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Oral History Interview with Jayne Willis, Chief Nurse Executive for Orlando Health

Good morning, my name is Jayne McMahan Willis and I was born in Chicago, Illinois in July of 1960… my father was an engineer and when I was one years old he relocated with a job to Orlando, Florida. He worked for General Electric initially and then worked for Martin Marietta which is now Lockheed Martin… I like to tell people I’m a native even though I was one year old when I moved here…

LISTEN  Part I of V (19:14)

What are your early memories of our community?

Well, we grew up on Bear Lake. My parents had a house on Bear Lake and my earliest memories were playing in the lakes of Central Florida and boating. 

What did your mother do for a living?

Well, my mother was a stay at home mother. She had four children. But when I was in fourth or fifth grade my dad wanted a new boat so my mother decided that we were old enough that she could take on some temporary work and she went back to school and brushed up on her shorthand and typing skills and took a job with Kelly Girls. And the first job that she got was when the Walt Disney Company came to Central Florida and was planning to make a video to announce to the community that they were building the Magic Kingdom. And so, she worked on that project and after she finished it she was offered a job with Walt Disney Company. She started off a long career there which really benefited her four children because we grew up amongst the Disney Parks and going to work with my mother in the summers.

Executive Assistant to Bob Matheson, Vice President of Operations at Walt Disney World

I can remember packing my bathing suit and she would take us to work. And she ended up being an executive assistant. Her last job at Walt Disney World was to be the executive assistant to Bob Matheson, who was the vice president of operations. But early on she was secretarial support in the security department, and so we had a little bit of leeway because the security guards knew us and we could go behind the scenes. But we would ride to work with her and we would pack our bathing suits and we would spend a little bit of time in the Magic Kingdom and then we would get on the monorail and go swim at either the Contemporary or the Polynesian.

Walt Disney World Tour Guide

And so, certainly by the time we got to the age where we could be employed, all four of us children ended up working at Disney World. And because my mother had a lot of connections working there, she was able to get me an interview to be a Walt Disney World Tour Guide which was a very prestigious position for a young 16 year old. Most of the tour guides that they selected had to speak more than one language so they could tour the foreign visitors. But I was not bilingual. I only spoke English. But I was able to get a job and was sent to the Disney University for a month. Had to memorize a three hour spiel, had a lot of etiquette training, and learned a lot and became a tour guide. And then later, a VIP Tour Guide at Disney. And I really credit those early years of experience with my ability to understand customer experiences. And, you know, I worked a lot in guest services… felt comfortable with public speaking, so I really felt that it gave me a great foundation for my role as a nurse executive now.        

How long did you work there?

Well, I started when I was 16 years old and so that would have been in 1976. And I remember it so well because it was the Bicentennial year and there were a lot of activities at the Magic Kingdom. A lot of amazing firework presentations, a lot of red, white, and blue. And so I worked summers, weekends, and holidays all through high school and then my parents had four children who were of college age, a big Catholic family. We were all pretty close in age when I graduated from high school, you know, my parents said, “You can go anywhere you want to college, but it has to be within the state boundaries because we’re not going to pay out of state tuition for four children.” 

A Disney Family

And so, I struggled because I really loved my job at Disney and thought about staying close, but, you know, wanted to grow up and move away. So the furthest I could get away was Tallahassee so I enrolled at Florida State University. But I would come home every holiday and summer and I kept my job. The status we called “casual temporary” at Disney at the time and you could work as a CT worker. And they were always busy during the holidays so they loved when the college kids come home. And so I continued through my four year baccalaureate program working for Walt Disney. I remember when I graduated from nursing school that one of my biggest disappointments was knowing that I couldn’t be a nurse at Disney. They had a first aid, but it wasn’t going to be the best use of the skills that I spent four years getting. And so, that’s when I stopped my employment there. But my mother continued to work there for many, many years, and so we’re considered a Disney family. My brother worked in the Jungle Cruise and I had one sister who was waterskiing Pinocchio. My oldest sister worked for the emporium on Main Street. So we were definitely a Disney family. We were brought up with Mickey Mouse.

How did you get started in nursing?

Well, it’s interesting. In high school I really liked my science teacher. He was one of the coolest teachers. And I went to Maynard Evans High School in Pine Hills. People are sometimes shocked when I tell them that. But I just went a couple of weekends ago to my 40th high school reunion; and great memories of growing up in that area. And there were a lot of families that worked at Martin Marietta at the time and Disney in the neighborhood Westwood where I grew up. And it was a wonderful childhood there. So when I went to Florida State University I was declared as a biology major because I loved this teacher in high school and we had learned CPR and all the bones in the body and I was just drawn to biology. But a couple years into the program, I started wondering what am I going to do as a career when I finish with a biology degree.

Nursing School

I was talking on the phone to my brother long distance in my dorm, and he always wanted to be a doctor and he was getting ready to start medical school. He had gone to FTU which is now University of Central Florida and was accepted to medical school at University of South Florida in Tampa. And he said to me, “You know Jayne, you should really think about nursing school.” And I can remember so clearly, I’m holding that phone, grabbing the curriculum from Florida State University and turning the pages to the nursing program and looking at the prerequisites and saying, “Mike, I have every single prerequisite for nursing school. And next thing I knew I was applying to the nursing program and was accepted. And I hate that story as a nurse because when I talk to colleagues they have these wonderful rich stories of always wanting to be a nurse and putting bandages on their dolls and, you know, dreaming of saving lives and I never had that. And so, I tell people I was an accidental nurse. I fell into the profession with a good science draw. But I never knew I wanted to be a nurse until I was actually in the program at Florida State University.

Florida State University

I loved Florida State University. It was a wonderful experience of moving away from home, and four and a half hours from Orlando seemed like another country. North Florida was so different. It was another climate and hillier than Orlando so I felt like I was far away, but just loved it. And I pledged a sorority. I was a Tri Delta. And to this day my Tri Delta Sorority sisters are my dearest, longest friends, so really rich relationships. But, most of the girls in my sorority were either in interior design or education. There was no one else in a nursing program. And so, I tended to be the academic one in my sorority. In fact, I became the scholarship chairman and I was responsible for making sure that my sorority sisters kept up their GPA. But the other thing was, is every time somebody didn’t feel well or maybe had partied a little bit too much the night before, I was the person that they would come and wake up and get out of bed for me to be the caregiver. So I ended up with my sorority sisters being the nurse amongst them; didn’t know very much as a student nurse.

Tri Delta House

But the Tri Delta House was on the opposite end of campus from the nursing school, and most of my sorority sisters would sleep to noon and lay out in the sun and register for later classes and I was the person getting up at the crack of dawn. We lived in a sorority house that had sleeping porches. And we had a little day room, but all of us slept in bunk beds in one big room that was dark and cool all hours of the day. And my alarm would go off at 5:30 or 6:00 in the morning. And my sorority sisters would get upset because I was having to get up early for 7 o’clock classes. And I would walk across a very hilly campus to the opposite side of the university and go to nursing school. And then when we started going to clinical trials where we would work at the hospital, we’d even have to get up earlier. So it was rigorous curriculum. Nursing school was not easy. A lot of late, late hours studying and preparing. I can remember hours of writing note cards with medications and backgrounds and researching the patients I had been assigned. And I would say I had friends that had been in nursing school working as nursing assistants or teenage volunteers in hospitals and I was scared to death. I had never had any exposure to health care. 

