As Los Angeles braces itself for the coming changes in health care delivery, nursing roles are expected to change in light of an aging population that may outnumber nurses beyond the current mandated nurse-patient ratio. Among the aging population are nurses over the age of 50 who make up almost half of the nursing workforce according to the American Nurses Association.

Cathy Fickes, president and CEO, St. Vincent Medical Center (photo courtesy of Cathy Fickes)

Cathy Fickes, president and CEO, St. Vincent Medical Center (photo courtesy of Cathy Fickes)

Cathy Fickes, president and CEO of St. Vincent Medical Center, worries that there aren’t enough nursing programs to prepare hospitals for the retirement of these nurses, especially in light of how long it takes for a single nurse to receive the advanced training needed for nurses to play an even more important role in health care than ever before. In fact, Fickes is the epitome of just how important a role nurses with advanced education play into quality health care in Los Angeles. After 25 years of schooling, Fickes has become part of a rising trend of nurses turned hospital CEOs.

Career path of nurse turned CEO

Fickes earned her initial nursing degree from City College of San Francisco and started working as an emergency department nurse. Over the years, she specialized in critical care nursing while earning a bachelor of arts in business from University of Phoenix and a masters of science in health care administration from University of Laverne. Her nursing role eventually transitioned from the bedside into nursing administration, which gave her the opportunity to become chief operating officer of Mission Community Hospital and ultimately chief executive officer for the first time in her nursing career.

Fickes feels she is a better CEO because of the 20 years she spent taking care of the patients she continues to service even in her current role. “My education has allowed me to serve patients and their families at times of crisis in their lives when they cannot take care of their health care needs,” says the Los Angeles nurse turned CEO. “It has also allowed me to become an effective communicator between what is needed at the bedside and the economic and business aspects of health care,” she says.

Tips for career advancement in nursing

After more than 20 years of working as a nurse, Fickes is grateful for the fulfilling and sustaining life her registered nurse credential has given her. She has followed many different paths in medicine as a result of her registered nurse degree which helped her find her place in emergency medicine and nursing administration.

In light of all of her experiences, Fickes recommends learning what your strengths are and finding a career that embraces those strengths and makes you feel good about doing what you should be doing. “Nursing has so many opportunities,” says Fickes. “For a new nurse just beginning, try various types of nursing to see what best fits your personality, gives you the greatest joy and resonates with your specific skills and talents.”

Niki Payne is a freelance writer covering all things Entertainment in Los Angeles. Her work can be found on


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