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A proud alumna of Cabarrus College, Tara McGee-Walker graduated from the Master of Science in Nursing program in 2021. Her journey from emergency room nurse to vice president of teammate health and safety exemplifies how far a Cabarrus College education can take the college’s graduates.

McGee-Walker started her healthcare career as an ER nurse with a six-month residency program at Presbyterian Hospital in Charlotte, NC. She always had an interest in Pediatrics and eventually moved to the children’s ER at Atrium Health Carolinas Medical Center to help open the unit. It was during this project that McGee-Walker developed an interest in technology and informatics. She worked with vendors to set up monitors and computer programs for the unit and quickly fell in love with a different aspect of health care.

A shift from bedside care to technology

McGee-Walker’s interest in technology led her to work with several healthcare technology companies, and she quickly moved into a technology build program to become an architect after she acquired coding skills. She later transitioned to a sales position, where she helped to match the right products to customers, one of which was Atrium Health.

McGee-Walker’s connections with Atrium Health led her back to the organization in 2018 as the informatics manager. She helped set up the program and get it organized. During the COVID-19 pandemic, McGee-Walker’s role was expanded to help with testing and vaccines. McGee-Walker was chief of operations for mass COVID-19 vaccine events and then oversaw Atrium Health’s monoclonal therapy program.

McGee-Walker eventually moved to Atrium Health’s Teammate Health and Safety department as a director, where she helped implement technology for COVID-19 testing and monitoring. After graduating from Cabarrus College’s Master of Science in Nursing program in 2021, McGee-Walker was offered the position of vice president of Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist’s Teammate Health and Safety department, where she now oversees employee health and safety initiatives. “I went from director to vice president in two years, and the last ticket I needed to do that was my master’s degree,” McGee-Walker said.

The intersection of healthcare and technology

Nursing is often associated with providing direct care to patients in hospitals, clinics, or homes. But McGee-Walker says nursing is much more than that. “Nurses must think outside the box and explore other ways to use their skills,” she said. She contends that nurses have many ways to make a difference in the world and urges them to be creative and to broaden their connections.

McGee-Walker also feels that technology and innovation play a crucial role in healthcare. She insists nurses use technology in a safe way, partnering with IT to make sure that the technology is being used correctly. “Healthcare must involve nurses from the ground up in projects, to make sure that their input is taken into consideration,” McGee-Walker said.

McGee-Walker is proud of her achievements in her current role, including a project that saved Atrium Health $2 million by moving teammate care over to a more effective and compliant model. She is excited about future initiatives, including helping a safety team at Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist bring in air quality and respiratory protection programs. Looking ahead, McGee-Walker believes there will be an emphasis placed on teammate wellbeing.

McGee-Walker advocates for creating a culture of openness and compassion, where teammates can talk about their challenges and share their experiences without fear of stigma or judgment. She believes that by addressing employee health and wellbeing in the workplace, healthcare organizations can improve the quality of care, reduce turnover, and enhance employee satisfaction and engagement.

McGee-Walker also works with an Atrium Health system resource group called A² WeXcel (African American Women Exemplifying Commitment to Equity & Leadership), which is dedicated to fostering connectivity and addressing the specific needs of Black, female teammates through access, education, community partnership, and leadership development. McGee-Walker talks to young, Black female professionals and encourages them that they can achieve a leadership role. She also shares her own career story and how she got to where she is now. “I always wanted people to be able to see someone that looks like them in a leadership role,” she said.

“I think being a woman of color in a leadership role is a big responsibility because I must be comfortable advocating for other people of color. I must be ready to speak up and say hey, please consider us when you make decisions or decide how to present information.” 

McGee-Walker’s passion for nursing, technology, and healthcare is evident in her work, and she continues to make a difference in the lives of patients and healthcare workers.