Paula Aldana has been working in healthcare for nearly 30 years. She started her career as a staff nurse at a community hospital in Nebraska City, Nebraska. The rural hospital setting allowed her to gain experience in everything from labor and delivery to the emergency room. She soon took on leadership responsibilities and knew right away that this was the career path she wanted to follow.
Aldana went from the director of in-patient services to clinic manager. At every step, she gradually got more and more involved in the business side of healthcare, including HR processes, strategy, budget and more. Eventually, Aldana was promoted to vice president of patient care services at CHI Health St. Mary’s, where her responsibilities in operations and business extend throughout the entire hospital. As she dug deeper into these areas, she knew it was time to seek out educational opportunities.
Formal Training in the Business of Healthcare
While she has a master’s degree in nursing, Paula hadn’t experienced formal training outside of the clinical context. She selected Creighton’s Executive Healthcare Fellowship program, attracted by the university’s reputation and the program’s hybrid model, which combines online and in-person learning. (There are three, three-day residencies.)
When she got into the program, Aldana liked the format even more. Prework set the tone, faculty members dug into the topics and then follow-up questions and discussions expanded and solidified her understanding of the subject matter. All of the topics were helpful and applicable to her role, but two of her favorites were the exploration of Catholic Ignatian leadership principles and project management. Both were immediately applicable to her role. In fact, she’s developed two new programs at her hospital using the project management principles she learned in the program.
Like many working students, Aldana says the greatest challenge was time. She knew she’d need to balance her commitments at home and also continue to fulfill her many responsibilities at the hospital. Setting aside time each day to dig into pre-work or take part in discussions was key, but she also notes, “The learning fit so well into my career that it wasn’t a hardship at all.”
In the end, she says the program was well worth it, noting, “It’s lifelong learning, and it applies directly to your career.” Another benefit? The connections and friendships she made with the other students in her cohort. After meeting them face-to-face in the first in-person residency, the cohort created a bond that’s held strong. They even have a chat group today where they bounce ideas off each other and solve problems together.
Aldana knows these relationships and the lessons she’s learned will last. She uses her new skills on the job today and knows her experience in the Fellowship will be useful far into the future.