Baccalaureate Prepared Nurse vs. the Technical Nurse

I can remember standing outside as a student nurse in my little pinstripe student nurse outfit and taking slow deep breaths and trying to gain enough courage to walk in and interact with the patient. And I was petrified of the nursing instructors. They were very, very strict. We were inspected prior to starting clinicals to make sure that our shoes were polished, and that we were ironed and proper and a good representative of the school of nursing. And in those years there was a lot of focus on the baccalaureate prepared nurse being the professional nurse vs. the technical nurse. And so, we spent a lot of time in the classroom setting and I was very, very, very book smart, but we didn’t have a lot of clinical experiences. And I found that when I had my first job, that I could recite out of a book and I had a good theoretical knowledge base, but I didn’t have real strong clinical skills. I can remember learning a lot from nursing assistants and licensed practical nurses when I first started.

Professional Nurse Technician

But, I can recall my senior year of nursing school I was going to be home for the Christmas vacation and there was a recruiter on campus at Florida State University from Orlando Regional Medical Center. And they told me that they were going to pilot a new temporary job called the Professional Nurse Technician. And I think it was a recruiting effort of a way to get potential nurses for employment exposed to the organization. And so, they asked me if I would like to be a Professional Nurse Technician over the Christmas vacation and I took them up on it. And like I said, it was the semester before I graduated and I came to Orlando Regional Medical Center and was placed, I remember it was on 5C which was a medical unit at the time. There were a couple of nurses there that just took me under their wing and I learned more in those three weeks then I did, I think, as far as touching patients and having clinical interaction, then I did during clinicals for school. And so, I think it was right then that I realized that I would like to be employed for this hospital when I finish school. So I graduated on May 5, 1982 exactly four years after I graduated from high school, a very young naive nurse.

Jayne and her parents at her Florida State University nursing school graduation on May 5, 1982.

And I started my employment here May 24, 1982. So very shortly after I graduated I can remember my parents were – “You graduated, get a job.” There was no long break in between. So just weeks from the time I graduated, I was employed. 

8A at Orlando Regional Medical Center

And still to this day, remember meeting with the recruiter, and in those days they were eight hour shifts and day shift was a luxury. I mean you had to get in line to get a day shift 7 am to 3 pm job. And so, she told me, “I have a lot of different choices for night shift positions, 11 pm to 7 am in the morning. And I have one position open for the 3 pm to 11 pm shift in the evening.” And I said, “I’ll take that one.” And for some reason, I had a fear of working night shift, but 3 to 11 sounded wonderful because I would be able to sleep in a little bit and still get home at a decent hour.  And so she walked me over to 8A at Orlando Regional Medical Center which was the top floor and introduced me to Julie Stole, who was the head nurse at the time. And I met a couple of the other nurses and I ran into someone that I knew. Her name was Ava Armstrong and she and I had taken ballet lessons for many, many years together and she was a new nurse on that floor. And I thought I have a friend here, and I’ve found a home and I think this is going to be good. And it was a great visit. It was a surgical floor and it was the floor that all the surgical residents did their training on and so there was a little bit of a young social crowd and I really enjoyed it. But it was a scary time. You feel like, you know, it’s your first job and all of a sudden you’re in charge  of taking care of people’s health. So great memories.

LISTEN  Part II of V  (19:53)       

Did you belong to professional organizations during that time?

I did not. You know, I told you I started May 24 and I still didn’t have a license. At that time my title was graduate nurse. And what was interesting is that prior to 1982 when you sat for your State Board of Nursing, to get your license you took the boards in several sections. There was a section on med surge nursing. There was a section on pediatrics. There was a section on maternal healthcare. One on psychiatric nursing. And you could pass or fail different sections of the board and if you failed on one section you only had to take that section over, but eventually you had to pass all five sections.

State Boards at Tupperware Auditorium

When I graduated the state board had decided to combine and have one test and it was a pass or fail. So I took my boards that July after I took a review course and I can remember sitting for the boards for two days at the Tupperware Auditorium and I remember they were hard. And we would take breaks in between different sections of the test and come out and we would ask each other, “What did you put on that one?” And, you know, a lot of anxiety. Nowadays, students graduate from nursing programs they receive their paperwork. They take the computerized boards and they have their results that same day if not shortly after. So I took my boards, if I recall correctly, sometime in July, and it took me eight or nine months to get the results. Because they had not determined any of the norms for passing and which questions were valid and statistically correct so they had to settle all that up to decide who was going to pass or fail.   

Jayne McMahan, Florida State University Graduate Nurse, 1982.         

I was living with my parents still at that time and they have a long driveway and every day I would wake up and I would walk down that driveway and wait for the mailman and I went back and forth and back and forth. And I developed a friendship with the mailman. And he would tell me every day, “Not here yet, not here yet.” So it was torturous. I really wanted to be able to use the title registered nurse and you could not call yourself a registered nurse until you’re licensed. So I was a graduate nurse for many, many months. And I had to work under the direction of a licensed nurse, but could still pass medications. I couldn’t administer blood. I couldn’t push any drugs intravenous, so there were some limitations to what I could do.

The 8th Floor

But I was able to get my legs underneath me and try to get some organizational skills down. It was a big patient load in those days. The eighth floor where I worked had about 40 patients and on most evenings when I worked three to eleven, there were only two registered nurses, two licensed practical nurses, and two nursing assistants. So we each took a side of the hall and you had to be really organized to run up and down those halls and make sure that you had all your medications passed. But it was a different time. Patients had very long length of stays. In fact, I tell people, I mentioned it was a surgical unit, if you came in to have your gall bladder removed, your length of stay was about ten days. Now, patients don’t stay overnight. They have their gall bladder removed laparoscopically and they go home the same day. So I don’t think the acuity of the patients was as high. You may have had one or two patients that were fresh post-op patients from that day, but a lot of the patients were further along in their recovery and more stable. But a lot of good memories.

Handwritten Charts

When I think about some of the differences, you know, everything was handwritten in the charts. And if you looked at the chart, the way that you could tell the time frames, we use military time in the hospital, but you could also tell by the color of ink. If you worked on the day shift you were to chart in blue or black ink. And I worked three to eleven so we used green colored ink and the night shift used red ink. And so, it was always a challenge to find green ink. And we had these pens that whenever I see them today it sends me back to the 80’s. We had these pens that had four colors: they had blue, black, green, and red on them and that was a nursing pen. And so, you really hung on to that pen because you needed that green ink. And that method of charting went away when we started photocopying and scanning medical records instead of storing paper. And the green and the red didn’t photoscan very well so we all went to black and blue ink. But that’s a great memory of charting in green.

