Implementation of Trauma-informed Principles in Nursing Education: An Appeal for Action

Implementation of Trauma-informed Principles in Nursing Education: An Appeal for Action

Exposure to traumatic stress can have a life-altering negative impact on student nurses. Traumatic stress can challenge effective coping, emotional regulation, and the ability to focus, retain, and recall nursing concepts. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA, 2014), the “3 E” conceptualization of trauma are Event (single or cumulative), Experience (neglect, abuse, betrayal), and Effects (anxiety, loneliness, depression, feeling unsafe ) are manifested in various ways in people with exposure to trauma.

An individualized student-centered approach is crucial in understanding and adapting teaching pedagogy in nursing education to realize, recognize, respond, and resist re-traumatization (SAMHSA, 2014)in student nurses with a history of traumatic stress.

This article discusses the concept of trauma-informed pedagogy in nursing education and its significance in promoting equity and inclusion. Trauma-informed pedagogy suggests that past experiences can negatively impact health outcomes and learning (Garfin D. R. et al., 2018). As a result, educators must be able to identify signs of trauma and adapt their teaching methods to meet their students’ unique needs. It discusses the impact of trauma on nursing students’ physical and mental health functioning, and it then delves into implementing principles of trauma-informed pedagogy in the classroom.


Trauma is defined as an event or set of circumstances that an individual experiences as physically or emotionally harmful or threatening, resulting in lasting adverse effects on their functioning and well-being (Bremner, J. D. 2006). College students, despite their excitement to succeed, often experience severe psychological distress, with 70% reporting such distress. Additionally, 35% of students were diagnosed with anxiety, and 29% had depression (American College Health Association, 2022).

Transgender and LGBTQIA students report higher levels of mental health issues than their straight counterparts. Microaggressions are also experienced by underrepresented students, creating a sense of unsafety on campus. Evidence suggests that Colleges should pivot to a learning space that promotes inclusion and equity. Only 40% of college students think colleges are doing enough to support mental health (Veneable, M.A., & Pietrucha, M. E., 2022).

The Universal Design for Learning ( UDL) recognizes that every student has different learning needs, and a one-size-fits-all approach is an ineffective instructional strategy. Similarly, implementing trauma-informed pedagogy principles within the nursing curriculum is a significant step toward meeting every student’s learning needs and experiences, promoting accessibility, equity, and inclusion in nursing education.

How Traumatic Stress Affects the Brain

Traumatic experiences can affect the brain’s development, structure, and function. It is critical to understand normal brain development to distinguish brain abnormalities. The areas of the brain responsible for stress responses are the amygdala, hippocampus, and pre-frontal cortex (Bremner, J. D., 2006). When an individual is exposed to traumatic stress, there is an increase in the level of cortisol and norepinephrine. Repeated exposure to stress increases the level of cortisol and norepinephrine and affects normal brain functioning and stress regulation, resulting in pathophysiological change(Bremner, J. D. 2006).

Students who are affected by traumatic stress may have difficulty learning concepts, focusing, and retaining information, resulting in course failures and higher attrition rates compared to their peers who have not experienced trauma. Traumatic experiences can cause anxiety and depression in some students. Past and current data suggest that trauma-informed care is critical for the promotion of equity in people with a history of trauma (Han et al., 2021).

Students’ sense of safety is disrupted, and the cumulative effects are difficulty adjusting to college experience, low grades, and high attrition rates. According to (Corello J., 2018), educators should adopt trauma-informed teaching and be compassionate and consistent in the learning environment. Despite the impact traumatic experience has on the brain, there is hope and possibility for students to be successful.

Implications for Nurse Educators

In the Four “Rs in the Trauma-informed approach to teaching student nurses(SMASHA, 2014), the nurse educator must convey empathy, possibilities, and hope to student nurses and focus on “what happened to you, instead of what is wrong with you’. Implementing trauma-informed principles is an issue of equity and inclusion and must be viewed through the lens of disability.


Research suggests that 66%-85% of youth report exposure to traumatic events by the time they enter college (Read et al., 2011). Additionally, approximately three-quarters of college students, 77 %, experienced moderate to severe psychological distress (ACHA, 2022). Understanding that traumatic experiences can affect the development, structure, and function of the brain, the nurse educator must acknowledge that trauma happened and provide a trusting teaching environment that emphasizes hope and transformation.

