Nurse Profile: Jo-Zetta Shawl, RN, BSN, MHA, NEA-BC
Leading with Pride
When Jo-Zetta Shawl, RN, BSN, MHA, NEA-BC, graduated from Widener College in 1979 and started her first job, she was brimming with excitement. As a staff nurse in Telemetry at Crozer-Chester Medical Center, she was one of the first new graduate nurses to be permitted to work on a monitored unit. After orientation, however, her excitement quickly turned to chagrin as she dealt with caring for patients who were very sick and often coding, as well as their families who, in their distress, were often difficult.
“I thought I had made the biggest mistake of my life and decided that I wanted to switch to a different career,” Shawl recalls. When she approached her mother, also a nurse, with this idea, her mother replied, “Absolutely not. You go back and find a way to carry on.”
It was good advice, says Shawl, because as it turned out, “Nursing has been the best career experience I ever could have hoped for.”
How did she turn it around? “Early on, I learned the value of networking with more experienced colleagues and finding mentors,” she relates. “They helped me learn and grow and, as a result, I realized the big rewards to be had in a nursing career.”
As she moved through various assignments and progressed in her career, Shawl also learned the value of embracing change, a lesson that has been key to her success. “My mother taught me about accepting change years ago,” she recalls. “She grew up on a farm with many trees. One tree was bigger and taller than all the rest. During windstorms, it never moved, even when all the other trees around it were bending nearly to the ground.
"One day a storm came through and afterward, she discovered that the big tree had split and fallen to the ground,” Shawl continues. “But the other trees that had always bent in the wind were still standing. My mother used that to illustrate her point. ‘When the winds of change blow through, you better be able to bend, or you will break,’ she told me. ‘Change is inevitable. You have to persevere and learn resiliency.’”
Shawl takes pride in the fact that she has been able to impart this wisdom to her nurse colleagues over the years, helping them not only to accept change, but to prosper in it.
Personally, she has experienced plenty of change during her 30 years with Crozer-Keystone Health System. In addition to Telemetry, she served as a staff nurse in the Operating Room, evening nursing supervisor for critical care areas and ambulatory services coordinator at Crozer.
“My most rewarding experience in nursing was working with patients in the ambulatory services clinics,” she reflects. “It was sobering to see the number of people who didn’t have access to healthcare, something many of us take for granted. I found it tremendously satisfying to help them work through the healthcare system to get what they needed.” Shawl also notes another reward -- she met her husband while he was a resident rotating through the clinics.
Later, as Director of Nursing at Springfield Hospital, Shawl dedicated her efforts to improving patient care and promoting professional development and self governance among the nursing staff. She spearheaded the efforts that led to Springfield’s VHA Leadership Award for Clinical Excellence in 2008. During her tenure, Springfield also won the Press Ganey Compass Award in recognition of three years of consistent improvement in overall patient satisfaction. Her many achievements also include oversight of the expansion of the Emergency Department and implementation of electronic documentation for the ED and Nursing.
“The whole nursing department at Springfield is miles better because of Jo-Zetta,” says Gwen Smith, RN, BSN, MSN, president of Springfield Hospital. “She exemplifies Magnet nursing with her style of leadership, with her consistent expectation of excellence and with her operating philosophy that the patient should always come first.”
“If you have a problem, Jo-Zetta will always tell you to put the patient first,” says Janice Simons, RN, MSN, CNOR, nurse manager of Surgical Services at Springfield. “Looking at the situation from the patient’s perspective will help you find the best solution – one that will ensure that the patient receives the best possible care.”
Shawl reflects, “My husband and son, Nicholas, are the most important people in the world to me. I know that other people feel the same way about their families, and naturally, they want what is best for them. That drives me to make sure our patients receive the best care.”
Appointed last fall to her current post as Assistant Vice President of Patient Services at Delaware County Memorial Hospital, Shawl is well respected for her professionalism, accessibility to the nursing staff and commitment to self governance and professional development.
“Jo-Zetta has always encouraged autonomy and independence among the nurses,” says Amy Meehan, RN, Springfield Emergency Department nurse manager. “We have been successful at moving to shared governance because of her support. At the same time, she is always accessible when we have questions. Her knowledge base is phenomenal. She always seems to have the answers!”
Lisa Schmidt, RN, BSN, Acute Care Center nurse manager at Springfield, adds, “Jo-Zetta has always encouraged and afforded time for nurses to attend educational programs and participate on nursing councils, even before we began pursuing the Magnet designation.”
Shawl is enormously proud to be part of the nursing profession. “This is a valuable, intellectual profession,” she emphasizes. “Nurses are the engines that power healthcare. Each day, they have their fingers on the pulse of everything that is going on with patients and their families. They should be proud and take credit and joy in what they are able to accomplish.”