From the moment she became a candy striper at Lakewood General Hospital in her early teens, Jennifer Graves was certain about her career choice.
“I knew from an early age that I wanted to be a nurse,” said Graves, remembering how proud she was to wear the red-and-white-striped jumper that gave young hospital volunteers the candy striper label. “And I think part of that was definitely spurred on by two parents involved in the community and [who] did a lot of volunteering and outreach.”
Now, after more than 27 years serving in both nursing and leadership roles for several Seattle-area health care institutions, Graves is also proud to be the new interim CEO of Swedish Edmonds, taking over for David Jaffee, who retired at the end of 2014 after three-and-a-half years at the helm.
The 49-year-old Graves officially started her new job Jan. 1, but she is actually wearing three hats. In addition to becoming the interim Swedish Edmonds CEO, she is continuing her role as Chief Executive & Nurse Executive at Swedish Ballard, a position she has held since February 2012. She was asked to oversee hospital operations in Edmonds for the current year to ensure a smooth transition after Jaffe’s retirement, especially given the facility’s 77,000-square-foot expansion that is now underway and scheduled for completion next fall.
“I’m very excited about the expansion,” Graves said. “I think it’s going to be wonderful for the community and I also think it’s going to be wonderful for the staff.”
Being in the interim CEO role, Graves said, will give Swedish Edmonds stakeholders an opportunity to weigh in on whether she is best choice for the job long-term. It’s a process that Graves said she welcomes to ensure the best fit for all involved, and is indicative of her leadership style, which she said reflects her years of nursing training.
From her beginnings as a candy striper, Graves earned a bachelor’s degree in nursing from the University of Portland that led to her first job at the University of Washington Medical Center, where she worked with cardiology patients, “I discovered this notion of understanding personal resiliency and how some people can bounce back from the most dire of circumstances and do really, really well,” Graves said.
She returned to University of Portland for her master’s, focused on nurse practitioner training, and was hired at Seattle Pacific University, where she ran the student health center and also taught in the school’s undergraduate and graduate nursing programs.
In 1999, she moved to Virginia Mason, serving as a nurse practitioner there for the next 10 years, taking “a little time off” for the birth of her son, who is now 13 and in middle school. She joined Swedish Ballard as Nursing Leader in January 2009, staying in that role until February 2012, when she was named Chief Executive & Nurse Executive for the Swedish Ballard campus.
A nursing background, she explained, instills good leadership skills because it “really starts with assessment…and that means listening and looking. I’m trained to be thorough about gathering information before I take action, and I think that’s particularly what I’m trying to do here at Swedish Edmonds.” That means no preconceived notions and or agendas, she said, but considering all ideas “before I formulate a plan for the team on where we want to go together.”
During her first two weeks, Graves has spent much of her time going on patient rounds with medical staff and getting to know as many of Swedish Edmonds’ 1,308 employees as she can. She also had an opportunity to meet Edmonds Mayor Dave Earling and is hoping to connect with other community leaders in the near future.
“I’d love to hear from different partners in the community and different stakeholders about what they feel are the next steps for Swedish Edmonds as far as growth of services or changing of services,” she said.
Asked if she had a specific message for South Snohomish County residents served by the hospital, Graves said: “I really would like the community to feel confident when they seek care here at Swedish Edmonds. The hospital under David [Jaffe] gained a lot of really good momentum I think, and [staff] should be proud of what they’ve accomplished the last several years.”
If you have an idea for Graves, you are welcome to email her at Jennifer.Graves@swedish.org.