long after their arrival.
Family survival became the priority. “My mother knew no English and my sister and I had to help support the family,” says Ruby, who got a job in fast food to make ends meet. She eventually started working for the U.S. Postal Service and resumed her secondary education at her local community college.
One step at a time
Ruby’s dream to work in health care never faltered, and for seven years, she worked full time at the Post Office while attending college. Eventually, she applied to Mount St. Mary’s College of Nursing, and earned her Associate Degree of Nursing in 2000. As a new graduate nurse, Ruby began working at Kaiser Permanente Orange County as a medical-surgical nurse.
Throughout Ruby’s nursing career, she has maximized her opportunities to learn and expand her skills. With a diverse organization like Kaiser Permanente, early in Ruby’s career, she was presented with various chances to participate in and champion numerous medical surgical committees. With each opportunity, Ruby graciously stepped up to the challenge.
In addition to the opportunities presented at work, Ruby also continued her formal education and earned her BSN in 2004, followed by her MBA in 2006. “Because I was following a leadership path, I decided to do an MBA with an emphasis in health care management rather than an MSN,” says Ruby. While continuing her professional development, she assumed various leadership roles—including medical-surgical charge nurse, assistant manager, and director of medical-surgical. In 2008, Ruby helped open Kaiser Permanente’s new hospital, Irvine Medical Center.
Chief Nurse Executive
In 2012, Ruby was promoted to her biggest role yet: chief nurse executive at Kaiser Permanente Orange County. Although holding a master’s degree was sufficient, within a few years of the promotion, Ruby started thinking about how a doctorate would help her make an even bigger impact on her organization. When Kaiser Permanente Irvine Medical Center applied for Magnet status in 2016, the timing was right. “I was pushing all of my direct reports toward school for BSN and MSN degrees and I realized: if I’m encouraging them, I want them to see me pushing myself to be better too,” says Ruby.
Researching doctorate programs
With three children ages 16, 9 and 7, plus her busy job, Ruby knew she would need a program to fit her life. After a representative from American Sentinel University came to Kaiser Permanente to share more about its programs, Ruby liked what she saw. “Our regional chief nurse executive over Southern California, Jerry Spicer, had gotten the Doctor of Nursing Practice Executive Leadership at American Sentinel in 2014, and had a great experience,” she says. “The convenience, the ability to take ‘bridge’ MSN course work since I didn’t have an MSN but an MBA, and the in-person residency were all features that were appealing to me.” By the end of 2016, Ruby enrolled in the DNP program.
Setting goals for the future
Later this year, Ruby will graduate with the DNP Executive Leadership. With her experience and education, she hopes to do her part at Kaiser Permanente to help nurses moving into leadership roles acclimate successfully. “I’m very passionate about leadership and want to empower others as they move up as nurses into management,” says Ruby, who mentors many nurses early in their careers.
As a mentor, Ruby adds, she always encourages nurses to further their education. “I tell them, ‘Start now and you’ll be glad you did,’” she says. “Education is always a worthwhile investment in yourself. I’m glad I did it.”
Inspired by Ruby’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.