Barbara Balik, Why Did You Get into Health Care?

Barbara Balik, RN; IHI Senior Faculty, Common Fire Healthcare Consulting

Why I got into health care is I had two aunts who were nurses, and they became nurses in World War II, when there was something called the Nurses Cadet Corps. That was a crash course in becoming a nurse, because there was this enormous shortage in this country as the need grew dramatically. Because it was such a dramatically different time for women they became very nontraditional nurses. I grew up in a family of very outspoken women, and even in that family, they were outspoken women. They were great role models of not the traditional image of what nurses were a generation or two ago, so they were very great role models as far as the potential of what could happen and being very assertive women in that.

Also for my generation, which is a little bit wonderfully different now, there weren’t many options and it seemed like the greatest option for a really great career, and so that’s what took me into it. I never expected to do much more than be a great clinician, and always loved being a clinician, and I had probably four different careers as a clinician, including being a pediatric nurse practitioner.

That’s why I went in, and the reason I stayed is there are so many different careers in health care with the education that you get, whatever that education is, and so went on to get a master’s, that’s when I was a nurse practitioner. Then a doctorate, that’s where I became more interested in leadership, and so the roles and capacity are just so exciting. So I’m a huge champion of encouraging young people to go into and stay in health care.