Realizing that trauma affects the student’s ability to function optimally, the nurse educator must stay involved in world events that may be traumatic to students: for instance, racism, disability, COVID-19, sexism, sexual harassment, and sexual orientation. Modeling emotional intelligence skills, self-reflection, and situational awareness, the nurse educator can convey trust and transparency when discussing and understanding sensitive topics in the classroom.


The nursing process is a framework taught in nursing education to provide care for diverse populations. It begins with an assessment. Likewise, the nurse educator must be able to recognize signs of traumatic stress and respond with empathy, kindness, and understanding. Some signs and symptoms are difficulty focusing on a topic, lack of engagement, absenteeism, anxiety, low grades, and difficulty adjusting to the college environment.

It is essential to acknowledge that the traumatic event happened, and an evidence-based action plan is activated to promote healing and agency to enhance academic success. The nurse educator must be knowledgeable about topics or events that may trigger traumatic stress and develop a lesson plan or teaching strategies to avoid triggers—for instance, disparities in healthcare outcomes for minorities. Nurse educators must adopt several strategies to effectively support students’ learning experiences in teaching sensitive topics. To this end, the nurse educator should consider the value of establishing eye contact with students and facilitating opportunities for them to share their lived experiences. The nurse educator must also demonstrate a genuine interest in the student experience. By applying these strategies, nurse educators can foster an environment that supports students’ learning journey and promotes their well-being.


When a student goes through a traumatic experience, their sense of safety can be severely affected. As a nurse educator, it is essential to demonstrate emotional intelligence while conversing with such students regarding traumatic stress. Using the student’s name and giving them enough time to contemplate and respond is crucial. In addition, the nurse educator should offer their presence to show kindness and compassion, which can provide comfort and support for the student.

As a nurse faculty member, you can support your student’s academic journey by referring them to the Office of Accessibility and Disability. The office provides essential services to students with disabilities, ensuring they have the resources to succeed in their studies. Letting your students know you are available for office hours and phone calls is essential, as this can help them feel more comfortable and supported.

Creating a respectful and inclusive learning environment is crucial to the success of all students. You can do this by promoting a culture of civility and respect in your classroom and being mindful of your students’ diverse needs. If a student is experiencing anxiety or stress, consider extending assignment due dates to help alleviate their concerns.

Finally, it is essential to recognize that some students may have a history of trauma that could impact their ability to learn. To increase the accessibility and inclusion of these students, incorporate multiple teaching modalities that address the cognitive, psychomotor, and affective domains of learning. Doing so can help ensure that all your students can succeed.

Resist re-traumatization 

In a nursing education culture that prioritizes diversity, equity, and inclusion, it is essential to recognize that some college students may have experienced trauma. By intentionally incorporating transformative, trauma-informed practices into nursing education, we can foster a sense of human dignity, promote academic growth, and help students thrive. To prevent re-traumatization, faculty and peers must have zero tolerance for discrimination against students. The learning environment must prioritize civility, human caring, compassion, and consistency (Corello, 2018) while avoiding punitive measures and implementing clear policies and procedures. Sensitive topics should be approached with empathy and understanding, and training modules focused on trauma and its effects can help create awareness and build a strong sense of community.  


Integrating trauma-informed practices into nursing education requires comprehensive changes across multiple levels, from micro to macro systems. At the micro level, nurse faculty must demonstrate empathy, benevolence, courtesy, and honor towards individuals who have survived trauma. They must also remain watchful in recognizing, validating, and averting re-traumatization for student nurses who have experienced trauma. By nurturing a learning environment that fosters personal development and transformation, faculty and students can collaborate to establish a warm and accommodating community open to everyone.


1. American College Health Association -National College Health. (2022). Assessment III: Undergraduate Student Reference Group Executive Summary Spring 2022. Silver Spring, MD: American College Health Association.

2. Bremer, J. D. (2006). Traumatic stress: effects on the brain. Dialogues in Clinical Neuroscience, 8(4), 445-61.

3. Carello, J. & Thompson, P. (Eds). (2021). Lessons from the pandemic: Trauma-informed approaches to college, crisis, change. Palgrave Macmillan.

