When Cindy Nelson, R.N., M.S.N., started college she was a music major. She loved playing the piano and enjoyed her studies. However, one day while practicing alone in the music department at Walla Walla College, the thought hit her that she wanted to have a career where she interacted with people. That night she decided to pursue her love of science and become a nurse. It is a decision she has never regretted.
“When I decided to go into nursing I had absolutely no idea what a full and rewarding career was ahead of me,” said Cindy. “But looking back on my life I can say that nursing has offered more options and possibilities than I could have ever imagined.”
On the personal side, Cindy tells of how she was able to adjust her career to meet the needs of her family. After having children, she took three years off and then began working weekend night shifts to keep up her skills, earn a little extra money and have contact with the “adult world.”
“Basically at whatever stage my children were—from babies to teenagers—I was able to pick the hours and type of work that fit into my schedule,” recalled Cindy. “There are very few careers that allow this type of flexibility.”
A Varied Career
Professionally, Cindy has worked in quite a wide variety of fields. She started her career as a staff nurse in the ICU, spent time as a school nurse, worked in a cardiac unit, in the burn/trauma/neuro ICU, served as a traveling nurse, managed a clinic and even taught nursing!
While Cindy’s career has been varied, she always has been interested in management. When she heard about an opportunity at Adventist Medical Center (AMC) in Portland, Oregon, to become a patient care executive resident, Cindy—who has a master’s degree in Nursing Administration—saw an opportunity to gain valuable management experience.
Adventist Health’s nurse executive resident program is aimed at mentoring Seventh-day Adventist nurses and placing them in leadership positions throughout the system’s hospitals. When Cindy applied for the position at AMC, her past clinical experience, advanced degree and strong sense of mission made her a perfect fit for the job.
Growing a Leader
“The nurse executive program was a great experience,” recalled Cindy. “I was able to participate actively in administrative duties under the outstanding mentorship of Carol Kunau, AMC’s patient care executive, and the rest of the executive team.”
During her residency stint, Cindy had significant involvement in procuring an online system for policies and procedures, developing and opening the hospital’s new Wound Care and Hyperbaric Medicine Center and exploring the expansion of the facility’s cardiac services. Now she is the administrative director for the hospital’s ICU and Family Birth Place.
“I am energized by working to develop and support systems that empower staff to give excellent care,” said Cindy of her job. “There is no end to the variety of challenges that this job provides—from meeting with physicians and architects, to ensuring compliance with budgets and laws, to encounters with patients, families and staff.”
But the thing that Cindy finds to be foundational to flourishing as a leader is her personal congruence with the mission and values of Adventist Health.
“I believe the fact that we are a Seventh-day Adventist Christian organization must make a difference in the way we treat patients and staff. The mission of this hospital—the mission of Adventist Health—is closely aligned with my personal mission in life.”