Our professional journeys can take us on many paths, and the traditional ideas we have about our chosen careers often change and evolve over the years as we discover more about ourselves and find what work gives us purpose. When you think of nursing jobs, for example, what comes to mind? We typically associate nursing roles with clinical settings, but there are a variety of career opportunities available for nurses at Blue Shield of California outside of traditional patient care. To give some insight, we’ll speak to Maria Aguirre, a registered nurse who serves as clinical program manager of Strategic Partnerships and Pilot Programs in Health Transformation at Blue Shield.
What brought you to Blue Shield?
“I started my career in 2009 as a nurse, and early on moved into a space that I really love—educating clinicians and training providers. I trained clinicians in clinical skills as well as in quality improvement. After a few years working at a state hospital, I moved into a non-profit hospice organization. Working in a not-for-profit community-based hospice allowed me to see first-hand how an organization, no matter how small or large it may be, could provide outstanding support not only to patients, but also their families, and their entire community. Even though my initial intention (like most nurses during their studies) was to help patients, I quickly realized there was a need to help clinicians as well. My work helped clinicians do their jobs better and make sense of all the craziness around ever-changing mandates and regulations. In 2019, I came to work for Blue Shield, attracted by the idea of health transformation and innovation.”
What does a typical workday look like for you?
“I think this is probably different for every nurse here at Blue Shield. One of the things I love is the work-life balance. I have kids, and in previous roles never felt that I could allow my family to come first. Before Blue Shield, I would often feel like I should put my work before my family or personal life, and I so appreciate being able to prioritize my family. Once the kids are off to school, I can give 100 percent to my work without worrying.
I also love that the daily work varies. Sometimes I work with partners, either within or outside Blue Shield, such as vendors, medical groups, and individual providers. I get to teach providers about our new payment model to help them put a strategy in place to achieve their goals and improve patient outcomes. Overall, whatever I do each day, I feel, ‘this work is attached to something that is going to improve our members’ or providers’ experience as we try new things,’ because that’s what health transformation at Blue Shield is all about.”
What are some recent projects and accomplishments that have been made by your team?
“One of the projects I supported last year, which I am very proud of, is the virtual-first health plan we developed, Virtual Blue. While I did not do clinical work on this project, it allowed me to grow other skills, such as program and contract management. I know these unexpected new skills will be helpful in my career at Blue Shield. Another thing our team does well is implementing and managing pilot programs with providers. We are specifically focused on collaborating with our sister organization, Altais (a provider group that offers high-performance, engaged, and mission-aligned solutions and services for healthcare management and delivery), to manage and develop trusting relationships with medical groups and vendors.”
What are your future career goals?
“I love being able to work here at Blue Shield. I expect to continue working here as an individual contributor or a people manager. I am now at a point in my career where I am deciding which direction to move. As I explore my options, I am grateful to have the full support of my team to decide what is truly best for me. I have been given the opportunity to manage people, see how I like the experience, and decide if I want to continue down this path in my career. I’m glad that I can have honest conversations with my leaders, without any fears, and tell them what I’m thinking while I decide. It feels like a safe space where I am given the support I need from management while learning and growing in the process.”
How has Blue Shield supported your professional growth and development?
“In addition to giving me the ability to decide which direction I want my career to grow in, there are several opportunities here at Blue Shield for personal and professional development. There are mentorship opportunities, which I have taken advantage of, small study groups, certifications, development programs, and more. I am very excited to have been accepted into the Hispanic Leadership Essentials program offered by Blue Shield and McKinsley and Company, which I will be starting in October.”
What advice would you give to nurses considering a role at Blue Shield?
“The work is going to vary a lot depending on your team and the work you are doing, so work on skills that you would not normally expect to need as a nurse. There is so much that you can do here at Blue Shield, so expand your skills whether it means leading people, facilitating meetings, project management, or learning to be agile. Also, if you are a nurse who resonates with Blue Shield’s mission and values, join us, because these sit at the center of everything we do.”
If you are interested in developing your career at Blue Shield, we are currently hiring nurses. Explore our open career opportunities and apply!