Senior Nursing Leadership

Meet the Team Leaders

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Tonya Washington, MSN, RN, NEA-BC
Senior Vice President, Chief Nursing Officer

Tonya R. Washington, MSN, RN, is senior vice president and chief nursing officer, MedStar Washington Hospital Center. Washington has played an important Nursing leadership role at the Hospital Center for more than 20 years, first joining as a clinical manager, and later, head nurse of Pulmonary Medicine, followed by her role as head nurse, Cardiology. She was promoted to senior nursing director for Medical Surgical Nursing in 2008, and became assistant vice president of Nursing in March 2010. She served as interim chief nursing officer from July 2010 to April 2011, when she was named vice president for Nursing Operations.

Washington has more than two decades of experience in key hospital service lines. Her contributions to the Hospital Center include the Pathway to Excellence® designation from the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) in 2017. Pathway-designated entities are considered among the best places for nurses to practice, and only 152 of 5,500 hospitals nationwide are Pathway-designated. Other recent accomplishments include securing national designations for Baby-Friendly® and Nurses Improving Care for Healthsystem Elders (NICHE), as well as accreditation of the hospital’s Nurse Residency Program by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.

Washington was a member of the inaugural cohort of the MedStar Leader of the Future: Nursing Leadership Development Program. She is a member of the District of Columbia Organization of Nurse Executives and the American Organization of Nurse Executives.

Ariam Yitbarek, MS, BSN
Vice President, Nursing Operations

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Ariam Yitbarek, MS, BSN, received her BSN from the University of Maryland and her MS in Health Systems Management from George Mason University. Her primary area of expertise is in interventional cardiology, cardiothoracic surgery, heart failure, heart transplant and medical-surgical nursing. Ariam has 15 years of experience as a nurse. She started her career as a staff nurse at Mercy Hospital in Baltimore. She came to MedStar Washington Hospital Center in 1998 to work on the Cardiac Surgery Step-down Unit. She was promoted to Clinical Manager in 1999, and became a nursing director of 4E in 2004. She became senior nursing director of Medical-Surgical Services and Medical-Surgical Specialties in 2009. In 2013, Ariam assumed responsibilities in a new area, Women’s & Infants’ Services and Ambulatory Nursing. She has since assumed additional responsibilities, adding Emergency Department to her scope of service in 2017. Ariam is a member of the Association of Nurse Executives, American Academy of Ambulatory Care Nursing and Association of Women’s Health, Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses.

Michael Clarke, MBA, BSN, RN-BC, NEA-BC
Vice President, Nursing Excellence and Organizational Transformation

Michael Clarke, MBA, BSN, RN-BC, NEA-BC, is the Vice President, Nursing Excellence and Organizational Transformation.

Clarke came to nursing as a second career after 10 years of project management experience in the financial services industry. His clinical expertise includes cardiac surgery, heart failure, medical cardiology and interventional cardiology.  He began his nursing career at MedStar Washington Hospital Center on the Cardiac Surgery Step-down Unit. In 2013, Clarke became an Assistant Nursing Director and was later promoted to Nursing Director of the Medical Cardiology and Cardiac Observation units. 

As Director of Nursing Professional Development for MedStar Washington Hospital Center since 2015, Clarke played a vital role in leading the organization’s Nurse Residency Program to a successful accreditation by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE). He also oversaw the modernization and expansion of the Center for Excellence in Nursing to include high fidelity simulation, a state-of-the-art Operating Room Simulation space, and the renovation of the Center for Excellence in Nursing Auditorium.

Clarke holds a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) from Georgetown University and a Master of Business Administration (MBA) from Indiana University South Bend. He is certified as a Nurse Executive and in Nursing Professional Development by the American Nurses Credentialing Center. He was recognized as an Aresty Scholar for his commitment to professional development by the Aresty Institute of Executive Education at Wharton, University of Pennsylvania.

Sara Groff, MSN, CMSRN, RN-BC
Senior Nursing Director, Surgical and Oncology Services

Sara Groff, MSN, CMSRN, RN-BC, is the Senior Nursing Director for Oncology and Surgical Services. Her responsibilities include oversight over nursing operations and clinical practice of all inpatient surgical and oncology specialty nursing units, IV therapy, and partnering with our dialysis services team. 

Groff has been with MedStar Washington Hospital Center for more than nine years, serving as a frontline clinical nurse, unit-based leader in Medical-Surgical nursing, and, most recently, as the Nursing Professional Practice Program Specialist in Nursing Professional Development. In that role, Groff identified opportunities for ongoing leader and staff development and for enhancing the nurse practice environment.  Groff led the Hospital Center to becoming the first acute care hospital in Washington, D.C. to achieve the American Nurses Credentialing Center’s Pathway to Excellence® designation in 2017.  In addition, she served as the collaborative governance facilitator for the Professional Development Council and is a member of the healthcare equality task force.