Bed Pans and Sitz Baths

The other story I always tell young nurses is everything is disposable nowadays. And early on in my career, you didn’t have as much disposable equipment so everything was cleaned and reused. Our bedpans were metal and that just conjures up a lot of moments for me putting cold bedpans underneath the patients and trying to figure out ways to warm it up and make it more comfortable for them. That floor we did a lot of hemorrhoidectomies, a lot of gall bladder removals, appendectomies, a lot of abdominal surgeries. But I remember there were some surgeons who did hemorrhoidectomy patients and they had to take these what we call sitz baths which were kind of like whirlpool baths. And we’d have to walk them down the hall and we had little whirlpools that we would set their heinie down in and squirt some benadine in the water and that was part of our routine was getting everyone their sitz baths.   

Great, Great Teamwork

But it was great, great teamwork between the residents and all the surgeons and nurses on that floor. So I worked that floor until I felt like I was proficient. And once you were proficient, there were times that you had to be pulled or float to another unit in the hospital if they were short staffed and you had the flexibility. I can’t remember if I came an extra shift or whether I was pulled. One night one of the critical care units on the third floor was short staffed and so I was pulled down to that unit and was scared to death because those patients were, you know, had open heart surgery, had a heart attack, or were on a ventilator and I had not been exposed to that level of nursing. I floated down and can remember a nurse, her name was Pat Nash. She was the assistant nurse manager there and she said, “Don’t worry. You know we’re going to be here to support you and if you have any questions or if you need us to read your EKG’s or help you, we’ll be here.”

“You did a really good job…”

At the end of the night she pulled me aside and said, “You did a really good job. And I have an opening and I would like you to consider transferring down here.” And I was so honored, but frightened because there was a lot that I realized that I didn’t know. And so, I was a little intrigued with the position because you made a little bit more money. I think it was 60 cents more an hour if you worked in a critical care unit at that time. And that was a lot of money back then. In fact, I didn’t mention this, but I remember very clearly when I started, May of 1982, my salary was $7.00 an hour. And, I think, we got a little differential working on the three to eleven shift. But $7.00 as a new nurse. So in order to transfer to that unit, I had to take 60 hours of critical care course to learn the skills that I needed to take care of critical care patients. So I did that and transferred down there and that was the start of my critical care career. I was very successful on that, and at the two year mark was tapped, and promoted to be an assistant nurse manager.

Sarah Reese, Head Nurse

So, very, very young in my career, I realized that I was drawn to leadership. I always had been in high school and in college, [I] wanted to be a leader. But remember, being a very young nurse, probably one of the youngest nurses on the floor, and I was in charge and had to give feedback to older nurses. But had great mentors with that unit. Sarah Reese was the head nurse on that floor and Sarah was just the epitome of the perfect head nurse. She baked for us and she’d make us little crafts at Christmas time. And she mentored us and she ran a tight shift.

Pat Nash

But, I learned a lot from her and from Pat Nash, who was her assistant. And I mentioned earlier that the nursing assistants and the LPN’s, you know, really supported me. And there were nurses that maybe didn’t have as much education as I did, but had a lot more experience at the bedside and they taught me a lot. I  always said that it was hard for me to make my patients look pristine. Some of these nurses could. You know the way that they made a bed or cleaned up a room or powdered their patients. They could just make their patients look pristine. And I was a little bit of a hot mess. I think I learned then that I did better with kind of being the leader and delegating to people and kind of being the brains behind the business… those were wonderful years.

Double Shift

And I remember, I still worked three to eleven, a lot of those years. But there was always, you know, asking for people to stay and do a double or work another unit. And one of the things that I loved to do was get off at eleven and pick up a double shift and go down and rock babies. You know at that time the babies were still at ORMC. We didn’t have Winnie Palmer Hospital and so I would go and rock babies. Or some nights I would go and work in the cardiac critical care unit because those patients slept all night long and you could kind of have an early shift and just watch monitors all night long while the patients slept. But I did a lot of overtime during that time. I think when you’re young you could. You know you were always motivated by the fact that if I do a double I’ll have some extra money and can do a little shopping on the weekends or take a little vacation.

12 Hour Shifts

So it was about that time frame that the shifts decided to change. There was a big trend going on in healthcare especially with nursing to work twelve hour shifts versus eight hour shifts. And what was interesting about that is you worked three twelve hour shifts one week, and four twelve hours the next week. You worked seven shifts in a 14 day period of time.  So it’s almost like you had half the time off and that was a big transition to work like that, but I found out that we could go to the beach a lot of  those days off and every other weekend was a three day weekend. So I liked working 12 hour shifts.

Barbara White and ACLS

But it was in that critical care unit where I started understanding the importance of professional organizations and being a continual learner. And there was a nurse there, I’ll never forget her name, her name was Barbara White. And she was one of the nurses I looked up to, and she started talking about the importance of all of us having certification in advanced clinical life support, ACLS. And we all had to have CPR certification or basic life support. But advanced life support really talked about and educated you what do you do if somebody has a cardiac or respiratory arrest? How do you resuscitate them?

There was a course that you could take to become certified and back then it was a rigorous course. It was two or three weeks in the classroom, and then you had to pass a megacode where on a mannequin they would test you in a scenario that the patient was in full arrest and you had to understand how to resuscitate them, when to shock them, what meds to give, what the potential underlying conditions would be.  And Barbara White really understood that the more of us who would achieve this certification, the better chance we would have to save a patient’s life on our unit. And she encouraged us to do that and was a wonderful mentor.

I think the pass rate of that life course was about 50%. That’s changed dramatically in the following years because I think the American Heart Association realized that the more people who were successful with this certification, the more patients that could be saved in the community, and in the hospital. And so, it became a course more where they really supported people to be successful, instead of trying to eliminate people and test people out. But the first time I achieved ACLS was a big badge of honor.

Barbara White Encouraged Us to Join the American Association of Critical Care Nurses

The other thing on that unit that Barbara White encouraged us to do was to join the American Association of Critical Care Nurses and I remember – that’s this pin here – which we received and wore proudly – that we wanted to be a member of our professional organization – because we could stay current on best practices. We would get the journals and read them. We would chair what we’d read about. And we would go to the local chapters and hear from pharmaceutical companies and equipment companies, and go to conferences and learn and really stay current. And I think that’s when I realized that although I had finished a four year degree, medicine changes every single year.

Acquired Immunodeficiency Disorder

And believe it or not when I graduated in 1982, I had never ever heard of HIV or AIDS.  And we weren’t taught universal care precautions. In fact, when I graduated, if you put on a pair of gloves on people would say, “What are you afraid to get your hands dirty?” Certainly we understood infection control by washing hands, but you never put a pair of gloves on because we would feel like the patients would think that there was a stigma.

