I always wanted to be in the medical field. I always liked helping people. I was in the Army Reserve as an operating room specialist and that’s how I actually started in health care, but my career really began at Alameda Health System.

I was working in a warehouse when a friend told me about a five-week program at AHS to become a certified nursing assistant — two weeks in the classroom, three weeks on the floor. After those five weeks I knew I wanted to stay in this field.

I started as a certified nursing assistant, then worked in Central Supply, then worked as a bedside nurse for 20 years before going into management, and I was recently promoted from a manager to a director. This route actually helped me see the full perspective of what goes on here.

All of the leaders on my management team have been bedside nurses. So our staff can respect what we have to say because they know we’ve been there — we have street cred.

Even if you start at an entry level, that gets you in the door, and then you can grow, because there is a lot of growth potential here at AHS.

You’ll be fearful, but do it. I remember my daughter telling me, when I first started the management position and I was anxious and thought I wanted to go back to the bedside. She said, “Mom, in this family, we move forward. We don’t go backward. You did not spend all that time in school to be taking steps backward.”

But taking that first step is challenging. I tell my staff that if they want to go back to school or grow professionally, we can figure out a way to make it work. Because once you decide to do it, the only person stopping you is yourself.

Cheryl Wilson-Talford, RN, MSN
Director, Critical Care Services
Alameda Health System-Highland Hospital