In honor of Nurses Week, we’re profiling our Chief Nursing Officer, Margo Bykonen, whose lifelong commitment to helping people and her community led her down a career path she didn’t expect. And she wouldn’t have it any other way.
“Never in my wildest thoughts did I think about nursing leadership,” said Margo who now oversees a team of 4,300 nurses in addition to myriad of other responsibilities.
Margo’s initial aspirations were simple. As a child, she had respiratory issues and was “in and out of hospitals.” She realized that nurses gave the type of care she wanted to give and knew she wanted to be a part of that profession.
“I saw what nurses actually do. I saw the amount of time they spent with each patient. I saw the impact they had at the bedside,” Margo said. “Nurses affect patients’ lives every single day. When you’re a patient, you’re in the hospital, you’re sick, and you’re scared. You only have the nurses to soothe you and allay your fears. That’s the type of help I wanted to be involved in.”
That goal has guided her career choices.
Margo began working at Swedish as a student employee more than 30 years ago while attending nursing school at the University of Washington. She later went on to earn a Master’s degree in nursing, also from the University of Washington.
Upon earning her Bachelor of Science degree, Margo started work as an RN in the gynecological surgery unit caring for patients after their surgeries. From there, she became a nursing care specialist in home hospice.
Another career turn led Margo to work with HIV/AIDS patients as program director for their services. She became part of a collaborative effort between Swedish and other hospitals and community organizations “working together to create services and a safety net,” she said. Again, the work brought invaluable lessons on the important role nursing plays in providing safe, quality care and how that care strengthens the community.
Over the years, Margo’s role at Swedish grew as she took on additional responsibilities in palliative care, acute care services, administration, and the emergency department.
She’s learned important lessons with each phase of her career. The most important?
“Just be present,” she said. “As a nurse you spend more time on a daily basis with your patients than anyone else does. Healthcare is fast moving and you need to make connections. You need to be there to support your patients and help them physically, emotionally and spiritually. You’re hearing their stories. Nurses do that so well.”
Margo laughs when asked to describe a typical day. “There’s no such thing,” she said. “There’s always some change happening.”
One thing doesn’t change, however – her commitment to elevate the role of nursing and improve patient care. According to Margo, the two go hand in hand.
“Nurses have a physically hard, emotionally hard, taxing job. But nurses make a difference, sometimes long after our patients are gone. They spend some of their best times and some of the worst times of their lives with us. I wouldn’t want to do anything else,” Margo said. “It’s a profession to be proud of.”
The nurses at Swedish are a vital part of the care team working with your doctor to provide the care you need when you need it.
During this week of appreciation for nurses and all the hard work they do to care for you and your loved ones, find a way to express your gratitude by giving them a friendly smile, writing a letter or simply saying thank you when you see them. After all, they’ve dedicated their lives to helping people of all walks of life feel better and stay healthy.