By Caitlin Clark and Megan Hinners
For Amy Hermes, the decision to build a career in nursing was easy.
“For as long as I can remember, I have wanted to help people,” says Hermes, a 2010 graduate of the UW–Madison School of Nursing’s rigorous BSN@Home program. “I started my career in a local nursing home while I was in high school working as a nursing assistant. I knew immediately I wanted to become a nurse. I fell in love with it because, while it can be challenging at times, it allows you to make a difference in the lives of other people. In the nursing profession, you can deal with so many aspects of patient care. It is a profession that constantly drives you to learn and think outside of the box so you can provide the best care possible.”
Hermes has seen it all after working in the field for over three decades. As she has taken on new roles and responsibilities, both in her career and within her organization, her constant driving force has been to never become complacent. While she finds plenty of fulfillment in her daily work, Hermes constantly pushes herself to step out of her comfort zone and find new ways to improve through professional development. “I am a firm believer in lifelong learning. It is critical for maintaining and elevating competency, leading to better patient and personal outcomes,” she says. “I have always enjoyed the stimulation of the academic world and set goals for myself in continuing education.”
Her journey through professional development and continuing education has provided her with new opportunities and growth. After receiving her associate degree from Southwest Technical College in Fennimore, she began her career in nursing as a staff nurse. Hermes always knew that her academic endeavors would not stop there, and her desire to continue to grow in her career led her to the School of Nursing where she obtained her bachelor’s degree in nursing through the online program.
When she was appointed to an associate vice president role within her organization, Hermes felt it was the right time to pursue her graduate degree; she completed her master of science in nursing (MSN) in 2014 from Benedictine University’s online program. “I considered graduate degrees in either business or nursing,” she explains. “Given my passion is in nursing, I felt that an MSN program with a concentration in nursing leadership would be the most appropriate for me.”
Hermes’ endeavors to further her education have stretched beyond the classroom through an expansive network of memberships in various associations and organizations. She is currently a member of the Wisconsin Hospital Association (WHA), American College of Healthcare Executives (ACHE), Wisconsin Nurses Association (WNA), and American Nurses Association (ANA). In addition, she is a member of the Wisconsin Organization of Nurse Leaders (WONL), where she acts as their liaison on the Wisconsin Center for Nursing (WCN) Board. She is also on Herzing University’s and Edgewood College’s Nursing Advisory Boards.
“The value of networking is the most important reason why I try to be involved in a variety of associations and organizations,” she explains. “Membership in these different groups has afforded me a large resource base of experts that have helped me advance my knowledge and skills. It has helped me stay on top of best practices and standards, and promote excellence in patient care within my organization. My memberships have also given me a more comprehensive understanding of health policy, allowing me to be a stronger, more informed advocate for legislative decisions impacting nursing, which I in turn share with my team.”
Now in her 34th year at Stoughton Hospital, and her third as chief nursing officer (CNO) and vice president of patient services, Hermes’ appetite for learning has not slowed down, admitting, “Even in my current position, I learn something new almost every day from colleagues and our patients.”
“Continuing my education has given me credibility in our organization and has allowed me to be a strong nursing advocate as well as a strong leader.” —Amy Hermes ’10
This synergistic learning environment has helped Hermes appreciate the immense value in not just her own professional development, but in encouraging those around her to pursue the same. “As a leader in my organization, I feel it is imperative for me to be a good role model,” she adds. “I believe it is important for me to be supportive of continuing education for our employees, as well as continuing my own education. Continuing my education has given me credibility in our organization and has allowed me to be a strong nursing advocate as well as a strong leader.”
Encouraging her colleagues and team members to seek out their own professional development opportunities is an endeavor that is close to her heart. “At this point in my career, what I am probably most passionate about is helping create and shape the next generation of nurses,” she says. “We need to continually attract new nurses into the field as well as ensure they are properly educated and remain nurses for years to come.”
Hermes’ passion connects her to a long list of nurses with the same excitement and enthusiasm, beginning with Florence Nightingale who said, “Nursing is a progressive art such that to stand still is to go backwards.” For Hermes, it means continuing the pursuit of learning and growth in the profession she loves, while also inspiring those around her to never stop with their own professional development. “I am a firm believer in lifelong learning,” she concludes. “It is critical for maintaining and elevating competency, leading to better patient and personal outcomes.”