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WGU Grad Helps Small-town Hospital Avoid Closure

Jan 6, 2020


After working in the hustle and bustle of a busy emergency room, Sarah thought her experience in a smaller hospital with just three other nurses would be slower-paced. But she was quickly proven wrong.

“The smaller the hospital, the more talented the nurses are,” she said with a smile.

Military orders prompted Sarah and her family to move from Fort Hood, Texas, to a small town in Alabama. On day one at her new job as the Director of Nursing, Sarah learned that the hospital was going to be closed for noncompliance in just 28 days. The hospital was struggling with federal compliance and wouldn’t be eligible for Medicare and Medicaid funding, and with 85% of the patient population enrolled in Medicare or Medicaid, being noncompliant meant the hospital would be shut down.

Her first few days of work were filled with a lot of meetings with consultants, lawyers, and the board of directors to try to prove compliance so they could get funding.

Sarah said her master’s degree in nursing leadership and management from WGU was key in preparing her for this situation. As a staff nurse, she’d never had to deal with these kinds of things before. The policies and procedures of a hospital are often unnoticed and things are worked on behind the scenes. But now Sarah had to jump in and be ready to help the facility become compliant. Her degree had given her the skills she needed to be able to take action right away.

“When I got thrown into that situation, I was able to apply the stuff that I’d learned, even though I didn’t know where my office was at that point,” she laughed.

Twenty-eight days later, the Alabama State Department of Health spent three days combing over everything they had developed, and they determined that the hospital could stay open.

Sarah and her team had helped save the hospital.

Sarah said she felt a huge sense of pride in her community after they were able to help the hospital stay open. She now feels even more passionately about rural healthcare opportunities since she’s witnessed the reality first hand. 

“The people that are in the rural areas deserve access to healthcare just like they do in a big city,” she said.

Moving to a small town changed Sarah’s life. And now she has no plans to leave; she has created a wonderful life there and wants her family to stay there forever.

“It's a place that you never think you'll end up. But once you're here, you don't want to leave,” she added with a smile.

Sarah started getting her degree from WGU before moving to Alabama, and she never could have imagined how much she would need it once she got there. To Sarah, WGU was vital for her at that time in her life, but it’s also vital for her future and her community’s future.

Sarah said WGU helps students by giving them the chance to attend school online. She said it was the perfect fit for her when she wanted to get her degree but was working and being a mom at the same time. 

“I think programs like WGU are extremely important, especially when you're in a rural area or somewhere that doesn't offer what you want or what you need and have the flexibility,” she finished.

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