This May, Carolyn Taylor, BSN ’78, MSN ’86, EMBA’ 94, will attend another Mason Commencement. This time, she will walk across the Patriot Center stage and receive a PhD in nursing administration.
Taylor says this degree is for her personal enrichment. “The other degrees I needed to advance my career, but now I feel like I have wisdom to share.” Taylor has fond memories of Mason that go back to the very first day she stepped onto Mason’s Fairfax Campus in the mid-1970s. She wanted to finish her nursing education, but as an Army wife with three young daughters, she wasn’t sure they would be stationed in Northern Virginia long enough for her to complete a bachelor’s degree. Evelyn Cohelan, the late professor emeritus and founder of Mason’s nursing program, was there to greet her and set her mind at ease.
“She sat down with [Taylor and her husband] and showed us how I could get my BSN in just three years, prior to our assignment to Germany,” says Taylor. It was hard work, involving summer sessions, but she was able to do it—and just in time. “I was in Richmond taking my state boards while my husband packed up the house for our move to Germany,” she says. Just three months later, she learned she passed her boards and began working as a labor and delivery nurse in a military hospital in Heidelberg.
From there she went on to a number of other nursing positions, gathering more and more responsibility. She eventually returned to the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area where she held a number of management and executive positions at Inova Health System and Holy Cross Hospital. She began teaching part time for the College of Health and Human Services (CHHS) in 1986 and has been a preceptor to Mason nursing students throughout her career, hiring a number of them over the years.
In the late 1990s, she joined her husband, Les, as a consultant with his information technology firm Taylor-Oden Enterprises. She has been the firm’s corporate operations officer for the past nine years.
The Taylors are the founding sponsors of the Health Care Quality Improvement Awards, a competition organized each year by CHHS. Established in 2004, these awards recognize outstanding examples of quality improvement team efforts in hospitals and health care systems.
“Oftentimes nurses don’t get individual credit. They do a lot to make things happen, but the organization gets the credit,” she says. “When you acknowledge individuals, they get motivated. These awards provide an opportunity for a group of colleagues to get recognition for a job well done, an improvement that may be saving lives.” Taylor’s career has been about health care quality and mentoring nurses and nursing students. Over the years, she has seen nurses not receive the respect they deserve, which influenced her dissertation work. Taylor is developing a survey to measure feelings of respect. She tested the survey on about 300 nurses this winter and has plans for it beyond health care settings.
“Respect in the workplace is universal, so it will be easily transferable,” Taylor says. “The tool will be for everyone to use. You can easily take it and place it in another discipline.”
Mason has been a big part of the Taylor family. Each of her three daughters—Tresha; Traci, MA New Professional Studies ’04; and Kelley, JD ’98—attended Mason at some point in their college careers. And Carolyn is not the only family member currently enrolled. The eldest of her six grandchildren, Chrysta, is a freshman majoring in biology and the family’s first third-generation Patriot.