Meet a Champion of Nursing Diversity: Elodia Mercier

Meet a Champion of Nursing Diversity: Elodia Mercier

For almost 40 years as the Director of Nursing for Throughput Operations at Montefiore Health System in New York, Elodia Mercier, RNC, MS, has been advancing patient care and creating and defining new roles for fellow nurses and other providers.

In June 2021, Montefiore was evaluating performance improvement initiatives to enhance patient experiences and alleviate flow challenges and decided to open a discharge lounge. The idea of a discharge lounge isn’t new, but being assisted by the clinician with whom patients just bonded

Mercier was chosen to open the discharge lounge and met the challenges of a crowded emergency department (Montefiore is amongst the busiest in the country) and limited beds for admissions. Under Mercier’s supervision, the lounge, intended to assist 10 patients daily, quickly increased to 30-40. Over 27 months, Montefiore’s Discharge Lounge received more than 678 patients per month. On average, patients stay for approximately 35 minutes. This time spent in the lounge has equated to more than 10,800-bed hours saved, the equivalent of 62 additional beds – a total game-changer, particularly for an urban hospital. Mercier showcased this success at the New York Organization for Nursing Leadership last September.

In addition to the discharge lounge, Mercier developed Montefiore’s SHHH (Silent Hospitals Help Healing) program and other vital initiatives. She is also an active participant in the College of Mount Saint Vincent’s mentorship program, which pairs successful alums/trustees and friends of the college with bright, dedicated students eager to gain skills and insight that will allow them to channel their passion and talents into successful, satisfying careers.

As a recipient of a National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) award for her participation in community affairs in 2011, Mercier is an important nursing leader, and we’re proud to profile her as part of the Champions of Nursing Diversity Series 2024. The series highlights healthcare leaders who are prominent figures in their organizations and are making transformational impacts in nursing.

Meet Elodia Mercier, RNC, MS, Director of Nursing for Throughput Operations at Montefiore Health System in New York.

Talk about your role in nursing.

As a nurse of nearly 40 years at Montefiore Health System, I’m always focused on the people we serve regarding safety, getting well and their patient experience. My role as Director of Nursing for Throughput Operations combines these three aspects, specifically focusing on the discharge process and ensuring this takes place in a calm and comfortable environment.

Our Henry and Lucy Moses Hospital Discharge Lounge is the last impression patients have when leaving our hospital, and we want it to be a good one. I’m focused on this positive experience and memory for patients and their families, ensuring all needs are met and leaving them as fully satisfied customers.

How long have you worked in nursing?

July 23, 1984, to present. I started as a part-time nursing attendant at Montefiore while attending the College of Mount Saint Vincent from 1980-1984.

Why did you become a nurse? 

I became a nurse because I like helping people. Also, when my great-grandmother was ill in this very hospital, I did not understand what was happening to her. This memory stayed with me, and in my mind, I knew I wanted to make a difference for patients and their families, helping them better understand what is happening in terms of care and being able to teach and help heal. Last but not least, I was the first in my extended family to attend and graduate college. This was important to me, coming from a Caribbean /Afro-American Hispanic background.

What are the essential attributes of today’s nursing leaders? 

Being a transformational leader. This means keying into the emotional intelligence of the people you lead. It also means finding a way to help people best understand their roles and values and the importance these factors play in helping our patients. Each person learns and processes things differently. A good or transformational leader finds ways to help each person on the team understand how they process information and produce the best outcome. I believe in leading by example and rewarding staff, even if it’s a simple acknowledgment or a thank you birthday card sent to them at home outlining their contributions throughout the year as a nurse on the unit. I have always believed that happy staff leads to happy patients and great outcomes. A good leader listens and values their team.

What does being a nursing leader mean to you, and what are you most proud of?

Being a nursing leader to me means supporting my teams by way of education, accountability, and pride. I am proud of a few things, so it is a challenge to name just one.

-I am proud of having the highest consecutive year-after-year Press Ganey scores on my units as a nurse manager.

-I am proud of having the highest 365 degree and staff satisfaction surveys.

-I am proud of the creation of the Silent Hospital Help Healing Program that I initiated at Montefiore for noise reduction.

-I am proud that I established the motto now commonly used around the campus, “Happy Monday” or “Happy Friday.” I intended to help nurses and anyone else focus on the good things in life and all the good things they may have accomplished and still hope to achieve.

Tell us about your career path and how you ascended to that role.

I started as a staff RN in 1984 in the Neurology unit of Montefiore and then moved to the Rehabilitation units for long-term care. I was then promoted to become a Patient Care Coordinator and then a Nurse Manager in the Department of Medicine. After consecutive years of consistently meeting high Press Ganey (patient. satisfaction scores), it led me to the next step of my career, which was being promoted to director of nursing.

Then, in 2021, Peter Semczuk, SVP and executive director of the Moses and Wakefield Campuses in the Bronx invited me to become the Director of Nursing for Throughput Operations and help open our discharge lounge. My focus now is on healing our patients and working with our nurses and other staff to focus on barriers that might hinder their safe discharge or could unnecessarily increase the length of stay in the hospital.

Data is the driving force of the discharge lounge. Our data helps empower our nurses to think of discharging from day one – from decanting the emergency department to getting patients home safely. Sample data include the average length of stay in terms of bed saved hours per unit and when patients are discharged to the lounge. Our data reflects how each unit contributes to the end goal. When the lounge opened, the intent was to assist 10 patients per day, but that number quickly increased to 30-40. Approximately one-third of adults leaving our Moses Campus and emergency department are cared for in the discharge lounge today. We’ve also saved approximately 11,000+ bed hours, equivalent to more than 62 additional beds – a game-changer for a busy, urban hospital. Currently, my colleagues and I use data to help specific units achieve target measures for throughput. Nursing is so diverse and has so many opportunities. I enjoy focusing on throughput as this position focuses on relationship-centered care.

What is the most significant challenge facing nursing today?

