Inspired to lead
By Dana Chrysler
Everett Community College Alumni Outreach Specialist
As an Everett Community College (EvCC) nursing student, Kim Williams never could have envisioned one day becoming the chief nursing officer for one of America's top 100 hospitals. The 1974 Snohomish High School graduate attended Everett Community College classes during her senior year of high school and simply set her sights on getting an AA degree in nursing.
“I wanted to be a nurse and take care of patients,” Kim said. “I loved doing that.”
Determined and focused, Kim set out to make her dream of being a nurse a reality, while discovering nursing school to be an intense learning experience.
“I had my clinicals and my studies and I worked five evenings a week at Providence Hospital,” she said. “I was a good student and I studied hard.”
Management aspirations were then a distant desire in young Kim’s future.
“I graduated from nursing school a week before my 20th birthday,” Kim recalled. “I was just interested in getting a job and moving out of my parents’ house,” she laughed.
In 1976, after graduating with her AA from EvCC, Kim worked as a registered nurse in Everett before moving to Bellingham, where she began working at St. Joseph’s Hospital. She would stay at St. Joseph’s for 25 years.
Like many young people coming out of school, Kim was surprised to learn how much she still didn’t know.
“I thought I knew a whole lot more than I did,” she recalled. “Then I got out in the workplace and was like, ‘Oh, my gosh, really? Was someone supposed to have taught me that or was that something I was supposed to have learned on the job?’”
Kim began to envision a career in management while working in a number of diverse positions at St. Joseph’s.
“There were some career opportunities that I wasn’t going to be able to make happen with just an AA degree,” she recalled. “The tipping point was that I had some mentors and people around me who encouraged me to think about management, so I decided to return to school and get my bachelor’s degree.”
Twelve years after receiving her AA degree from EvCC, Kim was awarded her bachelor of science degree from Western Washington University.
“I was married, had two kids, worked almost full-time, and went to school full-time,” she said. “But, it was all fine. I moved into leadership the week after I got my bachelor’s degree.”
The oldest child in her family with two younger brothers, Kim surmises that being a “first-born” may have given her an edge in managing people.
“People who worked with me certainly thought I had leadership abilities long before I thought I did. They were saying, ‘You need to think about supervising,’” she said.
In 2003, Kim was hired as the manager of nursing administration at Providence Regional Medical Center in Everett, where she worked for a year. She moved on to the process improvement department for another year, then to a director position for two years, and finally into the position of chief nursing officer in 2007.
What does she find the most rewarding aspect of her job?
“For me, it is the opportunity to work with staff and help them think differently about how they can impact the patients they care for,” she said. “And help them engage in decision making about practice. I really like innovation and leading teams—those are the fun days.”
Kim advises others who want to complete their education not to put it off.
“It’s never going to get less expensive,” she stated. “Whether you are a nurse or in any other profession, there is a broader array of positions available when you finish your education.”
Because of her experiences at EvCC, Kim has a thorough respect for the nursing students who graduate from the college.
“As a person who employs a lot of nurses, I can say that EvCC produces really exceptional nurses,” Kim stated. “They always have.”
She also thinks of EvCC as a great place to start a nursing career.
“EvCC has good instructors, they pay attention to the curriculum, and the nursing students get great clinical experience,” she stated emphatically. “The college has a culture of high expectations and high quality of their students and I think that shows.”
Kim’s confidence in EvCC’s nursing program stems partly from the significant collaboration between the two organizations.
“We share a simulation lab,” she said.”And we have a resident coordinator—a shared position between the college and the hospital. So our nurses have a guided and very structured residency and then we partner them with a mentor the first year.”
She also believes the quality of nursing education is especially important in today’s healthcare environment.
“The entry to nursing is more difficult now. It’s just fast-paced and patients are sick,” Kim said. “Back when I graduated from nursing school, if you had a hernia surgery, you were here for three or four days. Now, you come in and you go home in four hours. So, the people who are actually admitted to the hospital are sick. It’s high-intensity, fast-paced, and a lot of responsibility. And really rewarding,” she added.
For all of the changes in intensity and demands of the nursing profession, Kim counts herself fortunate to play a part in mentoring other nurses.
What kind of advice does Kim offer for current EvCC students?
“Don’t get discouraged. Just push through until you get to what your goal is, because sometimes this might not be the end of your journey,” she advised. “Keep your eyes open and step through the next open door.”