Nurses Recognized for Their Work as Advocates for the Underserved

During its Annual Awards Banquet held last September in Harrisburg, the Pennsylvania State Nurses Association (PSNA) recognized the exceptional accomplishments of nurses working in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Among those honored were minority nurses Shirley Powe Smith, who received the Human Rights Award, and Freida H. Outlaw, who was presented with the Nursing Practice Award.
Shirley Powe Smith, RN, MNEd, CRNP, of Pittsburgh, is an African-American nurse who has been a long-time advocate for minority nursing students, homeless women and African-American women. Smith, who received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Pittsburgh and is currently a doctoral student at Duquesne University, has spent her years of study working to improve the lives of others. From her research on health care needs of African-American women to creating a charter for an undergraduate African-American nursing student sorority, Smith has untiringly devoted herself to improving the lives of those around her and encouraging minorities to seek careers in health care.



“Nursing students are the future of nursing,” says Smith. “Their education is geared toward them being the providers of competent, safe and culturally appropriate care to populations of clients in a variety of settings.”


Smith’s desire is to be a part of a health care system that reaches all segments of the population regardless of financial situation. “Homeless women are at a special risk of developing diseases,” says Smith. “Combine this with inaccessibility to health care and you have a situation that could result in increased sickness and disabilities [for this at-risk population].”

African-American nurse Freida H. Outlaw, RN, DNSc, CS, of Haverford, received the Nursing Practice Award for the difference she has made–and continues to make–in the lives of children and families in crisis. As an advanced practice psychiatric nurse specialist, Outlaw has provided mental health services to a population of women who are most at risk for depression but least likely to seek care–single, poor, urban mothers.

“It’s always been clear to me that I wanted to help people,” says Outlaw, “and although I could have gone on to be a doctor, I wanted to help people in a different way. I think it was a calling. I’ve always loved working with the underserved and needy populations.”
Outlaw, who completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Pennsylvania, recently accepted a position as a Research Fellow at the W.E.B. DuBois Research Institute at Harvard. There she plans to focus on educational issues, such as looking at children’s resilience and coping strategies. “We’ll be doing some research on the effect September 11 has had on children, particular regarding suicidal thoughts. We’ll be interviewing kids about their feelings about life since September 11.”