From the bedside to the boardroom

by Dawn Tymianski

I remember sitting in the medical library stacks at a large table, watching the dust float through the air, back dropped against the sun, with my young children skimming through surgical textbooks while I studied.  I had returned to school full-time, not out of desire to learn, but out of necessity, wanting to move away from the necessary chronic night shifts required of the beside nurse.

It was tough, working full-time, school full-time and with a young family.  Unknowingly, I must have met an inspirational teacher, listened to an informative talk, or picked up a great article. Questions percolated. So, after a few years, and again while working full-time, I returned to school, completing a master’s degree.  I landed a great job as a Nurse Practitioner in a clinical area I knew nothing about. My learning curve was steep. I reached for leadership opportunities along the way, moving into international Executive Board positions, editing a textbook, chairing international nursing guidelines, and becoming an expert in my clinical field. And of course, questions began to percolate once again and I realized I was not quite done.

My second Master’s and my PhD were the most fun. Oh the challenge of trying to make my question ‘smaller’. I fell down many research rabbit holes, emerging from a single course wanting to shift my PhD thesis.  I developed a love-hate relationship with references, wanting to read just ‘one more article’. And unfortunately I loved the feel of print, writing all over the article, keeping it to reference later, collecting mounds and mounds of paper, holding onto that favourite article that started it all.  Working full time, and perhaps with a bit too much enthusiasm, I completed my PhD in Systems in less than 4 years.  I was sad to see it done. What did I learn through all that? I know I would do another one, and somewhere along that journey, education innocently moved from foe to friend.

So where am I now? Well, I am no longer a bedside nurse. I am no longer a clinical Nurse Practitioner. I am the Chief Executive Officer of the Nurse Practitioners’ Association of Ontario, working with the government of Ontario and health care stakeholders, championing the important work for this small, but mighty, Nurse Practitioner workforce.  I never really had a goal to be a CEO, for I have always looked to the horizon and never really to the stars. So what’s next? Well, it’s been a great journey. Perhaps a course or two on topics not related to healthcare. My challenge isn’t when to begin; my challenge is when to stop.