Nursing a lifelong journey for lifelong learner
From farm girl to Wharton fellow, Linda Goodwin is creating a career ladder for nurses at Via Christi Health’s hospitals.
For Linda Goodwin, nursing has been a joyous journey — one that’s taken her from Kansas farm girl to fellowship-trained nurse executive.
It’s a profession that’s allowed her to combine her love of learning and leading with her desire to make a difference in the lives of patients and their families.
Today, as chief nursing officer for Via Christi Health, she’s helping transform the way care is provided at its hospitals in Wichita and throughout Kansas.
“At Via Christi, we’re on a journey to excellence, one that pairs physicians and nurses in blazing the trail for patient-centered care,” says Goodwin.
‘In my blood’
For Goodwin, who grew up on a farm outside Beloit, “being a pioneer is in my blood.”
Her grandmother was a tough-as-nails midwife who, as the primary provider of care for her rural Kansas friends and neighbors, delivered babies and made her own herbal salves.
But unlike her grandmother and mother, Goodwin’s early plans didn’t include health care.
Fiercely independent, Goodwin married young, studied business at Cloud County Community College in Concordia and went to work as a bookkeeper for a retail chain in Abilene. While the job put her analytical skills to use, she began asking herself, “What am I doing to really help anyone?”
Two years later, Goodwin, her husband, Larry, and their two children moved to Randall so that she could help care for her mother, who had been diagnosed with end-stage lung cancer.
“Dealing with my mom’s terminal illness was when I discovered who I really was,” says Goodwin.
That person, as it turned out, was a nurse — one whose loss of her mother would lead her to begin asking herself a new question: “Do I have the caring touch, strong analytical skills and critical thinking needed to give patients the best possible care?”
She has spent the past 30 years making sure that she and the nurses serving with her have the education, training and support they need to answer, “Yes.”
Creating a path
In 1982, Goodwin earned her associate degree in Nursing from Cloud County and began working as the head charge nurse on the night shift for a medical-surgical-telemetry unit at what today is Salina Regional Health Center. Months later, she was put in charge of the hospital’s nine-bed ICU, the first of several leadership positions she would hold there.
She also returned to school and in 1988 received her Bachelor of Science in Nursing from Marymount College in Salina.
“I’ve gone back every three or four years since that time to advance my skills,” says Goodwin, who in 1996 earned her Master of Science in Nursing from Fort Hays State University through a pilot program using interactive video.
While that training helped her be a stronger nurse leader, “it didn’t prepare me to have a voice at the executive level,” says Goodwin. So she went on to earn her Master of Business Administration from Kansas Wesleyan University in Salina in 1998.
The following year, she was hired as chief nursing officer for Hutchinson Hospital. During her seven-year tenure there, working in partnership with a physician, she developed a program designed to reduce hospital admissions for the top eight diagnoses — a concept similar to what’s being put into practice at Via Christi and other large metropolitan hospitals around the country today.
Prior to joining Via Christi last year, Goodwin served as CNO for Salina Regional and Memorial Health System in Colorado Springs, Colo., where she introduced shared decision-making and relationship-based care practices. Both are designed to empower nurses to have more influence in reducing medical errors, increasing the quality of care and promoting wellness as well as give them a voice in how care is provided.
She’s since introduced both practices at Via Christi, following a nursing restructure at the Wichita hospitals that reduced the number of layers between administration and frontline staff and placed an additional 100 caregivers at the bedside.
While Goodwin misses serving at the bedside, she says, “I like the challenge of helping nurses be the bedside experts that they set out to be.”
Toward that end, she earned board-certification as an advanced nurse executive by the American Nursing Association and as a fellow by the American College of Healthcare Executives. Most recently, she completed the Wharton School of Business fellowship program for nurse executives.
Her next goal is to earn her doctorate in nursing. As a nursing leader, Goodwin says, “I feel obligated to ensure that my skills are on the leading-edge of nursing practice.
“As nurses, it’s an obligation we all share. Our patients and families deserve nothing less.”