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YON 2020 Day 357: Cynthia J. Willis, DNP, MSN, RN, MBA, CMSRN

Currently serving as the Senior Director of Nursing Education at the Cleveland Clinic Health System, Cynthia J. Willis, DNP, MSN, RN, MBA, CMSRN, recalls how she realized the power nurses have to influence others. Dr. Willis shares her journey and challenges all nurses to daily assess the impact of their work.

As nurses, we have many opportunities. We must strive for some of these opportunities, while for others, the pathway falls into place. When I started my nursing career, I really did not have a sense of all the opportunities available to me. However, leadership in nursing was the pathway I was interested in pursuing. I became very interested in the Healthcare MBA at Cleveland State University and was in the first graduating class. My goal was to be a leader in nursing. I had the opportunity to reach that goal as I led a nursing unit at Lutheran Hospital. The unit experienced many population changes throughout the eight years I was a clinical manager. I learned a lot about managing nurses at Lutheran and hope I had an impact on others while I was there.


During that time, I enjoyed doing presentations to the staff on various topics within nursing education. One day I was asked to move into nursing education as Lutheran and Fairview were merging forces, and I was familiar with Fairview as a new graduate. The explanation I was given was that I was impacting a small group of nurses in my current position, and I needed to impact more caregivers. The word impact has stuck with me throughout my career. First, as a nurse, you have an impact when you care for a patient. The smallest gesture, a smile, or hand-holding, makes a significant difference for our patients. When we educate the patients to change their healthcare status, this impacts their future health. Impact is an important word to describe bedside nurses’ actions and is often not recognized.


Nurse Managers impact their staff every day with their leadership and through role modeling and their skillset. I realized this when in that role. When I became an educator, I knew I was impacting nurses through many difficult change processes. However, I also grew as an educator, and this opportunity was a pathway that was provided to me. I realized that I could influence individuals and processes through education. Only leaders can do that, and thus I see that I am accomplishing my career goal. As the Senior Director of Nursing Education for the Cleveland Clinic, and I work with all the hospitals in Northeast Ohio and Florida. I have the opportunity to impact and to influence other nurses and new graduates. Days can be challenging with the pressures of providing high-quality care, high reliability, and the demands to assure a prepared workforce. At the end of the day, I look back and determine if I made an impact today, and I then know the work was well worth it. I thank the Cleveland Clinic for all the opportunities that have been given to me during my 41-year career.


So as a nurse in 2020, did you have an impact on someone? That is what a nurse does every day. You impact others to make changes for the better. Go out and impact others today!


I want to thank everyone for their stories for 2020 – The Year of the Nurse. I am confident in the future of nursing, because each of you has made an impact on our profession and will continue to do so.

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