As a result of COVID, many new nurses missed out on opportunities to experience more clinical rotations when in school. When they arrive in the workforce, they depend on strong leaders and strong support to help guide them. Also, many senior nurses are leaving the workforce and preparing for retirement. This creates a more significant gap in mentoring and preceptorship by the senior nurses for the newer nurses. This is why it is imperative to have strong, supportive leadership.

As a nursing leader, how are you working to overcome this challenge?

Along with many of my colleagues and the outstanding nursing leaders at Montefiore, efforts are being made to help teach, engage, and provide more supportive and educational opportunities to meet the needs of both new and current staff. This month, for example, I conducted a Joint Commission mock survey prep for our radiology department. For many, it will be their first time participating in a Joint Commission survey, so I took the nurses on a walking tour of our radiology department instead of a formal class. We reviewed where some of the equipment, like the oxygen valves, were, and we reviewed the power of non-verbal communication, like body language. The message was that if a surveyor asks a question, then everyone should come to the support of one of our nurses. This sends a message of confidence.

What nursing leader inspires you the most and why?

Joanne Duffy, an adjunct professor at Indiana University because she focuses on the quality caring model and relationship-centered care. She believes in taking affirmative action to serve problems rather than identify and report them. I can very much relate to this.

Maureen Scanlan, our SVP and Chief Nurse Executive, is inspiring at Montefiore. Maureen exemplifies nursing theory and practice goals, has a calm demeanor, and is always gracious, supportive, and professional. As I have transitioned to various nursing roles, she has always been there to advise me and ensure I am kept abreast of all nursing-related topics within Montefiore.

What inspirational message would you like to share with the next generation of nurses?

Help, support, and never be afraid to try new things because success is derived from trying and learning – you never know unless you try.

Is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers? 

I have loved being a nurse at Montefiore. I have worked hard here, and Montefiore has been excellent and supportive of me. If you want to see and experience a family, community, and well-organized hospital, visit – I will have a hot cup of coffee or tea waiting.

Meet a Champion of Nursing Diversity: Dr. Farah Laurent

Meet a Champion of Nursing Diversity: Dr. Farah Laurent

Meet Farah Laurent, DNP, RN, NEA-BC, NPD-BC, CPXP, TCRN, CPEN, CEN. She is a nurse career coach and passionate about helping other nurses achieve their career goals. Dr. Laurent is a former level 1 trauma emergency nurse and a strong advocate for nurses. She is the director of nursing for a nursing program at a community college and an active member of various nursing organizations such as the National Nurses in Business Association, ENA, ANA, NLN, DNP of Color, and AONE. Her goal is to make a positive impact in the nursing profession every day. Meet-a-champion-of-nursing-diversity-farah-laurent

Dr. Laurent’s mission is to empower nurses, especially nursing students, to advocate for themselves, their patients, and the profession. She amplifies nurses’ voices through her LinkedIn show “The Nursing Dose with Farah,” where she interviews nurses from around the world to speak on different nursing topics such as leadership, mentorship, nurse entrepreneurship, wellness, and career tips. Dr. Laurent is a nursing trailblazer and the founder of Farah Laurent International Nurse Coach LLC, where she provides unparalleled career guidance to help nurses level up and land their dream positions. 

She actively mentors for the American Nurses Association and the Canadian Black Nurses Alliance and is dedicated to advancing the profession and increasing diversity in the nursing workforce. Dr. Laurent is not only changing the nursing game, but she’s also transforming the entire industry with her electric energy and unwavering commitment to excellence. She is a force to be reckoned with!

Dr. Laurent is an important nursing leader, and we’re proud to profile her as part of the Champions of Nursing Diversity Series 2024. The series highlights healthcare leaders who are prominent figures in their organizations and are making transformational impacts in nursing.

Meet Farah Laurent, DNP, RN, NEA-BC, NPD-BC, CPXP, TCRN, CPEN, CEN, a director of nursing for a nursing program at a community college and a nurse career coach.

What is your title, and where do you work? Feel free to include a side gig, too.

I am currently the Director of Nursing for a nursing program at a community college.

I am the founder of Farah Laurent International Nurse Coach, where I provide career guidance to nurses looking to enter the nursing profession or change careers! I am a dynamic speaker, author, educator, workshop facilitator, and world traveler!

I host my own LinkedIn live show entitled “The Nursing Dose with Farah,” where I interview different nursing guests and cover topics that matter to the nursing community. I plan to turn it into a Podcast in the next few weeks, and it will be available on Spotify.

Talk about your role in nursing

As a Nurse Career Coach, I assist all nurses with career guidance, no matter where they are in their careers. Some of my most popular services include resume and cover letter writing, interview preparation, and career clarity. Most of my clients are new graduate nurses; however, I have also helped nurses land educator roles and leadership roles.

I guide nurses on how to self-promote, communicate confidently, and be more visible! After working with me, most of my clients have one common theme: experiencing a change in mindset and a transformation of increased confidence.

As a nursing student, I did not see faculty that looked like me or had no mentors. One of my clinical instructors once told me in my senior year that I would never be an emergency nurse and laughed in my face. I did not listen to that negativity and passionately pursued my dream of becoming an emergency nurse as a new graduate nurse! I became a very successful emergency nurse with multiple certifications. I was awarded the Emergency Nurses Association (ENA) and Society of Trauma Nurses (STN) doctoral scholarships. I also most recently was allowed to be a peer reviewer for the Journal of Emergency Nursing (JEN), which I am incredibly proud to be a part of.

I am passionate about this career coaching business because today, I am what I need as a new nurse. I am all about empowering nurses and celebrating the nursing profession! I am here to disrupt the status quo and shatter old nursing narratives.

As the Director of Nursing at the community college, I lead a team of nursing faculty and coordinate the nursing program to achieve excellent program outcomes. I am proud that this community college is contributing to increasing the diversity in nursing.

How long have you worked in the nursing field?

