Imagine being responsible for the nursing practices and patient care provided at three different hospitals by hundreds of employees on a 24/7 basis. Add to that, balancing a work life and a family life with three children, including a 10 and 12 year-old.
“To me, it all comes down to teamwork, engagement and leadership,” says Angie Longing, MHSM, BSN, RN, NE-BC, who serves as the chief nursing officer for Conway Regional Health System, CHI-St. Vincent in Morrilton and for the Dardanelle Regional Medical Center. In all she is responsible for approximately 900 clinical employees.
Longing was recognized as Administrator of the Year during the annual North Metro Healthcare Awards ceremony in February. The award recognizes and honors a member of a health care company’s leadership team who is dedicated to organizational quality, empowers his or her staff and team, and has a passion for improving the community they serve. Longing says she developed her own engaging, servant-leadership style from a number of role models over her 25-year career.
“Servant leaders share power and put the needs of the employees first and that helps people develop and perform as highly as possible,” adds Longing. Servant leadership inverts the norm, which puts the customer service associates as a main priority. Longing says, “Instead of the people working to serve the leader, the leader exists to serve the people.”
“I have served under many leaders during my career, but the best ones have always been fair and consistent, as well as realistic,” says Longing. “I think the most important thing is to listen to your team and understand where they are coming from. You can’t meet every request or demand, but the follow up is important. Helping the whole team understand the why behind the decisions is so imperative.”
Longing has worked in almost every patient care position from floor nursing to upper level management. She was introduced to health care as a patient care tech at Arkansas Children’s Hospital in Little Rock. Her first nursing job was as a registered nurse at what was formerly St. Anthony’s Medical Center in Morrilton. Longing achieved a bachelor of science in nursing from the University of Central Arkansas and a master’s degree in health science management as she worked her way into the management team at CHI-St. Vincent. She was named chief nursing officer and vice president of patient care services in June of 2016 for Conway Regional Health System.
At Conway Regional, she is responsible for about 600 clinical employees and now has taken on chief nursing officer for CHI-St. Vincent Morrilton and Dardanelle Regional Medical Center, which is currently managed by Conway Regional.
She is responsible for ensuring the quality of the nursing practices and patient care and is accountable for meeting budgetary goals for patient care at all three medical facilities. However, Longing’s primary goal is to foster a relationship of mutual trust and respect among the staff.
She says, “I seek to encourage and motivate others to be their very best. I believe in and support personal development and building a strong team that can face obstacles and challenges. It’s important to keep a strong, positive culture in each organization as that’s what drives employee engagement and, ultimately, patient satisfaction.”
She relies on a close-knit team of nurses and support staff to overcome the numerous challenges facing today’s nursing force. The latest challenge for Conway Regional is achieving a Magnet Designation for nursing. A site review is pending in April for the highly-acclaimed national designation. If approved, Conway Regional will be only the third nursing Magnet hospital in Arkansas.
“The process is transformational,” says Longing. “This is not an overnight process, but it is a true story of how your organization embraces evidence based practice and implements the ideas and recommendations from front line nursing. It’s very important to me that nurses know that they have a voice and can influence how they practice each and every day.”
Q: Do you have any words of advice for aspiring career women and nurses?
A: “Do what makes you happy and follow your calling. If you are a nurse who loves patient care and wants to be on the front line, then continue to provide direct care. If you feel led to manage your practice, find ways to gain leadership skills. Nursing leadership is not for the faint of heart. The nurse manager job is hands down one of the hardest jobs there is in health care as you are still so close to patient care as well as dealing with all of the responsibilities of staffing, payroll, budget, etc. One of the ways that health care often fails leaders is taking a good front line employee and promoting them to leadership without coaching and training. Ensure that you are getting what you need as a leader and asking for feedback is critical for success. I would also advise people to be bold, exceptional, and answer the call. This is the Conway Regional promise, and I feel it could be applied in any setting.”
Q; How do you imagine the role of nurses as we move into the 2020s? What types of skills will they need?
A: “Nurses today need to be multi-dimensional. With the development of electronic medical records and roles that require data skills (such as quality, nursing informatics, etc.), it is even more critical that nurses have computer and data skills. While patient interaction is very important, we now require even more of our nurses. They must chart electronically, understand orders, handle family issues and still deliver personal, individual care. The role of nursing is more difficult than it has ever been but also more impactful. Our patients and their families, more often than not, spend more time with the nurses than any other caregiver. It is important that our nurses can easily adapt from interpersonal communication skills to documentation, organizational and time management skills to ensure quality patient care.”
Q: Is nursing still a fulfilling career?
A: “There is great fulfillment in nursing. The beauty of being a nurse is you get to experience a mixture of faith and science. I am very interested in how modern medicine techniques have progressed during my own nursing career, but I have also witnessed true miracles that could only happen by the hand of God. For this reason, I believe that preventive care is very important, but I also believe that the hands that care for our patients are gifted and blessed by God. I pray for our health care workers daily as I believe they truly are God’s instruments each and every day.”