4. Garfin, D. R., Thompson, R. R., & Holman, E. A. (2018). Acute stress and subsequent health outcomes: A systematic review. Journal of Psychosomatic Research, 112, 107-113. doi: 10.1016/j.jpsychores.2018.05.017

5. Goddard, A., Jones, R. W., Esposito, D., & Janicek, E. (2021). Trauma-informed education in nursing: A call for action. Nurse Education Today, 101. doi: 10.1016/j.nedt.2021.105064

6. Han, H. R., Miller, H. N., Nkimbeng, M., Budhathoki, C., Mikhael, T., Rivers, E., Gray, J., Trimble, K., Chow, S., Wilson, P. (2021). Trauma-informed interventions: A systematic review. PLoS One, 16(6), e0253209. Doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0253209

7. Kubala, J. (2020). Of Trauma and Triggers: Pedagogy and Affective Circulations in Feminist Formations, 32(2), 183-206.

8. Read, J. P., Wardell, J. D., Vermont, L. N., Colder, Ouimette, P., & White, J. (2012). Transition and change: Prospective effects of posttraumatic stress on smoking trajectories in the first year of college. Health Psychology, 32(7), 757-767.

9. SAMHSA’s concept of trauma and guidance for a trauma-informed approach. (2014). HHS Publication No. (SMA) 14-4884. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Rockville, MD.

10. Veneable , M. A., & Pietrucha, M,E. (2022). 2022 College Mental Health Report, Best Colleges.

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.

Meet a Champion of Nursing Diversity: Dr. Selena Gilles

Meet a Champion of Nursing Diversity: Dr. Selena Gilles

Selena Gilles, DNP, ANP-BC, CNEcl, FNYAM, is a Clinical Associate Professor and Associate Dean of the Undergraduate Programs at New York University Rory Meyers College of Nursing.

She’s also an Affiliate Faculty member of the Hartford Institute for Geriatric Nursing (HIGN), where she serves as Co-Director of the HIGN Scholars Program, an Affiliate Associate Professor at Howard University College of Nursing and Allied Health Sciences, and a Volunteer Associate Professor for the State University of Haiti.

Dr. Gilles is known for creating and implementing nontraditional immersive teaching/learning innovations to address nationally identified nursing education issues that will enhance student learning/program outcomes.

She is regarded as a leader and prelicensure nursing education expert who has implemented curricular innovations that have been evidence-based, creative, and effective teaching strategies that span multiple courses at Meyers and settings outside of Meyers, significantly impacting student academic success and role transitions.

Dr. Gilles’s contributions have helped enhance the nursing curriculum, filling identified gaps and answering the new essentials call for all entry-level professional nurses to have knowledge and proficiencies to practice across various settings in wellness/disease prevention and chronic disease management.

She’s passionate about the management of acute and chronic pain, as well as opioid overdose prevention, and is the Program Director of the Greater NYC Black Nurses Association Opioid Overdose Prevention Program. Dr. Gilles has strong community advocacy and a passion for global health; currently working with organizations aimed to serve the underprivileged and underserved communities in Haiti, Ghana, and Nigeria and has been on six medical missions.

Dr. Selena Gilles 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

Meet Dr. Selena Gilles, Clinical Associate Professor and Associate Dean of the Undergraduate Program at New York University Rory Meyers College of Nursing.

Talk about your role in nursing.

I am a Clinical Associate Professor and Associate Dean of the Undergraduate Program at NYU Rory Meyers College of Nursing. I am also an Affiliate Associate Professor at Howard University College of Nursing and Allied Health Sciences and a Volunteer Associate Professor for the State University of Haiti. I am a certified Clinical Nurse Educator and certified in Critical Care Nursing. As an Adult Nurse Practitioner, I specialize in neuro and pain management, including medical marijuana and opioid overdose prevention.

I have always been passionate about giving back to my community, which often lacks the resources and support to combat health disparities, inequities, and social injustice. With a proven track record of volunteering, my work with nursing organizations and community groups has impacted thousands of students, nursing colleagues, and community members locally and globally. 

My pioneering work has impacted 8,000+ disadvantaged patients in Haiti, Ghana, and Nigeria. As a volunteer Nurse Practitioner for seven medical missions, I have significantly contributed by educating local professionals and providing appropriate patient care while mentoring nursing students in global health initiatives. My innovations enhance health professions curricula with local/global community-based experiences, fill international gaps, and prepare nurses to gain essential competencies across cultures and practice settings.

How long have you worked in the nursing field?

I have been in nursing for 18 years. It’s hard to wrap my head around that question whenever I answer it. It feels like it was just yesterday when I graduated from nursing school. I have been a nurse practitioner and nurse educator for 13 years.

Why did you become a nurse? 