Although it does seem like that long ago, I have been a nurse for over 20 years. I started my career in Canada as an emergency nurse. I then combined my love of Emergency Medicine and traveling by moving to New York City as a travel nurse. I worked in various emergency departments and level 1 trauma centers. Naturally, I became a preceptor, mentor, and coach, so I pursued my master’s in nursing education. It took me over 2 years to land an educator role, but I was relentless. I simultaneously accepted 2 positions as adjunct faculty for NYU and as a clinical educator.

Although I had some wonderful experiences as a nurse, I also faced many challenges with bullying, discrimination, and racism. I held various roles in education and leadership. I experienced a blindsided layoff as the Director of Education, which was a complete awakening for me. I realized that there is no such thing as job security and had to rely on my coaching income until I found my next position.

As a recent business owner, I am committed to helping other nurses find their space in entrepreneurship. I wrote a book entitled “Nurses Making Money Moves: A Nurses Guide to Starting a Business.” The traditional education system does not promote entrepreneurship, especially not in nursing. I want nurses to be exposed to different nursing roles and opportunities beyond the beside. Throughout my nursing career, I consistently had 2 or 3 jobs to supplement my income. Sometimes, it can be challenging in these nursing streets, and nurses want to make more money!

Why did you become a nurse? 

I was always attracted to healthcare and helping people. I used to use all the Band-Aids for my dolls and would nurse them to health as young as 4. One of my favorite shows was “Trauma: Life in the ER,” so I was meant to be an ER nurse! My career choices were being either a choreographer or a professional photographer, so I chose wisely! My personality is laid back, calm, adventurous, and humorous, so I fit right in!

What are the most essential attributes of today’s nursing leaders? 

Leaders should have integrity, empathy, emotional intelligence, patience, and humility. Leaders should be creative, inclusive, transparent, strategic/critical thinkers, optimistic, passionate, and accountable. Nursing leaders should be charismatic, effective communicators, and lead by example. They should have a strong vision that can inspire others into action and create new leaders.

Most importantly, leaders must listen to their teams and collaborate easily.

What does being a nursing leader mean to you, and what are you most proud of?

Being a nursing leader means genuinely caring about people, whether those people are patients, employees, colleagues, or external stakeholders. I am most proud of the values my parents instilled in me. It does not matter who it is; everyone deserves kindness, respect, and understanding.

I am proud of how I connect with people and the relationships I have built, mentoring nurses and empowering them to pursue their dreams, goals, and aspirations. Nursing is not just a profession; it is a calling. I am proud to be a nurse; it is truly an honor and privilege. Nurses make an impact in the world every single day.

I am proud of obtaining my doctoral despite all the hardships I have faced and that I am a role model for my 2 young children. I am proud to be an immigrant and first-gen graduate!

Tell us about your career path and how you ascended to that role.

I sometimes found it very hard to advance to new roles or get promoted even though I was the most qualified candidate. I have fought extremely hard to get to where I am today, and it was a challenging climb. This career path has no linear path and many winds and turns.

My grit and conviction in my abilities have gotten me this far. I always had a passion for learning and continuous improvement. I would create goals, smash them, and move on to the next. I hold 6 board certifications. I recently graduated from a DNP program in organizational leadership. I started my doctoral program while working full-time when my daughter was just a few months old, and my son was 4. Everyone thought I was crazy, including some of my family members, but I was determined to do what I wanted.

I have some great preceptors and mentors along my nursing journey. This is why I am such an advocate for mentorship. I serve as a mentor for the American Nurses Association and the Canadian Black Nurses Alliance. Representation matters, so I like to make myself visible to other nurses.

I love sharing my nursing journey because many other nurses can relate, and it can give me the strength to keep moving forward. I have participated in many nursing organizations, such as the ANPD, ENA, STN, AONL, NLN, and most recently, the DNP of Color. I am committed to advancing our profession and working to increase diversity in our workforce.

I am a passionate and dynamic speaker. I have spoken at many different nursing conferences and events. I recently spoke at the National Nurses in Business Association about nursing entrepreneurship. I love positively representing the nursing profession and recruiting for our profession. I have been featured in different nursing media/podcasts and always look for ways to collaborate.

What is the most significant challenge facing nursing today?

In the spirit of full transparency, nursing issues are very complex. I will discuss a few problems from my perspective working in Canada and the USA.

Nursing retention crisis: There is a lot of talk about the nursing shortage. However, there is a more significant issue with nursing retention. Nursing organizations must make a considerable commitment to creating healthy work environments. I believe inadequate staffing is one of the most complex global issues nursing faces.

Education: Organizations need to create supportive structured orientations for novice nurses and nurses transitioning to different areas of nursing. Nurses want professional development and growth opportunities.

Leadership: Nurse leaders need leadership training like nurses transitioning into any other specialty. There needs to be more nursing leadership training. Nurse leaders need to lead with more empathy and kindness. We desperately need diverse leaders.

Racism in healthcare: There are many issues surrounding racism in healthcare that are deeply rooted in structural racism. We need more nurses to be involved in policy on a national level. The nursing profession must create strong nurse advocates that challenge the status quo. There needs to be more diversity in the nursing workforce and more grants/scholarships. We need more diverse faculty in nursing academia.

Mental health: Mental health is such an important topic in healthcare. There has been more attention and efforts to mitigate burnout. Even though I loved working in the emergency department, there came a point after 13 years that I was feeling the burnout. In my doctoral studies, I created a toolkit with stress reduction strategies for nurses. Wellness remains the number one priority for nurses.

Compensation: Nurses need to get paid more, PERIOD. Nurses need better benefits, more days off, and flexible schedules.

As a nursing leader, how are you working to overcome this challenge?

My contribution to improving the complexities of these challenges is to bring awareness to them and advocate, educate, coach, and mentor them. I can make an impact by educating nurses by speaking at events, networking, and being on various nursing media. Sharing my own personal nursing journey and experiences can help the new generation of nurses.

