After a distinguished career of public service and leadership, Mary Browning, CEO of the Indiana Organization for Nursing Leaders (IONL), announced her well-deserved retirement, which took effect in June. As Cathy Wichman joins IONL, an affiliate organization of the Indiana Hospital Association, to take on the role — Browning says there could not be a better candidate to serve as CEO.
“Cathy is a natural leader and brings proven nursing experience to the role of CEO. I look forward to seeing everything she and the IONL team accomplish together.”
Wichman brings 19 years of experience to IONL and has served on the Board of Directors for ten years. She started her career as a medical-surgical nurse and quickly grew into leadership roles across multiple hospital departments including nursing, pharmacy, behavioral health, lab, cardiopulmonary, sleep services, and wound care. She most recently served as Chief Nursing Officer for Decatur County Memorial Hospital.
To get to know IONL’s newly appointed CEO, IHA sat down with Wichman to hear about her goals for the organization and her new role:
IHA: How did you get into health care?
Wichman: Health care was a surprise for me to be honest. I’d love to say I was born knowing I wanted to be a nurse. Initially, I went to school to be an English teacher with a minor in journalism. Amidst that journey, I had a long stay in the hospital. That experience fostered my desire to switch to nursing and serve patients and families the best I could.
IHA: What are some of your biggest goals as the new CEO of IONL?
Wichman: For the first several months I plan to learn all that I can from Mary and the staff at IHA. I’d like to listen to and spend time with nurses from all over the state to truly understand the barriers they are facing. IONL is a solid organization that has been built over the past 35 years. IONL will continue to be a resource for health care in Indiana. My focus will be on growing member participation, innovation, and partnering with others to make Indiana's health care the best in the country.
IHA: What has been one of your biggest accomplishments over the years in health care?
Wichman: Navigating a global pandemic at a critical access hospital was one of the most challenging times in my career. There were so many ‘unknowns’ during that time, and the staffing crisis got worse which cost organizations millions of dollars in expenses. My former CEO challenged me to eliminate travelers within the nursing departments, and I was able to accomplish that. I am very proud of the impact that had on the organization financially. Achieving that so quickly was a direct result of having the right nursing leaders in place for which I was fortunate to have an incredible nursing team. For me, this is one of the biggest accomplishments of my career. Bringing people together to solve problems, innovating new ways to staff the hospital, and developing the mantra that “we” will take great care of our patients, our community, and each other was very rewarding for me.
IHA: How have your past roles and experiences prepared you for this next chapter?
Wichman: Every experience I have had in health care has shaped me in some way. Some experiences have helped me solidify a core set of professional standards, and others have shown me what to avoid in health care leadership environments today. I have always worked in organizations that fostered growth and development, which I took advantage of. Many times in my career I was asked to take on tasks or to fix something that wasn’t where it needed to be, and I always said “yes” without hesitation regardless of compensation or titles. My parents taught me from a young age that failure is the stepping stone to greater success which made even the most daunting tasks worth taking on. Most of those duties came with longer hours, sacrifice, and frustrations, but looking back, every one of those “yes’s” has prepared me for this next chapter with IONL. I have been so blessed to have strong mentorship during my career from professional organizations and from within my own practice environments. I would be remiss in not mentioning my family who has pushed me and supported my journey even though often my 24/7 call was also theirs.
IHA: What are you looking forward to most in this new position?
Wichman: I am looking forward to spending time with the people of Indiana and engaging with health care professionals across the state. IONL has so much to offer in terms of education, public policy, advocacy, and career development and I would like to share that as often as I can. I am also looking forward to working with the IONL Board and all the affiliate organizations that are made up of such talented people all working to make health care better in Indiana!