But I remember very clearly the first patient that I ever met who had, who was HIV positive and had AIDS. He actually said to me, “Please be very careful. We think that the disease that I have is passed on by blood.” And he would tell me to wash his hands. And I remember talking to his physician who told me about acquired immunodeficiency disorder. I had not learned about that in school. And in the years to come, those were difficult years with the stigma around AIDS patients and HIV positive. And a scary time, but I had the honor of caring for those patients, and learning to be careful with washing your hands and wearing gloves and personal protective equipment. 

Orlando Regional Medical Center is a Level One Trauma Center

Another memory that I had is, you know, Orlando Regional Medical Center is a Level One Trauma Center and, you know, today it’s not unusual to, you know, have victims of gunshot wounds or stabbings. But, back in those years, it was a sleepy town and you just didn’t see things like that happen. And I remember one day I was getting ready for work. And I took a lot of time getting ready for work. I would, you know, I had to look cute for the residents.  I was single at that time. So I had lots of cute white uniforms. We only could wear white. White shoes, white support hose, white outfits. But I had a full time hobby of finding cute little uniforms and jumpsuits and overalls. You know, anything that I could do to make wearing white fun. Looking for a cute white watch with a second hand, because we took pulses with that.

Provenzano – First Trauma Gunshot Wound 

But it was about noontime and I was listening to the noon local news and had heard that there had been a shooting at a courthouse. And, as I walked in to the hospital I was shuffled quickly into a conference room and told that we had – that there’d been a shooting at a courthouse. And that we had the prisoner, that [he] was with guards. And that there was going to be a lot of media attention. And that we were to speak to no one. And that we needed to make sure that we maintained patient confidentiality. And I was assigned that patient. And I remember how scary it was to walk in to a room where there was a critically ill patient with a chest tube, but with a police officer with a gun. That’s not unusual now. We have it all the time. But back then it was scary. I walked out of the hospital at 11 o’clock that night and, you know, was approached by reporters wanting to know about that. That was Provenzano. It was a big, I don’t know if you remember that case, but he shot someone in the courthouse. And a bailiff was shot and that was prior to the time we had metal detectors in the courtroom. But that was the first trauma gunshot wound that I remember taking care of.   

LISTEN  Part III of V (17:16)

Were there other historical events or social events that effected your work?                

You know, I think back of how far we’ve come with the nurse physician collaboration and remember starting off as a new nurse here always being very respectful of physicians. But there was a definite hierarchy where the physician would walk into the nurse’s station and you would stand up and give him your chair. You were never to question a physician and unfortunately there was a lot of inappropriate behavior as far as belittling nurses by physicians. I can remember a couple of good hard cries in the bathroom getting my feelings hurt. I was very tender then. Naive. Didn’t have very thick skin. And if the doctor looked at me wrong I would go into the bathroom and cry. But there was a big change. You know, I think that we learned during those years that physician nursing relationships were important to patient care and to patient safety. And it wasn’t tolerated for physicians to throw charts at nurses or to speak to them in an unkind way. And so, I think that was a very positive thing in the first decade of my career that changed.      

Confident in My Skills

I’ll never forget, it sticks to me to this day. I had a neurosurgeon call me. He was very angry because transportation came and took one of my patients down to radiology for a test. And I didn’t realize that transportation had taken her. You know, I had probably 10 or 20 patients that I was responsible for. She had on pink silk pajamas instead of a patient gown. And the neurosurgeon called me and told me that I was a terrible nurse and that I should probably consider giving up the profession and doing something else. And for a young nurse to have a neurosurgeon say that to you was heartbreaking. And I went home and told my father that I was going to give up nursing. And he was mad at the doctor that had said that to me. But he told me I needed to put on my big girl pants and be confident in my skills. And that came with time. That would never happen now in 2018. Our medical staff leadership would not tolerate it. That’s been a movement that’s been very positive. 

May I ask how that came about? Was it gradual societal changes or was it more training and the importance of patient care and communication?

I think both. You know nursing is a predominantly female profession. And, you know, I think because it’s been all female, and just that was the times. The man was dominant and most of the physicians were male. And now you see that 50% of the doctors coming out of med school are female. Maybe even more than that. Nursing hasn’t progressed that far. I think we’re still about the 10% mark of male nurses. I did have a couple of males in my nursing school when I graduated from FSU, but very few. Even today we find that a lot of males in nurses are more attracted to the emergency department or the air care team on the helicopter or the critical care units. But I think that as nurses became confident in their skills and contributions to healthcare they rallied around each other, supported each other.

Code Pink

There were initiatives where if a nurse was being verbally attacked by a physician, other nurses on the unit would surround her. I think they called that “Code Pink” at the time in solidarity. There were strong nursing leaders at the time. And then there were strong physician leaders that understood that to retain nurses and have them be happy – there were many doctors who understood that it made their lives a lot easier if you had a happy nursing staff.   

Do you remember any funny moments like practical jokes or funny things that happened that you’re allowed to tell?

I would say we had a lot of fun. Those relationships were really important. The jobs were stressful and you were exposed to very difficult life things. You know people were dying or who coded unexpectedly or had a traumatic event occur. And you could burn out really easily. And so, we’re often accused that people in healthcare have a morbid sense of humor. But, I think, it’s just a coping mechanism. So we laugh inappropriately. I can remember we used to have a contest… to see who could suction a patient and get the best goober. And we would be really proud if we could suction and get a nice hunk of mucous. And we would come out with the suction catheter and say, “Look, at this one! Look, look at what I got!” And that was a big joke. You’re exposed to a lot of different body fluids. You know one of the things, and I almost gag saying it, is, you know I could deal with blood, with urine, or with bowel movements, but a big yucky hunk of goober out of a tracheotomy would be what made me gag. Now we’ve learned how to avoid ventilator associated pneumonia. But back then I don’t think we understood the importance of weaning patients from ventilators and good pulmonary toilet. And so, we had a lot of patients that would have a lot of secretions from being on the ventilators. So those were silly times.


I remember one patient, her name was Frances. I won’t say her last name for confidentiality, but she lived with us for over a year. She had COPD, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and she had a tracheotomy. And she was tied to a ventilator and she was awake and alert, but she couldn’t get off the ventilator. And we couldn’t find a place to discharge to with the ventilator. And so, she lived with us for a year. And when you have a tracheotomy, you can’t talk because the stoma impacts your ability to pass air over your vocal cords. And so, she would knock on the side table. And so she trained herself to force enough air over the vocal cords where she could say, “Nurse!” But you could barely hear it.

We really supported each other and learned a lot.  

And to this day I can remember for a year, you know she would constantly – that knocking – she was right by the nurse’s station. But we tried to take good care of Frances. We would take care painting her fingernails or curling her hair. And we snuck some dogs in sometimes to see her which was against the rules at the time. Now we have pet therapy. But she was somebody who really stuck in my heart because she had no family and no one ever came to see her. And the nurses became her family. We became very attached to her. She may even have been here longer than a year. And when Francis died I can remember we coded her for a very long time. None of us wanted to let her go even though we knew that her quality of life was terrible. And we all went to her funeral. That was hard. We got really attached to her. You know people ask me, what’s the best team that I’ve ever had? It was that team. We really supported each other and learned a lot.  

