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Sandra Hall, DNP, MBA, RN, NPD-BC, NEA-BC, EBP-C

Dr. Sandra Hall, a 2005 Bachelor of Science in Nursing graduate, delivered the Commencement address at the USI College of Nursing and Health Professions Ceremony. She currently serves as Director of Clinical Excellence at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles.

The Evansville native said that nursing was a second career choice. Her first college degree was a Bachelor Arts in Theater and Drama from Indiana University in 2000.

"I worked professionally as a stage manager after my time at IU, but I was profoundly impacted by the events of 9/11. Within a few days, I had clarity about my future in that I knew I wanted to be in a helping profession," she says. "My mom was a nurse, as are many of my family members, so nursing felt like the most obvious and natural choice. I started prerequisites for my nursing courses in January 2002 and never looked back."

Q&A with Sandy

Why did you choose USI for your BSN? I was from Evansville and considered it home. USI's nursing school had a great reputation, and it felt like an obvious choice that kept me close to home.

Your background is in pediatrics and neonatal ICU. What led you to this career path? My mom (who recently passed away) was a NICU nurse at St. Mary's for many years. I was most definitely inspired by her. I grew up with a fascination for the care that neonatal nurses provide and the challenge of doing everything "in miniature." I started my nursing career at Children's Hospital Los Angeles (CHLA) because of their fantastic New Graduate RN Residency program, which allowed me to transition out of nursing school and directly into the highest acuity NICU imaginable. My career at CHLA grew from there, and my work naturally expanded to include not only my NICU knowledge, but also leadership of multiple areas within pediatrics. I love the environment of a pediatric hospital and the emphasis on fun and play as a part of healing. 

What or who inspired you to pursue nursing leadership roles? I think my first career as a stage manager in theatre and opera empowered me in the development of leadership skills. I think one of the people who inspired me most to go into leadership was the nurse manager I did my leadership clinical rotation with while at USI. She embraced the principles of servant leadership. She was her role not as being "the boss," but rather  the empowerer, the facilitator, and the supporter for her staff. That resonated with me, and as I grew in my role as a clinical nurse, I found that the "extra" activities in which I participated, such as committees, councils and projects, were incredibly satisfying because of their broad impact on both nurses and patient populations. I have also been lucky to work closely with many inspiring leaders who saw my potential and created space for me to grow throughout my career.

In your own words, why is it important for nurses to be in healthcare leadership roles? Nurses comprise the largest percentage of the healthcare workforce and are consistently identified as the most trusted profession in the U.S., but we often struggle to make our voices heard. We understand what it takes to be at the bedside and provide care for patients around the clock. We serve as the hubs of communication in support of patient care and possess a unique perspective about barriers and facilitators to providing high-quality care and achieving optimal patient outcomes. Decisions that impact nursing should not be made without a nurse at the table. As one of my mentors says, "Not about us without us." Nurses must advocate for and assume leadership roles in healthcare organizations to ensure that the voice of nursing is amplified throughout the industry.

Describe what it means to you to be a USI Nursing Alum. I talk about my experience in nursing school at USI frequently, particularly the nursing faculty who were such impactful influences in my learning and my career. I have often recognized the quality of my nursing education by comparison with my colleagues. I was also honored to be a member of the first accelerated BSN cohort at USI. The experience of being part of a small cohort of eight students and having such strong relationships with the faculty made my time in nursing school very special.

What is a favorite memory you have of going to school at USI? In the spring of my final year of the accelerated BSN program, I was selected to be a member of USI's Critical Care Challenge team. Our team won that year's competition among area schools and outperformed all of the local hospitals. The experience was not only fun but also empowering. It gave me a great deal of confidence in the foundation of nursing knowledge that I was building as a student at USI.

In your own words, why is it important to set aside a week to honor the nursing profession? Nurses are the backbone of the healthcare industry. Nurses pour so much of themselves–physically, emotionally and mentally–into their work on a daily basis. Our workforce has faced innumerable challenges over the past few years, and there are more challenges to come as the long-term impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on our profession continues to evolve. Now, more than ever, nurses need meaningful recognition to celebrate their skill, expertise, hard work and sacrifice in service to our patients and our communities.

What advice do you have for the next generation of nurses–for students who may be considering this profession? It's important to go into this profession with your eyes wide open. Realize that nursing is hard work and sometimes requires some personal sacrifice, such as working at night or on weekends. Remember, too, that nursing requires you to be a lifelong learner. Your nursing education doesn't end with nursing school. But the "wins" in nursing are huge: connections made, anxiety comforted, pain relieved and lives saved. The ability to make a lasting impact on a patient, a family member, a colleague or entire patient populations is what I find so exciting about nursing. It feels good to walk out of work every day knowing that I've made a difference.

What is a fun fact about you that most people do not know? I was a contestant on Jeopardy! In answer to the next question that I usually get asked: I lost.