My grandmother migrated to Brooklyn in 1969 from North Carolina with her three daughters at a time when being black in the South was still dangerous. My grandmother struggled with heart disease and diabetes and suffered a stroke, as do many African Americans in underserved communities. Seeing her severely ill is what sparked my interest in a healthcare career.

Aside from my grandmother, my parents have been very influential in my career. My mom grew up in a very disadvantaged neighborhood. She spent her early years in a housing project. She worked for over thirty years as a certified nursing assistant. My father, a Haitian immigrant who came to America at age 20, instilled in me early on that I’d have to work twice as hard to get the same opportunities as my counterparts. I didn’t grow up in the best neighborhoods. As a latchkey kid who grew up in the NYC public schools, I knew I had to make it out of areas where most lack the resources to succeed. These are places where community members didn’t have the best healthcare access or all the resources required to live a healthy life, like safe areas to play or exercise or even grocery stores with fresh foods. That taught me about the impact of the social determinants of health and how I could serve as a community advocate to combat health disparities and inequities. 

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

Compassion, emotional intelligence, collaboration, resilience, determination, flexibility, innovation, critical thinking, problem-solving, diligence, not being afraid to challenge the status quo, advocates, and being a team player.

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

Positions are temporary. Ranks and titles are limited. But the way you treat people is what will always be remembered. I am passionate about helping the underserved and will prioritize doing all I can to help those in need. As an award-winning expert clinician and community leader, I’ve launched effective models that bring under-resourced communities access to healthcare and education while creating nontraditional community-based immersive learning/interprofessional experiences for NP students. My groundbreaking contributions enhance the knowledge/competencies of 40,000+ healthcare professionals across community settings worldwide. I’ve secured corporate and community-based sponsorship for multiple community health initiatives and established an NP-led COVID-19 vaccine clinic that delivered 28,000+ vaccines to vulnerable people. As a volunteer NP, I have immersed nursing students in seven international medical missions, providing care to over 8,000 vulnerable patients and promoting health equity in Haiti, Ghana, and Nigeria. My innovations enhance health professions curricula with local/global community-based experiences, fill international gaps, and prepare nurses to gain essential competencies across cultures and practice settings

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

At some point in our careers, we’re all asked how we accomplished our goals. All of our stories are unique. When reflecting on my journey and my road to success, I’ve realized that all paths are not a straight line. My path had many bumps, obstacles, twists, and turns, and I’ve met many people. Often, when we think of education, we think of it in the traditional sense, whatever we’ve learned in school. Of course, as nurses, degrees earned ultimately shape our careers regarding the type of healthcare provider we become and the setting in which we practice. I’d say that my identity as a nurse started to develop way before I entered nursing school. I credit a lot of who I am as a nurse to all of the many experiences I’ve had along the way.

We are a product of our society and our parents and their struggles. It began with seeing my grandmother struggle with chronic illness and seeing my mom work long hours at the hospital. My parents couldn’t afford to send me to the best schools, reinforcing the importance of hard work and dedication. It gave me my drive, made me more ambitious, and taught me not to take no for an answer. This led me to continue to pursue higher education and seek a terminal nursing degree

I am the daughter of a Haitian immigrant. A father who told me I could have anything that I ever dreamt of if I just worked for it. He’s a huge part of where I get my work ethic from. Some may call me a latchkey kid, as my mom worked very hard at a Community hospital to provide for me. That experience taught me to be independent, self-sufficient, and hardworking. I learned that sometimes, you must sacrifice for the greater good. We’ve all made sacrifices for our patients

I think about my experiences in public school, where I didn’t have a lot of teachers who looked like me. You can’t be what you can’t see. In my third year of nursing school, I was exposed to two doctorally prepared women faculty of color. They gave me something to aspire to. It was at that moment that I realized that anything was possible. That my career in nursing could be whatever I wanted it to be. That shaped who I would become as a nurse in academia. So, I pay it forward by being that example. I wish I had more of this when I was pursuing my education. To look at my surroundings and advocate for more diverse faculty so that the diversity in leadership mirrors the diversity of our students and the patients we care for. To ensure our curriculum is diverse and inclusive, we are preparing culturally competent and aware nurses who can provide culturally appropriate care to all patients. This is the change I wish to see in the world. 