RotoRest Bed

I can remember there was a bed called a RotoRest bed that rotated patients, who were paralyzed, from side to side. And it was like trap doors every where. It had a trap door for a bedpan. You know, obviously if a patient’s being rotated side to side they have to be strapped in very safe or else they fall out. I can remember spending hours putting together and taking a part those RotoRest beds. Now when I see the technology that we have in these beds with so many features, I think back on those spinal cord patients sitting on those RotoRest beds.

One of the beauties of nursing is you grow and then you experience life…

One of the things that I can reflect on now, is being so young and taking care of those critical patients. I didn’t really understand life. I hadn’t been married. I hadn’t had kids of my own. I had not gone through any of those hardships. I had a difficult time sometimes supporting the parents of the patients because I didn’t know how to support them. I knew how to meet their clinical needs, but I didn’t know how to support their emotional needs. And I think that’s one of the beauties of nursing is you grow and then you experience life. You become a better nurse because you understand what people are going through.

Colored Scrub Jackets

One of my fondest memories of that unit was – I mentioned that we could only wear white- well, it finally got to the point where we convinced the administration to let us wear a colored scrub jacket. And so we were able to pick a blue flowered scrub jacket to wear over our white nursing uniforms and that was so exciting! To pick a little color and have blue scrub jackets. And we started a trend. Our unit got them, then every unit wanted to have their unique scrub jacket that would match their white scrubs.   

Hot Pink Stethoscope

The other thing that I remember is because you had to wear all white, you were always looking for some way of spicing things up. So I had a pink stethoscope. And I should have brought that in to show you. I still have my hot pink stethoscope. But Dr. Williamson, who is a colorectal surgeon he tells me all of the time, he was the first year resident when I met him and he’s a seasoned colorectal surgeon now, but he said, “My memory of you, Jayne, is a ponytail and a pink stethoscope.” He said, “I’ll always think of you as the little nurse with the pony tail and the pink stethoscope.”

Good Bonding at Lorenzo’s and Townsend’s

And during those years you know it was a lot of fun, we would get off at 11 o’clock and we would go down the street and meet all the nurses at Lorenzo’s which is actually the building that Pulse is in now. But it was an Italian pizza restaurant then. And we’d have a pizza and a pitcher of beer and talk about the events of the night and debrief on the patient we had resuscitated. Good bonding. Or we would go down further to Townsend’s which was a club that all of the hospital three to eleven shift would meet after work and get together and bond. 

Sand Lake Hospital

So during that time, you know, Orlando Health was growing and we bought property out in Southwest Orlando and built Sand Lake Hospital which is now the Dr. P. Phillips Hospital. And when that hospital came out of the ground it was gorgeous. I mean, we referred to it as the Country Club. It was in a prestigious part of the city and we handpicked all the staff for that hospital. And I was tapped to go over and be one of the first head nurses in that new building. And so I left the big house, you know, Orlando Regional Medical Center was the downtown, big, busy hospital and went to the country club.

First Head Nurse Job

But it was really nice because I started my first head nurse job on a surgical floor that was similar to where I started my nursing career. But it was a lower acuity floor. I had critical care experience by that time so the patient care came easy to me. I felt like I was a really seasoned critical care nurse. So I felt like I was bringing clinical expertise to that unit. But I didn’t have a lot of strong leadership skills. So I was able to cut my teeth as a head nurse on that floor. It was called 4 AB and it was a 32 bed unit. And that was the late 80’s and I worked there through the early 90’s.

I had met my now husband during that time, and got married. I remember inviting – I was the head nurse on that floor – and I invited every nurse that I worked with to come to the wedding. And we had a lottery to say who had to stay back and take care of the patients on the floor because everybody else was coming to my wedding. So that was a lot of fun. My husband is a lawyer and so we had lots of attorneys and lots of nurses. And it was a fun wedding, very fun wedding. 

What’s your husband’s name?

My husband’s name is John, John Willis. And we got married on April 28 of 1990. I remember I didn’t want to be an old maid and I made it down the aisle before my 30th birthday. That was important to me. But I cherish those years in my 20’s, that first decade of my nursing career. Had a lot of fun dating during that time and I met my husband in 1986. We dated almost four years. I had been out of nursing school and working for a while, but he had just finished law school so he was getting his experience. He started off at the state attorney’s office in Osceola County and now he has his own private practice. He’s come a long, too. We kind of grew our careers and that kind of leads to my story.

My whole family was rooted deep in the community.

You know, many, many nurses they switch around and move to different hospitals and different health care systems. I never had a need. My whole family was rooted deep in the community. My parents lived in Windermere on the lake. They bought a beautiful piece of property on Lake Down. They were here and now we all live within a mile or so of each other and lots of nieces and nephews. So between my family being here and my husband  having his law career here we got deeply rooted in the community and I never felt the need to leave.

LISTEN  Part  IV of V (20:07)

Orlando Health Really Invested in Me…

The other thing was, is that, Orlando Health really invested in me. I, you know, had that head nurse job at Sand Lake Hospital and soon realized that although I had a four year degree, my  career was really leaning towards nursing leadership and I started to feel like I didn’t have all the knowledge and skills I needed to be an effective leader. And so, I started thinking about needing to have a masters degree and continuing my education. And by that time not only did I have the surgical unit at Sand Lake Hospital, but I was asked to run the critical care unit there, and the endoscopy unit, and my scope was getting bigger, and I was running budgets, big budgets and so I decided I need to go back to school. The other thing was I married into a very academic family. My husband’s family, everybody was a physician or a lawyer or had their Phd. And I said, “Gosh!” My brother was in med school. And I just thought I’m going to go on and get my degree. I didn’t know very many nurses that had a master’s degree. I could probably name two or three from that time period, but the south was a little slower. In the northeast it was very much the norm to have a baccalaureate or a master’s degree or even a doctorate. But in the south not so much.

Master’s in Nursing at University of Florida

Orlando Regional Medical Center had a lot of nurses that were prepared at our school of nursing that were diploma nurses. And the Valencia Community College at the time opened – a lot of associate degree nurses. So I wanted a Master’s in Nursing. There were other options, but I was a purist. If I got a Master’s degree, I wanted it to be in nursing. So I looked around and believe it or not in that time frame there was not a Master’s of Nursing in Central Florida. UCF  did not have a program. There was no such thing as online programs and so the closest that I could come was University of Florida in Gainesville and that was a sin. I was a Seminole. I was a Tri Delta from Florida State University and I was garnet and gold all the way and you didn’t switch teams.