What nursing leader inspires you the most and why?

Dr. Katie Boston Leary inspires me because she is a true leader and advocate for our profession. She is a trailblazer who is fearless in her pursuit to address issues such as racism in healthcare. She is currently the Director of Nursing Programs at the American Nurses Association.

What inspirational message would you like to share with the next generation of nurses?

I want to tell Nurses that they can accomplish anything they want. Surrounding yourself with positive people and having multiple mentors is vital to success. Be a mentor and a mentee. You always have something to share, even as a nursing student.

Get involved in your community and professional nursing organizations. Networking will have a significant impact on your professional advancement. Do not be afraid to promote yourself and celebrate your accomplishments. Negotiate your salary. Learn to ask for what you want and need.

There is no right way or no one way. You do not have to do just one thing and be put in a box. Please do what YOU want to do. Do not listen to negativity. Nursing is the best profession in the world, with over 100 different roles! Nursing will open so many doors. No decision is final. Enjoy the journey and make an impact. Take care of yourself first.

Meet a Champion of Nursing Diversity: Suzette Porter

Meet a Champion of Nursing Diversity: Suzette Porter

Suzette Porter, MBA, BSN, RN, is an elder care nurse manager and adjunct faculty member who has been with Hackensack University Medical Center (HUMC) for over 25

Porter says she got into healthcare because her great-grandmother raised her and was the Florence Nightingale in their small town in Jamaica. She would take Porter to help the sick, elderly, and needy in their hometown.

Now, as a nurse manager at HUMC, Porter’s great-grandmother’s influence is at work caring for elder care patients and as an adjunct clinical instructor for Muhlenberg Nursing School, part of JFK University Medical Center in Plainfield, N.J.

Through Porter’s leadership as a nurse manager, her unit was awarded the Team Daisy Award in 2021 for teamwork. She’s an American Organization for Nursing Leadership member and an alumna of the University of Arizona School of Business Global campus.

Porter is genuinely beloved by her colleagues and patients and is a proven leader who knows the importance of teamwork.

Suzette Porter is an important nursing leader, and we’re proud to profile her as part of the Champions of Nursing Diversity Series 2024. The series highlights healthcare leaders who are prominent figures in their organizations and are making transformational impacts in nursing.

Meet Suzette Porter, MBA, BSN, RN, an elder care nurse manager at Hackensack University Medical Center, and an adjunct instructor for JFK Muhlenberg Nursing School.

What is your title, and where do you work? 

I am a Hackensack University Medical Center’s Med-Surg Elder Care nurse manager.

Do you have a Side Gig?

Yes. When I saw that, I smiled because I took on an adjunct instructor for JFK Muhlenberg Nursing School last semester, so this is my second-semester teaching first-year nursing students. They’re first clinical.

What do you love about your role as an adjunct instructor?

It’s so important to give back. So important. I remember taking my first day, first clinical day, and every time they came in, like last semester, they reminded me of their first impression of me. I just made them feel at ease because I was so nervous and overwhelmed, and I didn’t have that person to say, you know what? It’s okay. Put your bags away. Let’s take a breather. It’s going to be okay. It’s going to be a great semester. So that’s what I’ve been doing. So, this semester that ended in December, they sent me texts and emails. They’re like, “Professor, I remember what you said on the first day.”

Tell us about your role in nursing and how long you’ve been at HUMC?

So this is my 10th year. I worked in the institution since 1998 in guest services before returning to nursing school. (Been at HUMC for a total of 26 years)

I have always believed in mentorship, and I have always sought mentors. I had a mentor in nursing school, and when I got into nursing, I knew Raminita from when I was in guest services because she used to walk by. She was a nurse manager on Pavilion, one of the Pavilion floors. And she always walked by and said good morning. Then, one day, when I was on, it was 4 Link, which is where I’m at right now. I was in the hallway waiting to start my clinical rotation, and she saw me and said, “I didn’t know you were in nursing school.”

I said, “Yes.” Because I didn’t tell too many people, and she said, “You know what? When you’re done, just let me know.” And that’s what I did. So I got that position in 5PE, and she always asked, “What are your plans?” Because in guest services, I was a supervisor, so I had a leadership background, and I told her, I said, “You know what? I want to get back into it, but I know I need to get a master’s degree, further my education.” So, at the time, the hospital had, I think we still do because that’s where I graduated from in 2021, Ashford, where you’ll go to school to further your education. I obtained a master’s degree. They changed from Ashford to the University of Arizona. I started in 2019 and graduated in 2021 with my MBA.

So from there, from 5 PE, I went over to 4 St. John in 2017 as a supervisor, which is, in essence, an assistant manager to the nurse manager there. Then COVID hit in 2020, and my manager decided she would retire. Then, I just went right into the role of nurse manager. So on 4 St. John, we moved from 4 St. John last April to 4 Link North and South. So it was one unit with 41 patients, and now we are split in two. So now we are 24 and 24 or 48 patients on 4 Link North and South. So I managed both units with three of my nurses who became assistant nurse managers because they saw me, always asked what it’s like to be a manager, and wanted to do what I do. So, I mentored them. These assistant nurse managers are just so efficient because they were on the floor with me at 4 St. John, and now they’re assistant managers here with me.

Why did you become a nurse?

It’s always been a dream of mine. My great-grandmother raised me, and I called her the Florence Nightingale of our town in Jamaica because she would take me and visit her older family members. Sometimes, when she would visit them, they would be in deplorable condition, and she just took this on as nothing and just took care of them and cleaned them up. And that inspired me to be a nurse when I was younger. I always wanted to be a nurse, but when I migrated here, my mom and dad had a lot of responsibilities, and I just decided that you know what? I’m going to get a job. And I got a job. But nursing was always in the back of my head. And after I had all of my kids, I said, okay, it’s time for me to go back to school. And I went back to school.

How old were you when you went back to nursing school?

