SHERIDAN — Lacey Johnson recently moved into the director of nursing role at Sheridan Memorial Hospital, working under newly-appointed chief nursing officer Barb Hespen. In light of a civil lawsuit against the hospital where attorneys heavily scrutinized the nursing staff, Johnson looks positively toward the future of SMH.
“I just want to be able to make a difference globally for the patient and families in nursing,” Johnson said. “There’s so much we can do and so many things that nursing can do and does for patients and family. I just want to be a bigger part of that and be able to really be a voice for the organization and staff in that realm.”
Johnson worked for 11 years as an emergency room nurse and an additional 11 years as the manager of an ER in South Dakota before moving with her family to Sheridan. Hespen appreciates Johnson’s leadership history in emergency services, but said she is especially excited about Johnson’s vision for patient-centered care.
“She’s a breath of fresh air, energetic and has the patient in mind,” Hespen said.
When starting her career in nursing, Johnson never anticipated or aspired to work in leadership. After earning her bachelor’s and master’s degrees, which focused on management and leadership, Johnson realized her passion for health care and where it is headed encouraged her to be a part of future decisions in the industry. The reception of her ideas at SMH further encouraged her to seek a higher leadership position than her prior role as medical surgical manager.
“In this organization I found, more than anywhere that I’ve been, is the feeling of community and what the organization means to the community and vice versa what the community means to the organization,” Johnson said.
With that sense of community comes continuity and particular focus on comprehensive care for SMH patients and their families. Traveling nurses provide excellent care for patients, but to help build continuity and connection with the community, Johnson said executives are looking to foster opportunities for nurses coming out of colleges throughout Wyoming.
“How do we open that door (to college nursing students) and bring those nurses in and give them the orientation in what they need to become stellar nurses in their careers?” Johnson said.
The nursing shortage affects hospitals nationwide. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates 1.09 million nursing job openings by 2024 because of aging of the baby-boomer generation, among other contributors.
The Bureau also projects the need for 649,100 replacement nurses in the workforce.
Providing those opportunities for student nurses helps bring students closer to accomplishing their goals while also alleviating the need for traveling nurses.
“(Continuity is) what you’re looking for in a nurse, and that in turn provides this attitude and commitment to our community and organization, and that’s what we want,” Johnson said.
“Travelers are great nurses but they leave in 13 weeks and they’re not permanently here, so the commitment’s different.”
The culture at SMH encourages and inspires Johnson to implement organization-wide objectives with her staff. A focus for Johnson is to unify nursing staffs from differing specialties to create consistency and collaboration across departments, with the aim of providing the best care possible for patients.