Bachelor of Science in Nursing, Edgecliff College, 1980
Senior vice president and chief nursing officer,
St. Elizabeth Healthcare
Early Calling | Growing up on a farm with seven siblings, Swaim always felt a pull toward nursing. “I knew I wanted to be a nurse at a very young age, probably age 5 or so, because I was strongly influenced by an aunt who was a nurse,” she says. “I was always playing with a nurse’s kit and taking people’s blood pressure.” She became a hospital clerk in her teens and never looked back.
Well-Schooled | After receiving a degree from High Point Memorial School of Medicine in North Carolina, Swaim moved to Cincinnati and started her decades-long career in nursing. She’s worked as a staff nurse, charge nurse, a supervisor, an administrator and an associate dean at the University of Cincinnati’s College of Nursing and Health, at Bethesda and University hospitals as well as St. Elizabeth. She’s worked in the emergency department, the operating room, medical-surgical, critical care and recovery. She also received a master’s degree in nursing from The Ohio State University and attended the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton Fellows Program in Management for Nurse Executives.
E.R. Affinity | Through her varied experiences, the emergency department remains a favorite. “I loved the fast pace. I loved working with very action-oriented people. I liked the instant gratification of getting people to the right place. It kept me on my toes.”
Magnet Designation | In 2006, the American Nurses’ Credentialing Center awarded magnet designation to St. Elizabeth’s hospitals in Northern Kentucky. Magnet status is given to hospitals where nurses are satisfied and valued members of the staff, where nursing turnover is low and nurses deliver excellent patient outcomes. Only 3 to 4 percent of hospitals nationwide are classified as magnet hospitals.
Sources of Pride | The achievement is a source of pride for Swaim. “It’s a lot about involving your staff in decision-making,” she says. “It’s about professional development and advancement of the staff, outcomes, the relationship between physicians and nurses.” In addition, the Advisory Board in 2002 named St. Elizabeth one of five “destination hospitals for nursing” nationwide based on its outstanding work environment for nurses.
Staying in Touch | Even as a top administrator, Swaim still makes rounds to meet with patients and their families and gather feedback on how better to serve them.
Mission and Business | Caring for patients in today’s business environment has changed from the past. “In nursing, our role is always to make things better,” Swaim says. “I think that’s the challenge and the fun of health care, but it’s also the hard part, the tension between the healing and the business end. You look at your resources and figure out what you can do with what you have. Sometimes you have to do things on a shoestring, but you involve people, and you make it work.”