The women in leadership for Appalachian Regional Healthcare are a diverse group of strong, accomplished, intelligent women. Despite having these characteristics in common, each of them is unique, taking on a completely different set of responsibilities and challenges when they walk through the doors of ARH each day. From administrative responsibilities, to nursing and caring for patients, to the creation of new initiatives allowing ARH’s reach to grow, these women are nothing short of incredible.
For over 30 years Ellen Wright has worked for ARH in a number of nursing positions, from student nurse to ICU staff nurse, Community Chief Nursing Officer and Community CEO at Whitesburg ARH and now System Chief Nursing Officer and Vice President of Nursing for ARH. According to Ellen, in this position she provides assistance, oversite, development and implementation of all nursing services including policy procedure, education, staffing, implementation of new processes and evaluation of care that is provided. She works with the board of trustees, medical staff and all other departments to help coordinate care across the system.
Ellen boasts an impressive collegiate resume. Soon after graduating from high school she began classes to become an LPN and worked in that position for four years. She then attended Hazard Community and Technical College where she earned her Registered Nursing License. Finally, she earned her Master’s Degree in Nursing and her Family Nurse Practitioner Certification from the University of Kentucky.
“I think my interest in nursing started with my grandmother who lived with us,” Ellen says. “She had a lot of health conditions, so I helped my mother take care of her. Seeing the struggle my mother went through caring for her really motivated and inspired me to want to help others. Having resources and nursing professionals in our community to help care for family is really invaluable.”
As System Chief Nursing Officer, Ellen does not interact with patients in the same capacity she did as a staff nurse. While she loves working with patients to offer the best care possible, she was interested in advancing her career to make a larger impact at ARH. As she advanced to nursing leadership for ARH she had the chance to learn more about the various nursing roles throughout the system, other disciplines, and how they work to improve the quality of care across the continuum.
“My favorite thing about working for ARH is the people I work with,” she says. “They all have such a heart for their family, friends, neighbors and each other. It’s a very caring organization and their mission aligns with my goals, to improve health, making our community a better place.”
Talking to any ARH employee it is clear, this organization loves each other and the community with everything they have. Ellen says ARH employees care for their patients as if they are their own family.
“I respect my coworkers so much because I know when they’re at work they’re there for the patient, regardless of their personal trials,” she says. “They go above and beyond what they’re expected to do. I’ve seen staff take money out of their own pocket to give to a patient’s family, I’ve seen them bring back food when they go out for their lunch break, I’ve even seen staff visit funeral homes because they grew so close to a patient. It’s just part of the culture and the very reason I love them.”
Working in the medical field for over 30 years, Ellen understands the importance of having strong mentors to lean on for guidance and advice. She is proud to say she has had many different mentors throughout her life and has learned something important from each of them.
“Of course I have spiritual leaders, but I also have people who are my cheerleaders, like my mother who always said I could do anything I set my mind to and my father whose work ethic and love for others I admired,” she says. “I had nursing leaders like Geraldine McDonald, who was the epitome of nursing leadership. She always wanted to do what was best for the patient. As a staff nurse I always felt like she supported me and had my back. My goal was always to be a leader like her.”
Ellen is able to maintain a work-life balance thanks to the loving support of her husband Tim, son Taylor and daughter-in-law Kristen, who are also part of the nursing community, and two granddaughters McKenzie and Alivia. Ellen’s free time is spent with her granddaughters, working with her church’s youth ministry, being outdoors and traveling with her husband.
Her career is a prime example of the type of growth and development available in this field. When asked what advice she had to offer to a young woman interested in entering the healthcare field, she had this to say:
“It is absolutely the land of opportunity. There are so many options and there are always jobs available.”