Experienced nurse leader gains new tools


June 21, 2021
Heidi Sturm, MSN-NLH ('21)

I had been a nurse for close to 20 years and while I was confident in my nursing expertise, I identified a knowledge gap when it came to the business side of the healthcare industry. I chose to go back to school and thought an online MBA would be the perfect program for me to fill that gap. When I started, I knew I would need some help, but the program I chose offered very little assistance and had an expectation that students could navigate the program without much support. After many difficult nights, I made the decision to withdraw from the program.

Before I allowed myself to make that change, I needed another plan, so I started researching new options. I learned about Organizational Leadership, it appealed to me and that is when I found Gonzaga! I chose Gonzaga for its proud heritage, outstanding reputation and its proximity to my home in Montana. Mostly I chose the school for the focus on servant-leadership, the on-campus immersion classes and the study-abroad opportunities.

After enrolling in the M.A. in Organizational Leadership (ORGL) program, I discovered Gonzaga’s robust online graduate nursing programs and became intrigued by the MSN in Nursing Leadership in Healthcare (MSN-NLH). After careful consideration, I wanted to change to the MSN-NLH program because of the focus on healthcare leadership. I was unsure of myself and my decision, so I reached out to make a human connection. My advisor, Jennifer Garrity, the director of the MSN-NLH program at the time, met with me and helped me map out my program, patiently answered my questions and continues to encourage me to this day.

One of the reasons I decided to change my degree was because I needed a program that provided immediately applicable content that would help me make an impact for my team. I am the Executive Director of Acute Care Services at Logan Health. My coursework helped me to understand my resources, integrate decision-making based on evidence, monitor quality outcomes, all while giving me tools to connect with my peers. All my coursework was perfectly timed. I took the finance class in budget season, which produced some tools for staffing decisions. Foundations of Leadership exposed me to several different leadership styles, affirming for me my approach. Listen, Discern and Decide occurred when I was contemplating a major change and the tools provided helped me clarify my path forward.

The nursing classes offered me functional skills as a nurse leader that I apply every day. The ORGL classes provided rich conversations with leaders outside healthcare and a greater understanding of the common challenges all organizations face. All the classes created an opportunity to learn more about myself as a servant-leader and provided a foundation for growth.

While getting my online MSN-NLH during a pandemic seemed like a daunting task, it has given me a structured place of respite. Some days, it is the only thing I do for myself. The program has challenged me, encouraged me, and given me language for what I have always known intuitively. I have found like-minded leaders, for which I am eternally grateful.

Gonzaga has enhanced my command of healthcare as an industry, assisted me in filling a self-identified knowledge gap and provided me with a rigorous education that will help me take the next steps in my career. More importantly, Gonzaga provided the form and structure to continue to grow in my community. I am a servant-leader at my core. In my experience this approach to leadership is rare and can be very challenging, but Gonzaga has shown me I am not alone in being a servant-leader. Others approach life and leadership the same way I do, and I now have new tools to use as I lead in my organization and continue my leadership journey.

I will be a proud alum of Gonzaga when I graduate in December of this year. I have grown professionally, personally and spiritually at Gonzaga and the university has provided me a place where I feel I belong. I highly recommend it to anyone pursuing greater understanding and knowledge.

Explore Gonzaga's online graduate program options.