Nursing Administration

But I think the draw of getting a Master’s degree was strong and University of Florida had a great reputation so I decided that I would pursue getting a Master’s degree. And at first I was going to be an adult health major. And I can remember Dr. Fight said to me, “You know, there’s a lot of ways you can stay clinically competent through your professional organizations and certifications. But you’re not going to learn nursing administration without a formal curriculum. And your career track is really going more leadership. I think you should focus on nursing administration. So I did that.

Satellite Classes at Florida Hospital Campus and Valencia Community College

It was a long, long journey to get a Master’s degree, specifically, you know, I worked full time in Orlando; school was in Gainesville. There were some opportunities to take some classes here, some satellite classes. There was a cohort of us that were trying to get a Master’s degree. And I can remember we would get classroom space on the Florida Hospital Campus and we had some classroom space at east Valencia and a lot of driving back and forth and car pooling. One class at a time sometimes two. A lot of hours. And I was a young bride and I actually had two of my children during that time frame. I was working full time as a head nurse. My husband was, you know, grinding it out as a young attorney working a lot of hours and I was spending every weekend studying and writing papers. 

I was one of the first Master’s prepared nurses

My first child – I remember taking a theoretical Models of Nursing written final – I was nine months pregnant and the instructor came over to me a couple of times and said, “Are you okay? Are you okay?” And I was squirming. Well, that night my water broke and my first child was born. My first daughter is Francis Page, she’s 25 now. But my second daughter is very close, they’re only 17 months apart… I had to turn in papers and take a final early because of her due date. So two little tiny babies in my nursing program. So my husband had to chip in and help with those babies. But I finished that Master’s in Nursing in 1997. So I was one of the first Master’s prepared nurses and, I think, that was a differentiator for me. I had several leadership jobs. But I think the administration said, “You know, this is somebody who now has the education. And what I want to point out, you know, when I said Orlando Health invested in me during that time, I had the flexibility to be able to go to school, but also tuition reimbursement. I was reimbursed for my Master’s Degree, books, and tuition, and they really supported me. And encouraged me to join professional organizations.

President of the Metropolitan Orlando Chapter of the American Association of Critical Nurses

After I got my Master’s degree I got motivated. I got involved in the Metropolitan Orlando Chapter of the American Association of Critical Nurses and I ended up being president of that organization and really felt that it was important for critical care nurses to, you know, work together and to share knowledge, and, you know, mentor each other. I was also inducted into Sigma Theta Tau during my Master’s degree program and graduated with a 4.0 from the University of Florida. I was very proud of that. And to this day, I still stay involved with Sigma Theta Tau through the University of Central Florida; and I’m on board there and so, I really enjoyed doing that.

They were looking for someone who had critical care experience to come downtown and develop a burn program…

So the next chapter of my career was I was tapped to leave what was Sand Lake ‘Hospital and come back downtown. They were looking for someone who had critical care experience to come downtown and develop a burn program. And so, I came back downtown and loved, loved, loved that job. The title changed from head nurse, then we called them nurse managers. Today we call them nursing operations managers or nurse directors. But I was a manager of the Burn Unit. And I also ran a wound management support team and that was the first time I ever experienced nursing that was so collaborative.

Textbook Chapter: “Care of Burns”

When you take care of a burn patient – there are very few people who know how to take care of a burn patient and you have to rely on each other. So the physicians and the occupational therapists and the social workers and the physical therapists and the nurses all worked hand and hand to care for those burn patients. We would do the dressings and the debriefments together and the rehab together. And I got very involved in the American Burn Association then and going to those conferences. And even wrote a chapter in a textbook called “Care of Burns”. And that was when I really started changing my career to being very focused on intensive care trauma.

I spent the bulk of my career running intensive care units...

From the burn unit I ended up then taking on additional responsibilities and ran trauma intensive care unit. Then the Multisystem Medical ICU and then the Neuro ICU. I had a huge scope and just kept adding more and more responsibility. I spent the bulk of my career running intensive care units. That burn unit – when people say to me – What was your favorite specialty of your whole career? I would say burns. I really felt like I had something different to offer and that I was there when patients needed us most.

Explosion at a Sbarro’s Pizza

I’ll never forget one night being called in the middle of the night that there had been a gas leak near the outlet mall and there had been an explosion at a Sbarro’s Pizza, and there were critically burned patients. And getting out of the bed in the middle of the night and driving into the hospital to help resuscitate these burn victims. And when a patient is burned, there’s a lot of fluid that comes out of their vascular system and goes to the damaged tissue. And so you have to do a very, very aggressive fluid resuscitation. And you almost feel like you need to stand on your head forcing fluids to keep these patients alive and managing their pain. And, you know, the whole team coming together and, you know, attempting to save the patients. And then the months and months of skin grafts and debriefments and rehab. We really bonded.

Burn Program at Orlando Health

And so we spent a lot of time making sure that we taught burn prevention and then also supported survivors and developed – you know I worked a lot with fire departments and community services – you know to teach how to prevent burns from occurring. And then we developed a burn camp where we support people, young kids who had been burned and scarred. And spent some summers tie-dying shirts, and developing programs for these burn patients and going and taking care of them. Those were good years. And to this date, we still have a burn program here at Orlando Health. Tough specialty, but good memories.

Where was the Burn Camp, was that in Florida?

You know, it was in Florida. We had a couple of different places that we had. We partnered with Reedy Creek out at Disney. And we used some Disney property, some of their employee areas to do Burn Camp. And then we used the Boy Scout areas… they stayed overnight. We would pull kids from all over Central Florida, the southeast, and, you know, we had, you’d get to know them because they would come back summer after summer.


I had my third child in 1998, a little boy, his name is also John, John Churchill Willis the V. And my sister had always done my childcare. So I mentioned I have a lot of family here. It was really nice that having three children and working full time and having gone back to school that I had a lot of support from my mom and my sisters with helping me with childcare. My sister told me at that time, she had raised four children, that she was going to be taking a full time job at the church and that she’d be no longer able to take care of my children. And so, my husband had a very demanding career and at that point I had 20 years in with Orlando Health and really felt like if I didn’t have childcare and had three kids I just wasn’t going to be able to do it anymore. And so, I had made a decision that I was going to give up my career and go home and take care of my three children.

Administrator for Nursing and for Critical Care Service Line

And, the Friday before I was going to do that I got a call from Sherrie Satarik who was about to come to ORMC and she said, “Jayne, there’s going to be a shakeup. I’m going to be coming over and being the president and I would like you to be my administrator for nursing and for critical care service line. And I said, “I think it’s divine intervention.” I didn’t really want to give up my career. And I picked up that phone and called a nanny service and hired a full time nanny for my three children and took the job as an administrator. There were some rough years. It’s different having somebody take care of your children that isn’t family. And I went through a lot of nannies to try and find the right childcare situation for my kids. They feel like they were traumatized by different nannies, but I think in the long run my children really admire the fact that I was a professional and working mom and tried to do my best.

It’s hard to be a mom and a good nurse leader, but it was worth it.

