Nurse leader Millie Sattler, Emory Healthcare

Importance placed on keeping good nurses feeling motivated, valued

Millie Sattler found the nurse’s station much more fun than her bed when she was hospitalized at age 5. She would hang out there in the evenings, folding washcloths and doing other small chores.

By the time she left the pediatric trauma unit, she had been told she had a nurse’s intuition, alerting staff to a boy having a seizure and to a patient faking an injury.

“I didn’t know what (intuition) was. But that word stuck with me,” Sattler said, declaring then she would one day be a nurse.

Sattler is now corporate director of nurse retention and career development for Emory Healthcare’s 11 hospitals, and in June celebrates 40 years as a nurse.

Her mission is to keep good nurses on the job and feeling motivated, valued and appreciated. And in each of the past four years, she’s retained hundreds of nurses who had planned to resign, said Polly Willis, director of magnet and nurse support operations at Emory.

That’s why Sattler was presented with the AJC Nurse Leader Award on Friday afternoon, after being nominated last fall. Ten health care workers received Nurse Excellence Awards, but only one was honored as a nurse leader.

“The challenge of the pandemic requires more effort to retain nurses in roles,” said Willis, who nominated Sattler for the award. “Millie innovated retention efforts that align with each generation’s needs and values.”

A native of Youngstown, Ohio, the 62-year-old wife, mother of five and grandmother of five spent the first 20 years as a nurse in her home state, followed by nine years in New Hampshire. She has her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in nursing and her Doctor of Nursing Practice.

Demonstrating the attributes of an authentic leader, she shares her learning with nurses around the country who seek her guidance about her work at EHC. They know of her activities due to both podium presentations and scholarly articles. Millie demonstrates the attributes of a servant leader who is transformational in her ability to enhance the image of nursing ...

- Polly Willis, director of Magnet & Nurse Support Operations at Emory Healthcare, who nominated Millie Sattler for Celebrating Nurses’ Nurse Leader award

She devoted the longest stretch of her career to emergency rooms, but also worked in cardiovascular critical care and as a flight nurse before moving into her first supervisory role.

Sattler said her husband’s desire for milder winters prompted the family to relocate to Dunwoody in 2016. Determined to work in leadership at a magnet hospital/academic medical center, she began working at Emory University Hospital as director of interventional radiology. A year later, she moved into her current job in nurse retention for the entire Emory hospital system.

In one way, she said, COVID-19 made her job easier because it allowed her to meet with staff by Zoom calls instead of traveling from hospital to hospital.

Although veteran nurses — who had already been through the AIDS crisis — felt they’d “been there, done that” when COVID hit, Sattler said, “I was able to retain a lot of them by keeping them in jobs where they weren’t so close to the bedside anymore,” such as telehealth and patient navigation.

Sattler considers one of her most significant accomplishments her work on the Emory system’s Professional Lattice for Nursing, providing the staff with more opportunities for education, advancement and recognition.

“We got to recognize and advance them all in one swoop,” she said.

Overall participation in the plan rose 30% under Sattler’s leadership, and participation in the monthly PLAN virtual meetings grew by 187% for ambulatory nursing, Willis said.

“Millie also developed advancement programs for LPNs and nurse techs,” she said.

The American Nurse recognized the PLAN Council, spearheaded by Sattler, with a 2022 third-place ALL-PRO team award.

Sattler also is credited with encouraging her nurses to participate in the DAISY Foundation program; creating a student nurse assistant program to help develop a pipeline of job candidates; increasing nurses’ participation in a mentor program; and offering a different education program last year during National Nurses Month.

Sattler said all hospitals in the Emory system are either magnet facilities or are in the process of earning that designation. A magnet-designated hospital is a medical facility recognized for meeting the gold standard for nursing practice and innovation.

Her first hospital was a magnet, and Sattler said she would not work at a hospital that does not meet those high standards.

She said magnet hospitals provide professional growth, support nurses who pursue advanced certification, and reward nurses with monetary compensation for their achievement of critical competence, nursing excellence and professionalism.

The magnet designation means, “if you are sick, you want to go to Emory,” Sattler said.

To read about and watch videos of all honorees, please visit


Terri Holden, Piedmont Cartersville Medical Center

Rita Ford, Northside Hospital Gwinnett

Brandie Christian, Northside Hospital Gwinnett

Kathleen LePain, Piedmont Athens Regional Medical Center

Lisa Treadwell, Piedmont Eastside Medical Center

Stacey Howard, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta at Egleston

Kellie Mitchell, Wellstar Paulding Hospital

Mark Lee, Emory University Hospital

Janet Rollor, Wellstar Kennestone Hospital

Anna Paller, Wellstar Kennestone Hospital