Groff earned her MSN in Innovative Nursing Practice in 2018 from Drexel University in Philadelphia. She is a member of the Academy of Medical-Surgical Nurses, the Mennonite Health Fellowship, and the Association for Nursing Professional Development.  Sara received her Bachelors of Science in Nursing with a focus in conflict studies from Goshen College in 2009.

Janice North Saale, MSN, RN
Senior Nursing Director, Critical Care, Neurosciences & Emergency Services

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Janice North Saale, MSN, RN, is senior nursing director, Critical Care, Neurosciences, and Emergency Services at MedStar Washington Hospital Center. She is responsible for resource and capacity management in the Department of Nursing, and oversees nursing supervisor and nurse responder teams.

Nursing is a second career for Saale, who first earned a BA in Journalism and Mass Communication from Drake University. She spent several years in hospital and corporate communications and public affairs roles before earning a BSN from the University of Maryland in 2002.

Saale came to the Hospital Center in 2003. Her nursing expertise includes critical care nursing and leadership. She has served as a critical care educator and manager, inaugurating the clinical care facilitator role for the ICUs at the Hospital Center. She was appointed nursing director of the neurological ICU and Stroke Center in 2010, and moved into the Senior Director role in 2015.

Saale earned an MSN from Loyola University in New Orleans in 2014, with a focus on healthcare systems management.

Rachel Watkins, MBA, BSN, RN, PCCN
Senior Nursing Director, Medical and Behavioral Health Services

Rachel Watkins, MBA, BSN, RN, PCCN, is the senior nursing director, Medical and Behavioral Health Services, at MedStar Washington Hospital Center. She is responsible for overseeing the operational and clinical performance of the Medical and Behavioral Health division, which includes seven medical units and four surgical units. She also has oversight for dialysis services and behavioral health.

Watkins began her nursing career in the MedStar Washington Emergency Department, where she piloted a program that cross-trained emergency nurses for working in the Level 1 Trauma Center. She also worked as a critical care nurse and as a forensic nurse examiner, collecting forensic medical evidence and serving as an expert witness in court. She moved into nursing leadership at MedStar Washington in 2015, serving on several units including as the interim nursing director for Medical Behavioral unit 2C, before becoming the nursing director of medical unit 4C, which was the only dedicated COVID-19 unit throughout the pandemic.

Watkins has developed and published research on strategies for nurse retention and engagement. She won Washingtonian magazine’s Excellence in Nursing Award in 2021 and the Nurses’ Choice Exceptional Nurse Leader Award in 2018. She currently serves on the Board of Directors of the District of Columbia Forensic Nurse Examiners, where she chairs the committee on diversity, equality and inclusion.
Watkins holds a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree from Villanova University and a Master in Business Administration from the University of Maryland Global Campus. She completed the MedStar Health Nurse Leader Development Program in 2020.

Karen Wyche Latham, MSN, BSN, RN
Senior Nursing Director, Resource and Capacity Management

Karen Wyche Latham headshot

Karen Wyche Latham, MSN, BSN, RN, is the Senior Nursing Director for Resource Management at MedStar Washington Hospital Center. She is responsible for patient care services, all Nursing Office operations, supplemental staffing and oversees the RN, unit clerk and patient care technician float pools. She also oversees capacity management.

Originally from Cleveland, Ohio, Wyche Latham spent a portion of her career at the renowned Cleveland Clinic before relocating to the Washington, D.C. area and beginning her career at the Hospital Center as a medical surgical nurse on Unit 2D in 1995. Her experience includes perioperative services, and she opened the first Short Stay Unit in 1998. In 2007, Wyche Latham transitioned to the Nursing Supervisor role, where she spent several years learning operations and was instrumental in the initial design of the Biocontainment Unit, developed in 2015 in response to worldwide concern about caring for patients with Ebola. In 2014, Wyche Latham assumed the role of Nursing Director of Capacity Management, and assumed responsibility for Nursing Office operations, supplemental staffing and patient care services. In 2016, she was awarded a Nurse Manager Fellowship by the American Organization of Nurse Executives (AONE) and the Leader of the Quarter Award from the MedStar Washington Hospital Center Board of Directors.

Wyche Latham received her BSN from the University of Toledo and her MSN from George Mason University. She is a member of the American Organization of Nurse Executives and Sigma Theta Tau International, Honor Society of Nursing.

Cassandra Lawrence, MSN, RN
Senior Nursing Director, Perioperative Services

Yelena V. Tuerk, DNP, MBA, RN, NEA-BC, CNRN
Senior Nursing Director, Women’s & Infants’ Services and Ambulatory Care