Emory Healthcare: Grow Where You Are

Katie Oldham and Pam Cosper

When Katie Oldham (pictured left) and Pam Cosper (pictured right) chat about their professional careers, passersby might think they are wistfully remembering years past when people were able to make an organization their career home ... their family. However, the two stellar Emory Healthcare nurses aren’t looking back; they are talking about what life is still like at Emory Healthcare.

Both Katie and Pam started at Emory Healthcare as new grads in 1985 and 1987, respectively, and have since collaborated with the organization to develop their careers — learning from mentors, building relationships, taking advantage of tuition reimbursement to obtain their master’s degrees and advancing.

“There is a comfort in growing up in this system,” explains Katie, a department director at Emory University Hospital. “Here, the immense variety of specialties means you don’t have to leave. You can grow here. I haven’t stayed still. I’ve moved throughout the system, all within the walls of Emory Healthcare. There’s no reason to leave. Here, you collaborate with your mentors. Sometimes, they put you on a path before you even know it, seeing something in you that you didn't even see in yourself."

“When you grow up somewhere in front of people, you bond and become a true family,” continues Pam, specialty director for critical care at Emory University Hospital. “Here, you have the ability to learn and grow in a collegial environment where myriad professionals — nurses, physicians, pharmacists, chaplains, etc. — are all learning together.”

Developing a New Professional Practice Program

During 2008, Katie and Pam had the opportunity to embark on a new learning opportunity as co-chairs of a task force charged with enhancing and developing the Professional Practice Program for Emory Healthcare nurses. The program, called the PLAN (Professional Lattice for Advancement in Nursing), was officially launched at the start of February 2009 as a voluntary option for nurses.

Through this exciting program, nurses evaluate and improve their own practice, identify professional development and growth opportunities, and obtain recognition for the level of practice they have achieved. The lattice framework, as opposed to a traditional ladder, facilitates fluid movement across a broad spectrum of career opportunities ideal for different times in a nurse’s career.

“Just as how the interweaving of fabric makes it stronger, the layers within our Lattice make our team better,” explains Pam. She also describes the levels of clinical expertise, educational preparation and professional practice within the PLAN and the program’s uniqueness in that it offers three tracks — clinical, education and management/leadership — for nursing advancement.

“The Lattice recognizes lifecycle progression. We call it ‘life happens,’” says Katie. “With the Lattice, you can step across in a way that will fit your life.”

Authentic Shared Decision Making

When discussing the final stages of implementation, the sparkle in Katie’s and Pam’s eyes shows clearly the excitement of seeing the PLAN come to fruition. “The engagement of the task force was incredible,” says Pam, as the two rave about the commitment of the 24 volunteer members from across the system and their tireless efforts. In fact, during the fast-track development of the PLAN, the task force held forums with 400 nurses, researched programs at Magnet organizations across the country and forged forward with development.

“This was true shared decision making,” says Katie. “As co-chairs, we set guidelines and time frames, but they made it happen.”

Katie and Pam describe nursing as a true calling. “In nursing, you touch other people’s lives, even when you don’t know it. You make a difference, and I feel honored to be in this field,” says Pam. And now, after collectively more than 40 years of career life at Emory Healthcare, Katie and Pam are also honored by their roles in the Lattice, an effort that ensures that rejoicing over life at Emory Healthcare is never just a reflection on the past, but a tribute to the present.