I can remember funny things. By the time I was an administrator and taking calls I can remember hiding from my kids in the closet on a phone trying to talk to a doctor after hours without them finding me. You know, having my mom come over in the morning to try to help get them ready for school so my husband could go to court and I would be in for an early meeting. I can even remember dressing my kids – they went to a private Catholic School – and I put them in their uniforms and made them sleep in their uniforms at night so I could get them to school in the morning. And having to be really organized with homework and lunches. But when I think back it’s such a small sliver of time in your career. It’s hard to be a mom and a good nurse leader, but it was worth it.

“Mom, could you wear something different for playground duty?”

And I think you have to ask for help. You had to get a maid and sometimes you have to get somebody to mow the grass for you and do some of those other things. But by that time, you know as a head nurse, or a nursing administrator I had more flexibility. I wasn’t doing shift work. So if I needed to take my lunch hour and run to school and volunteer for 30 minutes in the library I would. Because I really never wanted my kids to feel like they missed out because their mom was a working mom. But I do remember my son when he was little saying to me, “Mom, could you wear something different for playground duty? All the other moms come in shorts and you come in a suit or nursing uniform.” He wanted me to be more like the other moms. That was fun.

Our organization really has a vision to become a cardiovascular center of excellence…

So I worked as an administrator over all the critical care units for about three years and then I remember one day getting tapped on the shoulder to say, “You know, our organization really has a vision to become a cardiovascular center of excellence and we would love to ask you to consider taking a job to run cardiovascular service line. And I struggled. I said, “I’ve always done critical care and trauma and burns and I have all those relationships and expertise in that area. And I don’t like the cardiologists and they’re crabby. You know I don’t have those relationships. But if that’s what Orlando Health needs me to do I will. And so, I switched service lines and really built on my expertise because I learned so much about cardiovascular, you know, was exposed to open heart surgery and pacemakers and cardiac catheterizations. And became passionate about cardiovascular health and especially women and cardiovascular health. And our risk factors and how different they were from men.

Chairwoman for Go Red for Women

And had the honor of getting involved with the American Heart Association then. And did a lot with heart walks and trying to raise awareness and was tapped to be the chairwoman for the Go Red for Women … I was a nurse but also a woman and I wanted to share what I knew about preventing risk factors. And we had little red dresses and red dress pins.

And the reason that we used the red dress pins was that we wanted people to understand their numbers. Just like everybody can tell you what size their dress is, but could you tell us what your cholesterol level or what your blood pressure or your pulse was? And that you should know your numbers like you know your dress size. And I still am involved. In fact, I just was asked to join the board of The American Heart Association, the community board. And served last year as the Open Your Heart rep at the Go Red Luncheon in Orlando. So that’s kind of stuck with me for a lot of years. It’s not a nursing professional organization, but it is an association that does a lot of good work with raising money with research and awareness preventing heart disease. 

LISTEN  Part  V of V (16:06)

Our Mission is to Serve Our Community

And that’s something else that Orlando Health has always encouraged, is our mission is to serve our community and you need to know your community. You asked me about Leadership Orlando. I got off topic, but during those years I realized that my life was hospitals and inside the hospital. And, in order to serve the community, the hospital really needs to understand who their community is. And that’s when I had the opportunity to go to Leadership Orlando. And that was a wonderful experience because it opened my eyes to a whole big community out there that wasn’t health care. Leadership Orlando takes different leaders from different organizations and industries and puts them together and develops relationships. And hopefully those relationships will go on to be long term relationships that continue to serve the community. I can remember meeting people from Sea World and Disney, and law enforcement.

Leadership Orlando 

The very first day we went out and we did the ropes course together. I don’t know if you know anything about the ropes course, but you build trust in your relationships with each other climbing poles and going across tight walks and jumping off 40 foot pillars and, you know, teammates are holding you up with pulleys and ropes. And by the end of the day, you know your people that are in Leadership Orlando with you. And then we were exposed. We went into the school board and learned about how the school board works. And I remember they had us take the FCAT so that we understood what the schools were testing for. We got to use a fake name. I was Minnie Mouse and I took the math portion of the FCAT and I thought, oh, these kids, this is tough.

I would recommend that experience to any leader in Orlando…

But we rode with the police officers and learned about law enforcement and we learned about economic growth and how Orlando was growing and being planned. We had an opportunity to bring colleagues into our health care and teach them about that. But those relationships and the people that I met in Leadership Orlando are still important to me, and I would recommend that experience to any leader in Orlando. It’s been very good. I think we even spent some time in the library during Leadership Orlando if I remember right.

Shepherd’s Hope

Also during those years I became very passionate about an organization called Shepherd’s Hope. And I first was exposed to them, their president Cindy came to American Association of Critical Care Nurses and, you know, was asking for nurses to come and volunteer at the clinics… I understood the importance of access to healthcare and to think that there were people in our community that didn’t have access to healthcare was disturbing to me. What was interesting was I was tapped at first to come and sit on their board, but then I realized I think I want to volunteer as a nurse. So I started volunteering in their clinics. And what the model was is that schools – I worked at a clinic at Orlando VoTech – schools would partner by providing space, clinic space with churches, who would provide members or parishioners that were nurses or doctors and they would partner together and volunteer their time and provide healthcare in these clinics.

Jayne Willis’s collection of nursing pins. Her Shepherd’s Hope pin is pictured in the front left.

We were giving free services to really educate what they could do differently with their health…

Some of the most rewarding experiences I had were taking care of patients who otherwise would not have had any access to healthcare and really felt wonderful because it was sovereign immunity. There was no liability involved since we were giving free services to really educate what they could do differently with their health, whether it was nutrition, or stopping smoking, or losing weight, or how to manage their diabetes. But these patients would come in, and if it weren’t for Shepherd’s Hope, they would have to choose between feeding themselves or their healthcare. I was able to connect a lot of patients to services. Orlando Health is a not for profit organization and we donate a lot of services to the community. But I stayed with Shepherd’s Hope. I ended up chairing their board for several years and ended up – I still have emeritus status. And it’s still an organization that’s really important to this community.  

Chief Nurse Executive for Orlando Health and Vice President of Nursing

So after I did the cardiovascular service line for many years, I finally achieved what I thought was the pinnacle of my career, and in 2011 I was named the Chief Nursing Officer for Orlando Regional Medical Center. And that meant that I was in the top nursing position for ORMC and all of nursing. I was responsible for all of the patient care and nursing care at ORMC. And I had that role for five years. And in 2016 I was promoted not only to the Chief Nursing Officer for ORMC, but to Vice President of Nursing for all of Orlando Health which had grown to eight hospitals. And as of July 1 of this year I will no longer being doing a dual role. I will be focusing full time as the Chief Nurse Executive for Orlando Health. I will continue to be the Vice President of Nursing, but it will be much more of a strategic position.

Jayne Willis, the new Chief Nurse Executive for Orlando Health as of July 11, 2018.

