Dr. Amber Egyud's path to become a hybrid CNO & COO

Amber Egyud, DNP, RN, has a unique view of healthcare as both chief nursing officer and chief operating officer of Chesapeake (Va.) Regional Healthcare. 

Dr. Egyud stepped into the newly created hybrid role in 2017, previously serving as vice president of patient care services and CNO at Forbes Hospital in Monroeville, Pa., part of Pittsburgh-based Allegheny Health Network.

In May, Dr. Egyud was inducted into the American Organization for Nursing Leadership's 2023 fellowship program. The AONL fellow designation recognizes nurse leaders who've made sustained contributions to nursing leadership. 

In a recent interview with Becker's, Dr. Egyud shared why she believes her hybrid role offers her a significant advantage in patient care, her experiences in nurse leadership over the past few decades, and advice to female leaders operating in a male-dominated environment.

Editor's note: Responses have been lightly edited for length and clarity.

Question: Your dual role as CNO and COO is one I don't see very often. What are the advantages of having oversight of both daily operations and the nursing staff in your hybrid role? 

Dr. Amber Egyud: There's such a good benefit to have CNOs be COOs as well because everything in operations eventually touches a patient. A dual focus on nursing and operations allows for better collaboration and continuity of care through disciplines such as pharmacy, rehab services, our diagnostic services, home health and hospice and overall service line development. All of it is so integrated into patient care that having a dual role makes the most sense from a planning and alignment perspective and a collaboration perspective. It brings everyone to the table with the right insights because we all have a piece of the puzzle. Regardless of our discipline, we all play a part in the planning of healthcare for our community. That role alignment really allows for good planning from both a strategy and operational perspective.

Q: I read that an emergency room visit when you were 5 inspired you to become a nurse. What inspired you to step into nurse leadership, specifically? Did you always have your sights set on the C-suite?

AE: I've always wanted to be a nurse. I naturally progressed from a bedside nurse role to charge nurse and unit manager roles, then became a director and then jumped to an executive role. So it was a natural progression — I didn't necessarily see myself here. Even when I graduated from nursing school, my sights weren't set on anything past clinical care because the relationship between a nurse and the patient is so sacred. That's really what I aspired to in my career. I got started in leadership by having a deep desire to improve patient outcomes and to look at ways that nursing could be more autonomous and how we can use evidence-based practice and the scientific side of our degrees to grow ourselves professionally and improve our patient outcomes. So it was really my desire for process improvement that started to lead me into leadership roles.

Q: How have you seen nurse leadership change over the past few decades?

AE: I've been in healthcare for over 30 years, so I've seen many transitions. Thirty years ago, if you were escalated to an administrative role, you weren't necessarily in the day-to-day operations. Today's nurse leader is much more involved with daily operations and hands on operations than previous decades. One of the most important ways that nursing leadership has developed is that we've used our nursing knowledge, evidence-based practices and our essential leadership skills to advance the practice of nursing. 

Q: What would you say is the most important lesson that you've learned from your staff or your team members during your tenure at Chesapeake Regional?

AE: Listen first and be authentic in your leadership. No leader knows everything or needs to know everything, so that's why you rely on others. Nursing is definitely a team sport. No leader is successful without a good team, and I am fortunate to be blessed with amazing colleagues here at Chesapeake.

Q: What advice do you have for female leaders who are operating on a male-dominated leadership team or in a male-dominated environment? 

AE: My advice to them would be to not view yourself as different because at the end of the day, we all have a seat at the table. We all bring our own set of talents and skills to a team. Don't bias yourself or have a presumed bias because you're the only one in the room or even if you're the only one in the room with your opinion. If you allow yourself to think in ways of bias, you'll limit your leadership to that bias. You need to stand by your opinion if you have the data and information to back it up and you believe that that's the right thing. Don't try to fit yourself into the group. Instead, be authentically you and bring your talent and skill set to a group regardless of who's around the table. Certainly, if there's not a seat for you at the table, make a seat.

Q: Any other thoughts or advice for nurse leaders that you'd like to share?

AE: For anyone who is looking to advance in leadership, I always say that you have to understand what you're trying to change before you change it. The other advice I would give is that there's no replacement for visibility and communication.

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