Our Stories

Gaining Business Acumen to Help Patients

Oncology nurse Cara Anderson wants to work for ‘lasting change’

Cara Anderson
Registered Nurse, Vanderbilt Ingram Cancer Center
Registered Nurse, Vanderbilt University Medical Center

Vanderbilt MM Health Care 2021

Cara Anderson calls herself a “chairside nurse.” At a satellite clinic for the Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center, she works closely with patients, triaging them over the phone, prepping them before seeing their physician, educating them about chemotherapy, and performing their chemotherapy infusions.

“I continually found myself in places of leadership and trying to lead the unit toward better practices, such as starting and leading the unit GEMBA visual management board,” Cara says. Though she had obtained certification from the Oncology Nursing Society and advanced to the highest level available in the Vanderbilt Professional Nursing Practice Program (VPNPP), she believed she needed additional expertise in order to pursue higher levels of leadership. “Even deeper than that,” she says, “I got tired of telling patients we couldn’t offer them a treatment because of payment or their insurance plan.”

Believing that knowledge would empower her to make more of a difference on patients’ behalf, Cara joined the MMHC program. The experience was “incredible,” she says. “Even during the COVID pandemic, professors and staff have gone above and beyond; they jumped hurdles to bring about a quality and safe education.” She remembers particularly how Program Director Burch Wood stayed after class to help her understand a difficult concept, as well as how Professor Larry Van Horn set up an individual meeting with her to discuss possible business ideas and refine her vision for potential opportunities.

“I learned so much about the health care business model, and I hope to use it to improve processes across all segments of health care,” Cara says. “I can already see how my leadership skills and business acumen have greatly increased.

“I could talk about learning how to calculate the NPV [net present value], or mastering the queueing calculations, or even how to read and create income statements, but the most important skill I’ve learned is teamwork. Learning to work with strong personalities from different backgrounds has shaped the leader I will be. And being exposed to the business side of things has changed my perspective as a day-to-day nurse. Seeing the big picture is the first step in bringing lasting change to a system in need of reform.”

Seeing the big picture is the first step in bringing lasting change to a system in need of reform.