Like anyone else starting a new job, Ginger Carroll hoped for a smooth transition when she began in January as the new chief executive officer of Citrus Memorial Hospital in Inverness, Florida.
However, Carroll was confronted with a global pandemic only a few weeks after her first day on the job. Instead of easing into her new role, she had to oversee her hospital’s response to the coronavirus outbreak, which has overwhelmed health care facilities around the world.
“I can tell you that the virus certainly interrupted my six-month plan of what I was going to do at the hospital,” said Carroll, a Greensboro native who earned her Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree from UNC Greensboro in 1977. “Some of the goals that we had set forth in the first 60 days that I was here sort of got interrupted.”
Carroll said this year’s graduating class of nursing students from UNCG are about to enter a work environment unlike anything she has ever seen before because of COVID-19. Today is International Nurses Day and the 200th birthday of Florence Nightingale, the founder of modern nursing.
When Carroll graduated from UNCG, she aspired to work as a critical care nurse in a high-intensity area. She was the first member of her family to enter the health care industry, and after years as a bedside nurse, she moved into a leadership position as a nurse executive.
Now a hospital CEO for the past 16 years, Carroll has a unique perspective on what graduating students can expect once they start working as nurses during a pandemic.
“The first thing I would say to them is trust your education,” Carroll said. “These new nurse grads, they spent four years learning how to care for patients and how to care for themselves and how to prevent illness. And so, they just need to understand that they’ve got this. They’ve been well-trained. They’ve been to an excellent school, and they just need to trust their education.”
Carroll has had to quickly adjust as new information about the coronavirus has been made available and testing for COVID-19 has improved. She said she has changed her plans on an almost daily basis, all while a steady flow of patients have arrived at Citrus Memorial Hospital with coronavirus-like symptoms.
“I can’t recall anything that has happened that health care executives nationally have had to deal with that has been any greater than the impact of this virus,” Carroll said. “Of course, we’ve had disasters. We had tornadoes. We had hurricanes. We had devastating events that have affected pockets of places, but I can’t recall anything that has had such a profound national impact as this event.”
Carroll said new nurses should expect their leadership to be transparent. She has tried to “overcommunicate” with team members at her hospital in central Florida, letting them know about what they might expect.
At the same time, Carroll stressed this year’s nursing graduates must be able to adjust on the fly to deal with the ever-changing public health crisis.
“They also need to be flexible. You just get out of school and you think ‘OK, I need to do these things in this order. This is where I’m going to work,’” Carroll said. “We don’t know what the new norm is going to look like for us. We do know this virus is going to continue for months in our community, and we’re going to continue to see people coming in with illness. But new nurses need to be flexible to change because new information is coming out all the time.”
The School of Nursing offers a Master of Science in Nursing degree with a concentration in Nursing Administration. Students take courses about leadership and management skills essential in health care. Click this link for more information about the program.
Story by Alex Abrams, School of Nursing
Photo courtesy of Citrus Memorial Hospital