Mastering nursing administration, leadership

Tamara Uson
Tamara Uson. Courtesy photo.

Tamara Uson says her nursing story started when she was 14 years old, and her father died in a hospital from an anaphylactic reaction to a known antibiotic allergy.

After that, she said, “it’s always been this passion of mine to take care of people and make sure they have the highest quality and safest care.”

At 16, Uson started as a dietary assistant in a nursing home. She became a certified nurse aid, worked in a hospital and then received an RN from Everett Community College and, in 2012, a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree from the University of Washington in Seattle.

In 2018, she received her Master of Nursing degree from UW Bothell in the Administrative Leadership track she helped to launch.

Eager to learn

In jobs at hospitals such as Providence Regional Medical Center in Everett and Swedish Medical Center in Seattle, Uson eagerly worked in every department and specialty she could, including emergency, oncology, pediatrics, behavioral health and surgery.

“I went from one specialty to the next, building on one skill after another. I was eager to learn it all,” said Uson, who added she came to “understand care through the continuum.”

Uson was in a supervisory role in surgery services at Swedish Hospital when she started talking with other nurse managers about what they would need to continue careers as administrators. Their thinking sprang from the realization that patient care was not only what they could deliver from a bedside but also what came from decisions made across a conference table.

“We knew there were key skills missing when we showed up at meetings. We didn’t have that business component or aspect to be able to have those conversations — or the insight to know what we didn’t know,” Uson said. “How can we be good stewards of how we care for our patients, ensure our teams are supported and have the resources they need?”

These working nurses realized they needed MBA skills, but as health care veterans they did not want a traditional business master’s degree. Colleagues urged Uson to design a program herself. With some sticky notes and a whiteboard, she started mapping a path. She shared her ideas with an administrator at Swedish, June Altaras, a University of Washington Bothell graduate (BSN ’98, MSN ’07).

Program pilots

Altaras connected her to leaders of UW Bothell’s School of Nursing & Health Studies — the dean at the time, Dr. David Allen, now a professor emeritus; and Dr. Mayumi Willgerodt, now associate professor in the UW School of Nursing in Seattle. They, in turn, brought in faculty from UW Bothell’s School of Business to develop a new nursing-business curriculum.

The Master of Nursing’s Administrative Leadership program launched in 2016. The first cohort of about 10 students, which included Uson, attended classes at Swedish Medical Center. They graduated in 2018.

Uson learned many skills she needed from the School of Business faculty. Two in particular stood out for her. Dr. Surya Pathak, associate professor, taught her how to create successful processes to cut waste. Dr. Sophie Leroy, associate professor, taught her how to create a highly engaged team to implement these processes.

“We are in the business for patients, which means we need all tools, not just nursing-related skills, to create a high-reliability organization,” said Uson, whose feedback helped form the curriculum.


The business-infused MN gave Uson and her cohort what they needed to move forward in their careers, to take their places “confidently at the negotiating table, to be able to have inspiring conversations, to understand finance and budgets, to take what you have to work with and create something successful with it,” Uson said.

“Everyone on our team has either been promoted or is now working where their passion is,” she said.

Uson has made another career move. She followed Altaras to MultiCare Health System, which has eight hospitals in the Puget Sound region plus two in Spokane and partnerships with other facilities in the state. Altaras is the senior vice president and chief quality, safety and nursing officer. Uson is a chief nursing executive who will be working at Capital Medical Center in Olympia in April after MultiCare completes its acquisition of the community hospital.

“I have the tools I need to be a chief nurse executive,” Uson said. “For leaders like June Altaras and the University of Washington Bothell to listen to our needs, to come up with creative solutions, is more than an incredible opportunity, it’s life changing,” Uson said, “I’m honored to be part of this journey.”

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