In her quest to one day become a chief nursing officer, Tasha M. Lea, BSN, R.N. (MHSA ’14) has traded her light blue scrubs for office attire and a crisp lab coat. As nurse manager for Duke Primary Care in North Carolina, Lea manages and coordinates patient care and personnel needs for 21 staff at her clinic—everything from promoting patient education to hiring and scheduling medical assistants, front desk staff and licensed practical nurses. She also remains available to pitch in on-call and provide hands-on nursing support for clinic emergencies.
She can carry out this juggling act because of her long-term interest in both medicine and leadership, and she says her training as a registered nurse, combined with her recently acquired Strayer University master’s degree, have prepared her to take on myriad responsibilities.
“I like to work with people, and I like taking care of people,” she says simply from her North Carolina home. After completing nursing school and securing her license, Lea went on to work as a nurse specializing in gastrointestinal surgery and surgical oncology at University of North Carolina Hospitals, before moving to the hospital system’s maternal and newborn space. There, she moved from being a clinical nurse II to a clinical nurse III—a big jump that requires higher-level management responsibilities—and cared for patients while mentoring nursing students and assigning patients to staff.
She picked up an Aspiring Nurse Leader Award from her employer along the way and realized that being a trailblazer made her happy. “Everyone has an area of special interest in nursing, and leadership is something I was drawn to,” she says. To help her reach those leadership goals, she decided to pursue additional education, scheduling her evening graduate classes around her 12-hour workdays.
“In nursing school you learn the clinical skills, but it doesn’t really teach you the business side of healthcare,” she explains. “The healthcare systems want leaders to have master’s degrees. Now I can combine my business knowledge with my clinical knowledge and be, hopefully, a great nurse manager. I’m excited to get started on this new path.”