Real Life Nursing: Lauren Smith Guided by Love for People, Learning

Real Life Nursing: Lauren Smith Guided by Love for People, LearningLauren Smith, MSN, RN, CMSRN, network director of nursing, Medical-Surgical Services, Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist High Point Medical Center, joined the organization in 2007 as a certified nursing assistant. Today, she oversees the daily operations for the medical-surgical division. This includes maintaining an overall big-picture view of the departments, with an organizational perspective that aligns with our mission, vision and values.

Why did you choose to become a nurse?

 When I was a teenager, I was heavily involved in my church’s youth group. One of my youth leaders was working her way through nursing school. I was fascinated by her stories and was inspired to learn about the medical field. I come from a family of pastors, so the love of people was always a priority in our house. I developed a love for helping people, and when it came down to choosing a career path, the nursing field was a natural fit. I consider it a great honor to be present for someone who is ill during his or her time of need.

Why did you choose Wake Forest Baptist?

 As a nursing assistant with no experience, High Point Medical Center was the only hospital that would give me an opportunity. I lived only a few minutes from the hospital but admittedly did not know much about the facility. I was looking for a chance to learn and to grow, and they offered me that chance. After I began working here, I was quickly introduced to the wonderful people that we have and the way in which we strive for excellence in patient care. I am so thankful for the circumstance that led me here.

What has kept you here so long?

 Honestly, High Point Medical Center is family. During the past 15 years, there have been a few times when I thought about seeking employment elsewhere, but the wonderful people and relationships here are what kept me. I have been encouraged to grow in nursing and in leadership. I truly believe that ours is an organization in which leaders want to see individuals succeed. When I first graduated from nursing school, I did not aspire to be a nursing leader; I just wanted to take care of patients. However, I was inspired by transformational leaders and sought to push myself, further my education and move into an area of nursing that allowed me to have a greater impact.

Tell me about a challenge you’ve faced during your career and how it has helped you cope during tough times.

 I assumed my responsibilities as director of nursing in March 2020, so I was very new in the role when the COVID-19 pandemic began. The pandemic created unique challenges for health care workers and leaders. Although we felt like we were being hit on every side, the teamwork and resilience of our staff is what pushed me through. We had to think in new ways. We had to staff our departments in a different way. We had to act and react quickly, and we witnessed evidence-based practice in action as we moved through the care and treatment of COVID-19 patients. For this reason, I know that no matter what challenges face us in the future, we can get through them with mutual respect, support, encouragement and teamwork. That makes me proud of our organization.

What makes a nursing career successful?

 A successful nursing career is one in which the nurse is in a continual state of learning and growing as he or she offers care to the sick patients in our community. A successful nursing leader is one who instills confidence, knowledge and belief in others. One of the things I have always loved about nursing is the wide variety of career options available. No matter what stage of life a nurse may be in, the opportunities in nursing are versatile.

What would you say to a colleague who may be thinking about leaving Wake Forest Baptist?

 As a nursing leader, I have seen teammates leave the organization to go elsewhere. I have also witnessed many come back to the hospital, often saying that they wanted to “come home.” Although there are many different recruitment tactics being used in health care right now, the rapport and sense of community that is established at High Point Medical Center is something special. We care for our patients, and we care for each other. I can’t ask for more than that.