I went back to nursing school when I was 31, when I had my last son. I have 3 boys, and I’ve been married for almost 27 years.

What are the most important attributes of today’s nursing leaders?

Mentorship. I think we have to mentor nurses because when you think about nursing, the future of nursing, and how much this has changed over the years, we have to mentor new nurses because we want to keep some of the core values of nursing that we practiced over the years. We want to ensure that it continues. Mentorship is one for me. Ensure you have a succession plan, especially in my leadership role. I feel so gratified if I’m out on vacation. Last year, unfortunately, I had to be out on disability for a little bit because I had surgery. And to see how my two nurses took charge of the unit and ran it in my absence.

So when I came back, my leader, Dena Egbert, nursing director, told me how great they did. I think that’s very, very important, having succession planning. You have to develop your nurses; develop them. Right now, we have a lot of new grads on our floor and are partnering with our educators or med-surg specialists on the unit to ensure that we’re developing them into nurses. It’s very important to me.

Communications skills. Communicate effectively, making sure that everything that needs to be said is said and how we say it, and how respectful we have to be respectful to each other while we’re communicating.

How did you ascend to this latest role as nurse manager?

In this role as a nurse manager, when my nurse manager at 4 St. John decided to retire, she always talked to me about succession planning, and she would always pull me into things like leadership things that sometimes I feel uncomfortable. I wasn’t confident in it. And she always said, “What happens if I was supposed to be out of here for a little bit or on disability or if I decide to leave?” And she’s like, “You need to know these things. You need to know these things.” So, by the time she decided to retire, I was comfortable and confident enough to say, I can do this. I like working with people, working. I love working with patients. Geriatric is my love. Like I said, my great-grandparents raised me, so geriatric is my first love. So, none of this is a coincidence.

What is the most significant challenge facing nurses or the nursing field today?

The significant challenge we’re having right now, for me, I can talk about because I was just on the floor with the nurses. We had workplace violence in the unit. I noticed an uptick with it because we are working closely with Ramonita and our director, Dena. We have a workplace violence team that comes to the unit to help the staff de-escalate issues and protect themselves in case that happens. That’s one of the challenges we face here in the unit. And I’ve heard of other units, too, but I can only speak for myself. There’s also the situation with exposure. Since COVID, there are many different things that our nurses are exposed to safety-wise, such as viral bacteria.

So those are some of the challenges that we’re facing. But we always have someone to support us. Infection prevention also comes on the unit to help with the new team members, how to protect themselves when going in and out of patient’s rooms, and what to do. So yeah, those are some of the things. And physical demands. Physical demands. I think a lot of our patients they’re heavy. There’s a lot of stuff going on with them. There are a lot of issues. I always encourage my team to practice safely. When rolling in a patient, you’re moving a patient; you’re helping a patient in a bathroom to protect themselves because they’re out often because they got hurt or they have injuries.

As a nursing leader, what do you do to help overcome these challenges?

So what I do with my team is I huddle with them. I huddle with my staff in the morning at the beginning of a shift. Remind them of the important things. Our quality metrics are critical, but at the end of the day, they also need to go home to their family. So I always tell them to practice safe or work smart, not work hard. Work smart. Working smart, I always encourage them to do it. If other issues are going on in the unit, I always partner with med, or I partner with security for safety. I’ll partner with workplace violence to come in and do regular in-services.

Whatever affects us, I always find someone to partner with as my leader. Right now, we have executive sponsors on the floor. I don’t know if you’ve heard about where our executive leaders like Dr. Tank, Jason Kreitner, and Ramonita will adopt the unit, and they will round on the unit on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays to improve patients’ experience. So, with that said, if anything is going on in the unit, the team or I can bring it up to them, and they will support us and help us with whatever issues we’re dealing with.

What nursing leader inspires you and why? 

I have a few nurse leaders over the years who have inspired me, but now, Dena Egbert, my director, because I like her leadership style with us as leaders reporting to her and Ramonita Jimenez, CNO. Here’s why I chose both of them. Dena, I appreciate it when leaders give you that autonomy to practice because she always encourages us to lead, and if there’s anything that she can support, we should go to her, and she stays firm with that. It’s always there. If I need anything from Dena, I can go over and knock on her door, and she’s available, or I can text her or, email or call her. She’s always available. I always see Ramonita as that leader who develops you. And I like leaders who, if they see an untapped talent in a nurse, I always go to them and say, “I see you. You like to do this. Let’s talk about ways that you can grow that or develop that.” Ramonita is like that.

And that’s what I like about Ramonita. Over the years, when she used to see me on 5PE, now in a different role as a bedside RN, she knows me from downstairs, a supervisor in guest services. But now, as a role, she asked me, “What do you plan on doing later in your career?” And I said to her, “I think I probably just want to stay in leadership, but I want to see how it is first.” And she did stay on top of me with that. She did stay on top of me with that over the years.

What inspirational message would you like to share with the next generation of nurses?

I look back at myself and always say this to new nurses. Even the new batch that I had. I have four at night, and I have four new nurses during the day shift. I always tell them to approach every patient as their family, as someone you know. I said it would take some of the anxieties because they often have anxieties, especially the newer nurses. Approach your patients as if they are family, and also practice humility. Humility is a virtue that many people do not have but practice. Practice humility because when you do that, you can sit there or stand there and talk to your patient, and it’s just like you’re having a conversation with anyone. Also, listen. We have to listen to our patients because we often miss stuff if we don’t listen to our patients.

Organizations and Events: A Supportive Community Where Black Nurses Can Find Resources

Organizations and Events: A Supportive Community Where Black Nurses Can Find Resources

Nurses need a supportive community to thrive in their field, especially nurses of color, mainly because of a lack of Black representation in the field. Caucasian nurses make up around 80% of the total nursing workforce, but Black nurses only comprise 6% of total registered nurses.