Magnet designation for all of our hospitals and our health system…

My role will really be focusing on how do we move Orlando Health nursing into the next 20-30 years with implementing a new electronic health record, comprehensive health record; a long way from charting with green ink to the technology that we have today. Also the vision is achieving magnet designation for all of our hospitals and our health system. Magnet is a designation through the American Nurses Credentialing Center. It is considered the highest recognition for nurses. Only 6% of hospitals in the nation achieve that designation and it’s called magnet because it attracts the best people and it’s got such an amazing healthy work environment with great patient outcomes that people never leave. They’re held like a magnet. We’re really proud that our Arnold Palmer Medical Center and Winnie Palmer Hospitals have achieved that designation. And my vision as Chief Nurse Executive is to achieve that designation at all of our hospitals. And we’ve been working really hard at that.

We are the clinical site for many nursing programs…

But also making sure that we’ve got the work force that we need for our organization to continue to grow. Preparing nurses is a big part. We are the clinical site for many nursing programs and every day as you walk through our halls you’ll see nursing students from Valencia College and Seminole State College and University of Central Florida and they’re all here because they need to have exposure to our patients and have a really good experience. And we’re hoping that if we give them a good experience as students that they’ll become our future nurses here at Orlando Health. So that’s something that I feel is really important: that we give back and that we invest in our future nurses. We’re all going to need that healthcare.

Doctorate in Nursing Practice, the Executive Track through University of Central Florida…

So one of the things that you know I thought I had hit the jackpot when I was the Chief Nursing Officer, and now I feel like, you know, it’s a dream come true. To go from a graduate nurse in 1982 to now being the Chief Nurse Executive for this multi-billion dollar organization that has provided such great health care to our community. But, I believe in continual learning. You have to always be learning and growing. And next month, I’ll be 58. But this year I decided I’m going to go back to school and get my doctorate. And so, I was accepted to the doctorate in nursing practice, the executive track through University of Central Florida. So I laugh, I’ve got my little timeline here from Florida State to University of Florida and now to University of Central Florida – so say, “Charge on!” I’m taking my third course right now. This past weekend I spent probably 20 hours writing a 20 page paper, but I’m learning. Healthcare is becoming so complex. Our patients don’t stay ten days any more. There’s a lot of technology, there’s a lot of changes in healthcare technology and in order for me to serve Orlando Health I have to make sure I’m staying current and I think achieving a doctorate – education is important. I want to be the best chief executive that I can.

I also think that it’s really important for nurses to become certified in their specialty…

I also think that it’s really important for nurses to become certified in their specialty and that’s one of the things that I encourage every nurse at Orlando Health to do. If you’re an oncology nurse achieve certification as an oncology nurse. If you work in the emergency department or the ICU, you need to have that specialty certification. That’s something that Orlando Health feels strongly about. The literature tells us that the higher percentage of certified nurses that you have and baccalaureate nurses the better your patient outcomes will be. That’s been demonstrated over and over. And so, my specialty now is as a nurse executive. Although I long for my clinical days, I know that I’m serving the organization well as a nurse executive. And so, I have two certifications: One is as a Nurse Executive Advanced [Certification] from the American Nurse Credentialing Center and the other one is a Certified Executive of Nursing Practice from the American Association of Nurse Executives. And I am really proud of those credentials. I worked hard. Those were tough tests. It’s challenging to keep them up. But you’ve got to continually invest in yourself and stay current. It’s important to make sure that we’re the best hospital possible for our community. And if we’re the best hospital possible we’re going to attract the best nurses and our patients are going to benefit.

So I’ve been very honored to serve this organization and to serve our community.

People say to me when you used to be a nurse. And I say,  I have a different specialty as a nurse executive, but I am a nurse. And I’m proud to be a nurse.

You have a new program called the Daisy Program where you honor nurses, would you tell us about that?

Sure. I think that one of the most important things that we can do as nurses is recognition and recognition of each other. And for many years we’ve recognized nurses at Orlando Health during Nurses Week.

Jayne during Nurse Week

We have clinical excellence awards, but we’ve started something new last year and that’s the Daisy Award. And so, I’d go to conferences I’d notice a booth that would say “Daisy Award” and I didn’t know much about it, but I kept seeing it over and over again. And I’ve learned more about it and the Daisy Award is an award that is in honor of a gentleman, Patrick Barnes, who passed away from an auto immune disorder. And his family started the Daisy Award to recognize the amazing nurses that cared for him. And the Daisy Award recognizes nurses for their caring practices, their empathy. And you can be nominated for a Daisy Award by a colleague or by a patient or by a patient’s family. And when you receive the Daisy Award there’s a couple things that happen. You get a Daisy pin. The letters in the word Daisy are an acronym. And when Patrick was really sick, he wasn’t eating very much and his father came in one day with a Cinnabon and the smell of the Cinnabon stimulated Patrick’s appetite and he ate the entire Cinnabon.

Nurses recognizing each other for what we do best: our caring practice coupled with our clinical excellence.

And so, when  his father left, he asked his father if he would bring him Cinnabons for the nurses that next day. And so, that’s become part of the tradition when you get the Daisy Award you also get Cinnabons. And it’s the smell of that cinnamon that should trigger that feeling of warmth and comfort that nurses give. And every time I small cinnamon now I think of that. But, the beauty of the Daisy Awards is that it is nurses recognizing each other for what we do best: our caring practice coupled with our clinical excellence. And there’s a beautiful certificate and a beautiful statue that you receive when you get the Daisy Award that is actually made by a tribe in Africa. And the Daisy Awards, because they purchase these carved statutes, supports this tribe. So it’s one of those awards that kind of gives back in multiple ways. The pride that these nurses have when they receive the award is really moving, really proud of that. So we’re going to continue that on and and, I think, it’s another way to give back and make nurses feel great about the things they do.  

Well thank you so much for speaking with us today. We wish you much success in your new position and we wish the nurses and Orlando Health great success as they go into the future to serve our community.

Yeah, a hundred years this year.

Interview:  Jayne McMahan Willis

Interviewer: Jane Tracy

Date:  June 26, 2018 

Place:  Orlando Regional Medical Center


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Jayne Willis, Chief Nurse Executive, Orlando Health

Jayne Willis, the new Chief Nurse Executive for Orlando Health as of July 11, 2018.

Jayne Willis FSU Graduation photo

Jayne McMahan, Florida State University Graduate Nurse, 1982

Jayne Willis and parents at FSU graduation

Jayne Willis and parents at FSU graduation, 1982.

Jayne Willis, Nurse Week

Jayne during Nurse Week.

Jayne Willis nursing pins

Jayne Willis nursing pins

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Jayne Willis - Part I

Jayne Willis - Part I

Jayne Willis - Part II

Jayne Willis - Part II

Jayne Willis - Part III

Jayne Willis - Part III

Jayne Willis - Part IV

Jayne Willis - Part IV

Jayne Willis - Part V

Jayne Willis - Part V

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