Real Life Nursing: Leah Payne, Grateful to be Part of Something Bigger

Leah Payne

Leah Payne, BSN, RN, nurse manager for both Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist Urology - Charlois and Urology - Wilkes joined Wake Forest Baptist in 2003. While her primary focus is ensuring a safe environment for patients and staff, Leah’s responsibilities are multifaceted. They include managing clinic flow and initiatives to increase access, stabilize work culture, improve patient satisfaction, build team engagement, sharpen budgeting and boost teammate education.

Why did you choose to become a nurse?

I was looking for a career where I could earn one degree and have multiple options for diverse job pathways and nursing offered so many varied job roles. I could have changed positions every two years and not come close to doing them all before I retired. Once I was in school, I fell in love with the service I provided to others, not only to patients, but as part of a care team that constantly worked together to solve patient or system issues, which allowed me to mentor others. I was hooked!

Why did you choose Wake Forest Baptist?

Wake Forest Baptist’s reputation for taking on the most complex cases and never turning anyone away was a huge draw. The way caring is valued here and the passion behind it was something I wanted to be a part of. In addition, our academic medical center works hard to develop patient-relevant research to set the standards of care. The organization offers a nursing education team that dedicates their time to orientation, growing individuals at their own pace and keeping staff up to date on best practices. Plus, our nursing leadership cares about our ongoing education and wants to help us succeed in our career trajectory.

What has kept you here so long? 

That culture of education and safety remain. I have enjoyed the latitude to grow as a nurse and as a leader. I have always felt like I could call on any of our executives for assistance. It’s a respectful but comfortable environment to learn, solve problems and succeed. I have been pleased with the continued commitment by the organization to create and maintain a culture of civility. In addition, I believe we have leaders with the foresight to match nurse managers and their teams to fit their personalities and abilities for both organizational success and personal achievement.

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

Many pivotal moments in my career have reminded me that I choose the correct path for the opportunity to serve. However, the one experience that changed my attitude happened about my 13th year into nursing. I was just tired. Nursing can be an emotional drain. Sometimes it just feels like it’s never enough. My nurse manager recognized skills and characteristics in me that I wasn’t bringing to the table. She started having small, meaningful conversations with me throughout the weeks that followed about my ability to nurture and mentor the new nurses. She made the comment that stepping up and taking them under my wing was helping to shape the next generation of nurses. It was like a light bulb went off; I was contributing in a way that would determine patient outcomes far longer than just my 12-hour shift. My thinking changed from I’ve “got” to do something to I “get” to do something. The mindset of gratitude and of being part of something bigger renewed my purpose and my passion to be all in. I believe my strong sense of purpose and having a grateful mindset helped me cope with all the challenges COVID-19 has presented. Each day is a new adventure to be part of change. 

What makes a nursing career successful? 

  • The ability to be flexible, adaptable and personable
  • Having a thirst for knowledge
  • Knowing your purpose and having a desire for service 
  • Accepting that being a nurse is not an easy undertaking, but the rewards are boundless