However, nurses are influential in advocating for minority communities and reducing healthcare disparities around the world. These same nurses are also ones who may still face racism at the workplace or struggle to find a sense of belonging with other nurses who share the same struggles, but that’s where these organizations can come

Joining a Black nursing organization or attending an event focused on diversity and celebration for Black nursing can foster community and engagement. Plus, these organizations also bring a level of professionalism to your career.

If this sounds promising, then these resources could be for you. Learn some of the most active Black nursing events and organizations today.

Black Nurses Rock

Black Nurses Rock is one of the largest minority nursing organizations in the country, representing nurses across the world with over 174,000 nurses and nurse students from the USA, Canada, the Eastern Caribbean, Japan, and Germany.

The organization also has an active online community on social media. Nurses who want to learn more or start with a nursing organization can join their closed Facebook group, a popular forum that shares advice and stories from nurses across the county.

If you’re a student, one of the benefits of becoming a member of Black Nurses Rock is that you can apply for scholarships, awards, and discounts on university tuition. There are also local chapters in over 25 states so that nurses can get connected and network.

National Black Nurses Association

Founded in 1971, the National Black Nurses Association (NBNA) is one of the oldest nursing organizations, with over 200,000 members. They focus on ensuring their members have equal access to healthcare opportunities, education, and professional growth.

They have different membership levels for registered nurses, licensed nurse practitioners, and students, with benefits such as association partnerships with other federal and national organizations and speaking engagements at national conferences.

Members can also attend their annual summer conference to see exhibitors for employment opportunities and attend sessions with prominent speakers on diabetes, breast cancer, women’s health, cardiovascular health, and more.

Look at their chapter directory to see if there’s a chapter near you

NCEMNA (National Coalition of Ethnic Minority Nurse Associations)

The National Coalition of Ethnic Minority Nurse Associations (NCEMNA) is a nonprofit made up of the largest five-member organizations for nurses:

  • The NBNA
  • The Philippine Nurses Association of America (PNAA)
  • Asian American/Pacific Islander Nurses Association (AAPINA)
  • The National Alaska Native American Indian Nurses Association (NANAINA)

Its goal is to create a unified community with other nurses of color for more culturally appropriate health care and to foster alliances with other professional organizations.

Individual nurses cannot apply, but if you’re a member of any of the five member organizations, you can access NCEMNA’s resources through their sign-up page. NCEMNA is active in health equity and policy advocacy, and its annual conference centers around public policy solutions and speakers with experience in social justice and health disparities among the BIPOC community.

Black Nurses Week

From July 26 to August 1, Black Nurses Week is a conference dedicated to uplifting the Black nursing community professionally and personally. Black Nurses Week was founded by Tauquilla Manning, a nurse travel leader who saw a need for an event like this after being told at work that her natural hairstyle was unprofessional.

Since 2022, the nationwide event has focused on business, health, and wealth, putting Black nurses at the center as they learn from nurse leaders on topics such as entrepreneurship, financial wellness, and healthcare. This year’s Black Nurses Week will be held in Washington, D.C., allowing attendees to attend sessions with nurse leaders, earn continuing education credits, and meet fellow nurses through daily breakfast and coffee breaks.

Black Nurses Meet

Black Nurses Meet is an online community and website for Black nurses to find resources and advice to help their careers. Black travel nurses especially can find this community helpful for sharing healthcare-related tips and advice online.

Their memberships are cost-friendly, with their lowest tier at only $25 for nurses and nurse influencers who want to build their content. For nurses who don’t like to spend money, their Instagram account offers tips on burnout and career motivation for Black nurses.

Although Black Nurses Meet is primarily active on social media, they also have in-person events such as their yearly gala designed for the professional community and their travel group trips with other Black nurses.

Meet a Champion of Nursing Diversity: Shada’ Medley

Meet a Champion of Nursing Diversity: Shada’ Medley

Shada’ Medley joined the University of Maryland Medical Systems to be a change agent for innovative nursing care with a more diverse population.

Medley says her career path is part of God’s plan and cites Denzel Washington and Oprah Winfrey as a source of inspiration.

Shada’ Medley is an important nursing leader, and we’re pleased to profile her as part of the Champions of Nursing Diversity Series 2023.

The series highlights healthcare leaders who are prominent figures in their organizations and are making transformational impacts in nursing.


Meet Shada’ Medley, MSN RN, nurse manager in the Ambulatory Service Department. She manages the THRIVE program clinic, known as infectious disease, at the University of Maryland Medical Center Midtown Campus.

How long have you worked in the nursing field? 

I have been an RN for 20 years and a medical assistant for five years prior.

Please talk about your career path and how you ascended to that role.

I feel that it was in God’s plan. I started as a MA and had a 5-year plan to be a nurse (5 years is how long the MA/phlebotomy certification lasted). I met my goal. However, just as I was ready to enroll in nursing school, I realized that I could not afford my livelihood and attempted to withdraw. As I withdrew from the day program, CCBC initiated its first evening/ weekend program (God’s blessing). I enrolled in that program and completed it on time as scheduled within five years. My next goal was BSN, so I enrolled in the first nursing partnership cohort with Notre Dame. With the same partnership, CCBC recruited faculty from within the hospital where I was employed. I then duplicated the same situation for MSN.

At the MSN level, l concentrated on nursing education. I started healthcare in ambulatory care as MA. I entered a nursing role in critical care for 14 years. Then, I transitioned to outpatient ambulatory care as an interventional radiology nurse. While working towards my MSN, my current leader transitioned to a more corporate role and inquired how I felt about management. I never thought about management, just education. I am a product of teenage parents. I remember holding flash cards for my mom. I remember organizing my mom’s books. I remember when my mom told me about tutoring adults that couldn’t read and how important it was not to be judgmental. My manager had been teaching and guiding me to function in her absence, and I also attempted to do that with my team. I remember thinking, why would I allow someone new to take over a role I already know I can progress? So I applied for that position and was hired. I branched off to skilled nursing and went from manager to ADON within a year and DON within two years. After skilled nursing, I felt I needed to help patients never reach long-term care or intensive care units. I then returned to ambulatory care with a focus on the PCMH model. I came to UMMS to be a part of a larger organization that would allow me to flourish and be a change agent for innovative nursing care with a more diverse population.

