How Nurses Influence Health Care Delivery

An industry insider sheds light on what young or aspiring nurses should keep in mind as they enter, and shape, the medical field.

Mary Picerno, RN
Chief Nursing Officer, Cigna
How Nurses Influence Health Care Delivery

HIT YOUR MARKS: Nurses will have a growing leadership role, so it’s important for them to pursue advanced degrees, stay current on certifications and be lifelong learners.

What initially inspired you to pursue a career in nursing?

Mary Picerno: I was always fascinated by anything remotely related to science, particularly health science. As a child I had a rock collection, a library of science-related videos and books, and a microscope. As I got older, my interest focused more on the health sciences, including anatomy, physiology and disease, which eventually led me to a career in nursing.

What were your initial ambitions when choosing a career path in nursing and how has that vision changed throughout your journey?

MP: I chose a career in nursing because it allowed me to apply my knowledge and put my clinical skills to use in a way that made a difference in people’s lives. I was highly motivated by the opportunity to positively impact someone’s health or quality of life. Now, as Chief Nursing Officer, the impact I can make is magnified. I have the opportunity to influence benefit designs and build clinical programs that can positively impact the health and quality of life of thousands of individuals. That’s very gratifying.

What advice do you have for prospective nurses entering this field?

“I think that nurses in the future will play an even greater role––a leadership role––by leading change and advancing health improvement.”

MP: First, I’d like to congratulate them on their decision to choose nursing as a career! Nursing offers many career choices, flexible scheduling, career mobility and competitive salaries. Nurses have the opportunity to influence the delivery of health care and shape health care policy, and reap the personal reward of making a difference. I’d encourage them to pursue advanced degrees whenever possible, stay current with all their certifications, join specialty societies, find a mentor, commit to lifelong learning and remember the importance of networking.

What is one of the biggest challenges you have faced as a nurse?

MP: I’ve been applying my nursing knowledge and skills in corporate America for many years now; however, when I was doing bedside nursing in a hospital, one of the biggest challenges I faced was the combination of short staffing and long shifts.

In your opinion how has the nursing profession changed in the past 10 years and where do you see it going?

MP: Like so many other professions, nursing has changed greatly over the past 10 years. Nurses play an even more integral role in health care today. Nurses still provide direct patient care, we’re still an important member of a multidisciplinary team, and we still hold important leadership positions in a variety of organizations. However, technology and regulations have introduced a higher level of complexity into nursing and health care in general. I think that nurses in the future will play an even greater role––a leadership role––by leading change and advancing health improvement. The demands of our health care system will continue to evolve and nurses will need to be prepared to participate, support and lead that change.

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