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Q&A with Jennifer Woods of McLaren Northern Michigan

by Sean Ruck, Contributing Editor | November 19, 2021
Jennifer Woods
From the November 2021 issue of HealthCare Business News magazine

Vice president of patient care services and chief nursing officer Jennifer Woods, has been with McLaren Northern Michigan for 21 years. She spoke with HealthCare Business News to detail what’s led to her history with the organization and the innovative work McLaren continues to push today.

HCB News: Who or what inspired you to pursue a career in healthcare?
Jennifer Woods: I actually knew I wanted to go into nursing at age 14. I remember being a freshman in high school and my parents were always teaching me to think ahead in life. I happened upon an article that was talking about neonatal nursing. I remember being really drawn to what they were doing, the differences they were making in the lives of those tiny little people and the important work they were doing. I turned to my mom and told her, “This is what I want to do.” And I knew it from that point.

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Being in nursing school and learning all of the roles of nursing and our influence in healthcare broadened that for me. I did not go into neonatal nursing; however, I actually changed over to adult critical care and that’s where I started my career. I could see early on the privilege it was to care for people in their most vulnerable times and how important those moments are to their long-term health and well-being.

HCB News: What drew you to McLaren Northern Michigan?
JW: We had family in Northern Michigan. When we moved and we were just starting our family, I did look at other organizations. But I can tell you, it was palpable. When I walked into this organization, I could feel the community atmosphere, the welcoming of the colleagues, and the engagement. I worked in several large facilities, which were amazing as well, but I always felt the difference. I felt when I walked in the door how engaged everyone was. It opened my mind to the possibilities.

HCB News: During your time in healthcare, have you seen an improvement in collaborative practices — nurses and support teams having more of a say for example?
JW: Yes, I have seen it advance. I’ve felt very fortunate in my career to always be valued and respected for what I could contribute. That said, as healthcare professionals, I think we have gotten better at recognizing all of the professional roles and their expertise and the contributions they provide to driving outcomes for our patients. Even within our academic institutions, we’ve started to teach that way. We’ve learned we can get better outcomes for patients when we have that multidisciplinary approach. We’re able to think collaboratively, set goals, improve best practices and enhance each other’s skills and abilities. Over time, there’s been better recognition of that, and I see it throughout our organization on a daily basis.

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