Why did you become a nurse? 

I have always been able to put the needs of others before my own. I have always enjoyed the satisfaction of taking care of others. I became a nurse to help, care for others, and give back to society.

What are the most important attributes of today’s nursing leaders? 

The essential attributes are empathy, diversity, equity, and inclusion. Even if it is not your belief, seeing someone’s point of view opens doors for communication, which is always good. Proper communication leads to innovation within the healthcare system.

What does being a nursing leader mean to you, and how are you making a difference?

Being a nursing leader means someone who inspires passion and motivation in others to believe in advancement and forward movement. A leader ensures their team has the support and tools to achieve their goals professionally and personally and to advocate for professional advancement.

What is the most significant challenge facing nursing today?

Access to diverse, equitable healthcare and the lack of available nursing educators.

As a nursing leader, how are you working to overcome this challenge?

Making short- and long-term goals include maximizing my education to obtain DNP and assuring work-life balance. Also, to actively and continually participate in the academia of licensed and unlicensed healthcare professionals. Also, by encouraging others to set goals for advancement in healthcare.

What nursing leader inspires you the most and why?

I am inspired by all nursing leaders who can lead the profession with their hearts first by balancing equitable patient care and cost-effective care. The nursing leader who truly empathizes with the population’s needs. The nursing leader who supports diversity, equity, and inclusion as a framework in their leadership style. Most of all, I am inspired by the leader who understands they are only as good as their team.

What inspirational message would you like to share with the next generation of nurses?

Denzel Washington said, “Ease is a greater threat to progress than hardship.” Everything worth having is worth working for… sometimes our circumstances should be our motivation.

Is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers? 

As Oprah powerfully stated, “No matter where you are on your journey, that’s exactly where you need to be. The next road is always ahead.” So be kind to yourself and know that you can do it!

Meet a Champion of Nursing Diversity: Esther Conteh

Meet a Champion of Nursing Diversity: Esther Conteh

Esther Conteh has enjoyed an extraordinary and varied healthcare and nursing career for over 25 years. She emigrated to New York City from Sierra Leone as a teenager and was inspired by her mother’s work as a midwife back home and decided to pursue a career in healthcare.

After working as a home health aide at VNS Health, she became an RN with the organization and moved quickly through the ranks, leading to her current leadership role, where she oversees a large and diverse team.

In everything she does, Esther works towards building a culture of inclusivity and family for her team. She is committed to providing top-notch care to the communities served by VNS Health Choice MAP and MLTC, many of whom come from vulnerable backgrounds.

Esther Conteh is an important nursing leader, and we’re pleased to profile her as part of the Champions of Nursing Diversity Series 2023.

The series highlights healthcare leaders who are prominent figures in their organizations and are making transformational impacts in nursing.


Meet Esther Conteh, BSN, MSN, Associate Vice President, Care Management at VNS Health, overseeing clinical care of VNS Health CHOICE Medicaid Advantage Plus (MAP), and Medicaid Managed Long-Term Care (MLTC) plans. 

What is your title, and where do you work? 

I’m an Advanced Practice Nurse (APRN) and Associate Vice President at VNS Health, one of the nation’s largest nonprofit home and community-based healthcare organizations. I manage care for members of our Medicare Advantage and Medicaid Long Term Care health plans, which were developed specially for people with complex, chronic health conditions.

Please discuss your career path and how you ascended to that role. 

I have been at VNS Health for 25 years—I started here as a home health aide working in Manhattan. I knew from the beginning that caring for people in their homes was what I wanted to do, so I got in on the ground floor, and it was a great beginning. As a home health aide, I absorbed the experience of what it was like for people to recover. I got a chance to see what people needed and their concerns. I learned how to reassure and help people as they regained strength or coped with changing health conditions. The empathy I found in those days still guides me today.

After working as an aide, I went on to train and become a nurse and graduated as an Advanced Practice Nurse (APRN) from NYU. I was eager to build my skills in home health nursing. As I expanded my education, I focused on home health–a specialty I’ve always been drawn to because you can interact with people, and education is a big component. There is always the potential to help people understand what they need to stay healthy.

Throughout it all, I am grateful for the support of my mentors and those I work alongside. For example, when I was just about to enter the field as a nurse, I was also in the middle of my first pregnancy. As you might imagine, balancing so many life changes at once can be challenging! Thankfully, I had a lot of flexibility in home care, but the job could still be intense when I first started. I’m immensely grateful for the support I received from the team I worked with and my managers. Those early relationships helped me get where I am now.

After several years working in the field and many changes in the healthcare system, I’ve moved into a new role that’s been exciting. The work I do today as an AVP of Care Management for our VNS Health Health Plans is very much informed by my field experience. When talking with a client on the phone, I can visualize their home and ask questions about their environment, lifestyle, companions, or caregivers at home. Every day is different, but each structure is similar in many ways. That’s one thing I love about this work. Working with our MLTC (Managed Long Term Care) and Medicare members requires skill, empathy, and patience. Our plans serve some of the most vulnerable communities in the city. Disabilities, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, dementia, arthritis, and other chronic illnesses all come with fears and potential complications for our members. We try to simplify things and help them navigate complex systems, so they feel more in control of their health and well-being. Working in a management role, I still feel like I am a nurse first, but I’m also part of a care team that needs to be agile and deliver care quickly. My experience helps me support others on the team, too—especially younger clinicians. 

Why did you become a nurse? 

Growing up in Sierra Leone, my parents were healthcare workers and educators, helping all the locals. It sparked my desire to work in health care and to help others as my parents did. The care they provided others shaped my thinking, and I have never swayed from my passion for working in health and helping others. I moved to New York when I was sixteen, and as I finished school, I started moving into a career in health care, starting first as a home health aide. That experience still informs my work today and has given me a valuable perspective on best serving different patients.

