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WGU Graduate Speaker, Sarah Aronack, Winter 2016

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WGU Graduate Speaker, Sarah Aronack, Winter 2016
Western Governors University
<p>When military spouse and veteran Sarah Aronack took over as Director of Nursing at a small rural hospital in Lower Alabama—a hospital that provided crucial services to a poverty-stricken community she had grown to love—the things she learned at WGU helped her rescue the hospital from losing its federal funding and shutting down.</p> <p>Sarah Aronack earned her Master of Science, Nursing - Leadership and Management.</p> <p>Transcription of video:</p> <p>Imagine a community in a remote location whose primary access to hospital care is provided by a facility conveniently located within their own community, with the next closest option being over 20 miles away. For many of us, 20 miles might not seem like a very big deal, but then taking these other factors into consideration, it becomes one. The population of this community has 43 percent of their elderly living in poverty, 54 percent of their children living in poverty, which is further complicated by an illiteracy rate of over 32 percent. Any one of these factors can easily make 20 miles feel like 2,000 miles in an instant.</p> <p>While these circumstances may seem foreign to you, something that might be happening in another country, I'm here to tell you, that this is taking place right now, in this country, and in my own backyard. Now contemplate the possibility that this same facility, serving this rural population for over 60 years, is on the verge of shutting down with very little notice 30 days' notice to be exact. Wouldn't it be amazing if you were an agent of change, empowered with the potential to assist in preventing this closure from happening?</p> <p>I had that opportunity just a few short months ago, thanks to my education at Western Governors University. Essentially, WGU helped me to help a rural community save access to local, quality health care.</p> <p>Being a veteran of the United States military, who served nearly a decade, I received a plethora of training that has been of use to me in my civilian life as well. After completing my service, I married a soldier who is now in his 18th year with the Army. We have made plenty of moves over the years, with the most recent being to the LA area. For most of you, LA is equated with living in California. In the Army, however, LA has a completely different meaning. For those of us living the Army aviation life it means Fort Rucker located in lower Alabama. [Laughter]</p> <p>Having grown up in South Dakota, you would think I was accustom to rural living, but it did not prepare for life in LA. Now the people here are some of the kindest, most generous, hard working individuals I have ever met. Unfortunately, because of their rural location, there are few options, especially when it comes to their health care. Facilities are significant distances from one another, and specialty services are even farther from a community.</p> <p>For example, if your child needs specialty pediatric care, you'll be required to transport them three hours to the nearest facility. Dealing with multiple socioeconomic challenges including living well below the poverty line, and having no access to quality local health care can be crippling for a family.</p> <p>During the final semester of my masters in nursing leadership and management program at WGU, I closed the chapter of being a charge nurse in the emergency department. I pursued something more in line with what I had been studying. Initially, due to our rural location, and lack of facilities, I thought that finding a master's level position would be near impossible. What I quickly learned however, was that a significant number of jobs existed, but again, few options existed in health care for employers seeking a master prepared nurse.</p> <p>I accepted a director of nursing position, with the previously mentioned facility, with the stipulation my MSN would be finished shortly after my employment started. I accepted the position because the CEO was passionate for the hospital, and for the community. I felt that even though I had more lucrative offers at other facilities, I could better be fulfilled in more important ways at this small community hospital, and an integral part of their stride toward positive changes.</p> <p>Little did I know how much change would be needed. I immediately began working to improve processes and procedures within the facility because the hospital was at risk of losing federal funding. There was only a 30 day window to formulate, initiate, and implement corrective measures. For a small hospital whose patient base is largely covered by federal funds, this meant that our operations would completely cease, and the hospital would be shut down, leaving the community with no local hospital access.</p> <p>The severity of the situation was not lost on me because I was a new employee. I actually found it more worrisome as it was my second day on the job when I found out this information, and I had already felt a connection and obligation to the community to succeed in my new role.</p> <p>Ultimately the seeming impossible task was successfully completed by a small team I was part of, and proud to be a part of. The importance of this facility in the community was our universal driving force behind the hard work and determination that we put forth. On a personal level, I know without a doubt that my capstone project was based on and followed this rapid improvement process, helped to save this hospital.</p> <p>The education I received in my master's program at WGU provided the knowledge base I needed to develop and implement a quality improvement process that continues to be used, and allows the hospital to remain compliant with federal regulations, fully accredited, and open for service.</p> <p>WGU allowed this military veteran, military spouse, full time nurse, and mother of two boys under the age of five, not only to complete my master's degree, but to do so a year ahead of schedule. Without this school, not only would my education have been nearly impossible, but so would my ability to have successfully helped to save this rural hospital in a community that I have grown to love. For these reasons I will forever be thankful for all that WGU gave me and continues to give me, which is far more than just a simple diploma.</p> <p>[Applause]</p>
Western Governors University
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Original Format: 
Commencement Video
Digital Format: 
MP4 (Moving Picture Experts Group)