As a bright-eyed nurse fresh out of school, Nadine Streleski-Flanders already knew something that some of her seasoned colleagues hadn’t figured out yet: that a nursing career offers much more than roles in bedside care.
“When I was looking into nursing, [I saw] there was the opportunity to do so many different things,” she says. “I was fascinated by the different avenues you could take.”
Getting her feet wet
With that in the back of her mind, Streleski-Flanders began her career of caring for others. After she completed her internship at Women and Children’s Hospital of Buffalo in her native New York, she had her pick of jobs, but she chose to continue on the path she had started.
“It offered me the two areas that interested me most: women’s health and pediatrics,” she says.
She worked in high-risk obstetrics before deciding to challenge herself with a new role. “I was trying to keep babies in, and six years later I went to the NICU (neonatal intensive care unit),” she says. “I went from big people to one-to-two pounders.”
She relished the opportunity to grow in her profession. “I come across colleagues who find an area they like right at the beginning, and they stay there and never leave,” she says. “I think to myself what an opportunity I had to go from women’s health to the NICU—to be able to learn something and to apply some of the information I already knew.”
Sharing her knowledge
After a dozen years, though, what was new and exciting was no longer enough of a challenge for Streleski-Flanders. “I still really enjoyed the babies, but the routine of bedside care wasn’t stimulating enough for me,” she remembers. “I just needed to have a little more. I was ready to spread my wings.”
One of her favorite parts of her job had been sharing her knowledge with the new nurses, helping them gain their footing in their chosen career. With that in mind, Streleski-Flanders became the clinical nursing educator for the NICU. She had never been an instructor before, but that didn’t stop her from embracing her new role.
“I enjoyed working with the new nurses, introducing them truly to the world of nursing and being one of the first faces they saw going into their career,” she says. “I wanted to do a good job and be that coach and mentor so they could flourish. I loved seeing them change as they moved along.”
A student once again
Over the years, Streleski-Flanders had toyed with the idea of returning to school to pursue a master’s degree and continue to grow in her knowledge, but the timing had never been quite right. Several years after she and her husband adopted a daughter from Vietnam, though, everything fell into place.
“I felt it would be a good example for her to see me going through school and doing more,” she explains. “I set the expectation for her to get her master’s or doctorate, so I had better live by that example, as well.”
When it came to selecting a degree program, “I didn’t want to pigeonhole myself,” she admits. She opted for a dual program in which she could earn a Master of Science in Nursing along with a Master of Business Administration with a Concentration in Health Care Management. She earned her degrees in 2012.
Another new challenge
Management of the hospital took notice of her professional development and accomplishments. Two months after she graduated, they approached her to apply for the manager of labor and delivery position. When she went to meet with the chief nursing officer (CNO) about the job, though, her career took a new turn. Rather than hiring her for that position, the CNO created a brand-new one designed around Streleski-Flanders’ strengths.
“She said, ‘You are passionate about education and quality, and I think this is where you will thrive,’” recounts Streleski-Flanders.
She enthusiastically accepted the role of manager of clinical education for the entire five-hospital Kaleida Health system. After a short time, she was promoted to the senior director of nursing practice and education for Kaleida Health. In this role, she will focus her efforts on assessing the current orientation programs in the hospitals and standardizing them across the organization.
“I’m also responsible for clinical affiliations with different schools, both local and out of state, and I work closely with [the quality department] to ensure we are offering the most optimal nursing practices at our facilities,” she says. On top of these and other responsibilities, Streleski-Flanders served as interim CNO and vice president, another learning experience for a woman passionate about professional development.
Though she’s not in a bedside role anymore, Streleski-Flanders is right where she wants to be.
“I’m making sure patients get the best care by ensuring that those on the front lines are getting what they need to provide exceptional care,” she says. “If anything, I feel like I am doing more now, and I am very satisfied with that.”
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