Tanya Henry’s management philosophy? Join her staff in the trenches.

Tanya Henry profile photoIn recognizing Tanya Henry, RN, BSN, MSHM of Columbia VA Health Care System, Columbia, South Carolina among “15 nurses who disrupted healthcare through the COVID-19 pandemic,” Johnson and Johnson credited her leadership of the medical center’s screening and testing “nurse-led and nurse driven” program.

A nurse for 23 years, Henry tells Regis College Assistant Professor Lawana Brown that “As young as I can remember, I know that I was always intrigued with medicine.” But Henry never pursued leadership roles—leaders sought her out. She shrugs it off as people seeing qualities in her that she didn’t initially see in herself, but it’s clear why she was chosen.

“I have always been one of those people who put myself in the shoes of my employees,” Henry says. Regardless of titles, “at the end of the day, I’m still a nurse, just like you. So I put myself in the trenches. I get on the floor with them if I need to. Open door policy—what is it that you need?”

Nurses requested to be on her team and volunteered for shifts in the COVID testing operation even in the bleak early days of the pandemic.

“I remember there were some days where myself, I would just sit there and I’m like, how much more can we take of this?,” Henry recalls. “We know what our profession is. We’re going to see death and dying, we’re going to see sick people, but to see just how it impacted us, because these patients are our loved ones because we knew what they were going through…There were many tears, long hours and you just, when is it going to be over? But just pulling it together and supporting each other and allowing them to talk, allowing them to shed a tear when they needed to. That’s what it takes.”

In retrospect, Henry is proud of the progress her team has made. “One thing I can say looking back at it, you think to yourself like man, we made it, we’re almost through our second year and look at where we are today…All you need is that strong team, positive attitude, and we can do it.”