What are the most important attributes of today’s nursing leaders, and why? 

The first word that comes to mind for me is integrity. As a nurse, you’re often with people at their most vulnerable and truly depend on you, so integrity is critically important. Another core value that makes a good leader is empathy. Next, you have to understand where people are in their life journey. And lastly, you need to be agile and flexible and be able to pivot when needed. Especially working in people’s homes, our nurses are always mindful of where our patients come from. Every day has the potential to bring something entirely unexpected or new.

What does being a nursing leader mean to you, and how are you making a difference? 

Experience is so important. Leading others, whether that is guiding someone who needs care or a team member that supports them, as is the case with our health plan care managers, that both the members and my colleagues know they can trust me. Leading requires clarity and honesty. I use those skills every day. There’s a lot of urgency in the work we do. Precision is essential, and you must make decisions quickly sometimes—it can be stressful. Everyone experiences that, both members and our experts on the phone. We lead by example and communicate one step at a time so we can hear what our members are saying—we try to “meet them where they are.”

Those we serve are often facing multiple comorbidities and life challenges. So you must ask yourself, what can I do right now to ease some of the issues this person has to deal with? It’s about considering all their needs, not just nursing care, but do they have access to food? Are they safe? If not, we must prioritize those crucial basics for our members.

What is the most significant challenge facing nursing today? 

As the aging adult population grows, so will the need for skilled home care nurses and caregivers. It’s an exciting time to be in this specialty, but it also means more nurses with skills in home health care will be needed.

I don’t think the solution is simply hiring more people. Instead, we must think carefully about where nursing is going and how to improve. It is about what we learn from those we care for and how that can transform nursing. It is about working smarter, not harder. Because we can all agree burnout is a prevalent issue across the industry, and it’s important to support both veteran and novice nurses that put their all into the work.

As a nursing leader, how are you working to overcome this challenge? 

Technology has become a valuable tool and resource for our team. Throughout the pandemic, it’s been amazing to see how telemedicine has transformed how we communicate and deliver care. The pandemic brought people together through technology and made it easier to trust and feel a face-to-face connection, even if that was on a phone or computer screen. For many of us in nursing, I think it opened our eyes to new possibilities.

For example, with remote patient monitoring, you can recognize a problem before you are even there in person, enabling us to respond faster. From afar, we can manage our patient’s heart rates, blood pressure, blood sugar levels, and much more. With this data, we can spot emergencies and react immediately. At VNS Health, we created a sort of dashboard where we could track and monitor incidents with patients. This lets us monitor risk and work with different teams to determine which services or interventions are likely needed.

Technology encourages even the most seasoned nurses to think out of the box. Our world is changing, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing! Especially if it can help nurses excel, feel supported, and better serve their patients.

What nursing leader inspires you the most and why? 

That’s a tricky question because there are so many who have been an inspiration to me! Someone who comes to my mind first is Susan Underwood, Director of Compliance Operations with VNS Health. I first met her in an entirely different capacity from the one I am now, as I had just graduated from another part of the organization, so it felt like I was starting somewhere new. However, she was incredibly supportive and recognized my potential, encouraging me to grow.

She approached me one day and said, “I think you are ready to take the next step. So let’s work together to find a role where you can grow your skillset and mature.” And she was right. Moving into a leadership/managerial role was daunting, but I’m glad I did it. 

Looking back even further, I think the founder of our organization, America’s first public health nurse, Lillian Wald, was such a visionary figure. Her work 130 years ago still holds so much in common with what we do today. She looked around at the communities she worked in and saw significant issues that needed to be addressed. So, she took action. And that way of seeing the world, of instilling change, is very much a part of the culture here at VNS Health today.

In home health, as a nurse, you have the privilege and the challenge of being aware of so much. We watch family dynamics firsthand; we see the ins and outs of a patient’s life and understand the many unspoken things behind the scenes. Home health nurses must ask ourselves, “What help do I need to bring? Do they trust me in this relationship?” Home health nurses must consider all the factors that impact a patient when planning care.

What message would you like to share with the next generation of nurses? 

It is so important to have a passion for this field, knowing that it can be tough sometimes. But nurses will find that sticking with this career is worth it if it is their passion. In nursing, as in every other career, there will always be challenges, and many of us face added hurdles because of race or ethnicity. However, one advantage I’ve seen is a better understanding of some health disparities because of my lived experience. That alone can play a powerful part in healing.

I would tell future nurses you have a significant role, especially when serving people who look like you and might share the same experience. Remind yourself that it’s important to implement a certain amount of selflessness, be there for them, and show up for them because you can make a real difference in their lives.

As you advance in your career, don’t let your fears hinder your growth. You are never truly alone in the journey; don’t be afraid to reach out to others for support. You will have so many people–to inspire you, encourage you, help you grow, and share their experiences with you. I have been so blessed to have people, all my leaders, all my bosses, and all the people I’ve encountered in this job, and I learn from them. So have a toolkit in place, be ready to be a sponge, and soak up new experiences. Education never ends when you’re a clinician; there’s always something new to learn.

As a Black woman, I want to tell other nurses that your contribution will speak for itself. Sometimes, you may feel like people don’t always tell you they appreciate you. But trust me; you will be rewarded. You may not see it immediately, and it may not be tangible, but there is a reward for all you do.

Is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers?

Nursing has always felt so natural to me. It could be because it brings me joy every day, and I chose a career that keeps me happy and smiling. As nurses, we may not have all the answers all the time, but if we do what we can at the moment to change somebody’s life and positively impact them, then we’ve done our job.

The real beauty of nursing is that there are so many ways to be a part of it, and you can find an outlet for your strengths. You could work in different environments or specialties like home health, hospice, or behavioral health. You can lead teams as a care manager or become an expert in analytics and data …you have so many options and choices. The sky’s the limit when you have a nursing career!