I started wanting to be a pediatrician after doing an externship in the pediatrics unit at the hospital where my mom worked as a teenager. That was my first taste of healthcare. I double majored in college because I didn’t come from money and knew medical school was expensive. I was premed with nursing as my backup. Seeing the great care my grandmother received from her ICU nurses at the end of her life, coupled with my early clinical experiences in nursing school, solidified that a career in nursing was best for me. After completing my degree and passing my licensing exam, I worked in a Med Surg unit for a year and then transferred to the medical ICU because I aspired to become a CRNA. At the same time, I enrolled in a master’s program to get a head start on core courses. I ultimately did not get into the CRNA program I applied to and ended up finishing my master’s and becoming an Adult NP. Upon graduating, I had difficulty finding a job as an NP. You did not see many working in the hospital at the time. One day, while working a shift in the ICU, I ran into a former colleague from my previous Med Surg unit. She had been working as an adjunct clinical instructor at my current institution and thought it would be a perfect fit for me. It wasn’t something I intended for myself, but I decided to try it, and the rest is history. The first and only hospital I’ve ever worked at now became the place where I would educate nursing students. Eventually, I secured a position at this same hospital as an NP in outpatient neurosurgery. Realizing I had a newfound love for nursing education, I began precepting NP students once I settled into my role. This led me to achieve my terminal nursing degree to pursue nursing education full-time. In my 13 years at NYU Meyers, I have strategically moved through the ranks. It feels like just yesterday when I was a clinical instructor. After completing my DNP, I advanced to clinical assistant professor, then a clinical associate professor seven years later. I have been active in the community locally and globally, taking on many leadership roles inside and outside my institution and spearheading many initiatives to advance health equity. In 2020, I was inducted as a fellow in the NY Academy of Medicine. In 2023, I was inducted as a fellow in the American Academy of Nursing and the Academy of Nursing Education.

What is the most significant challenge facing nursing today?

Historically, the image that comes to mind when people think of nurses is the caregiver at the bedside, following orders, administering medications, or being hands-on with their patients. They think of Florence Nightingale. Frankly, the first image is not likely of a person who looks like me. There is so much more work to do to improve diversity in nursing so that the nursing workforce mirrors the patient population they care for. There is still work to address diversity, equity, and inclusion issues in the profession and healthcare. To dismantle the structural and systemic racism that unfortunately exists within our profession. We need more nurses and other healthcare professionals to keep our ever-changing healthcare systems functioning. We need providers who are not only culturally diverse and aware but committed to advancing the profession and working towards eliminating health disparities and inequities.

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

Nurses should have a seat at every table, and if we don’t, as Shirley Chisholm says, pull up a chair. We are here because of pioneers like Sojourner Truth, Madame CJ Walker, Andres Fernandez, Mary Mahoney, Teresa Urrea, Mary Secole, Beverly Warne, Kay Fukuda, Junta Sotejo, and countless other nurses of color. I believe it’s important for nurses to have a seat at the table. Because of this, I prioritize dedicating my time to serving on boards of organizations that advance nursing and provide spaces for nurses of color to thrive and advocate for health equity. I am so grateful to DNPs of Color for creating a space where we can all come together, support, and encourage one another. Truly change the game and forge a new path through networking, mentorship, and advocacy. I am proud to serve as their Vice President.

I’m a founding member of the Greater New York City Chapter of the National Black Nurses Association, whose mission is “for the greater good.” The genesis of the Greater New York City – Black Nurses Association, Inc (GNYCBNA) was forged out of the need for a progressive and innovative chapter that addressed healthcare inequities in communities of color. The chapter was founded in 2017 and grew quickly. Through our various initiatives, we strive to positively impact the communities where we live, work, and play. The GNYCBNA’s mission and vision is to U.N.I.T.E. NYC: uplifting neighborhoods through innovation, teaching, and engagement. The cornerstone of GNYCBNA is innovative community service, focusing on health education, improving health, and building and strengthening the community. Through stand-alone efforts or collaboration with local, regional, and national community and professional organizations, GNYCBNA hosts and participates in at least 20 events each year. Committed to addressing health inequities, I spearheaded a strategic partnership between a federally qualified health center (FQHC), Stop the Spread, the Greater NYC chapter of the National Black Nurses Association (GNYCBNA), New York University (NYU) and Long Island University (LIU) Colleges of Nursing to establish four FEMA vaccination sites delivering 28000+ COVID vaccines (70% Black/Hispanic) during the height of the pandemic. As lead Community Liaison, I co-launched an NP-run vaccine clinic in an African-American church accessible to 180,000+ community members, providing access to vital healthcare services. I leveraged this collaboration to offer a semester-long immersive learning experience for 100+ pre-licensure nursing students working with medical students and registered nurses under the supervision of NPs to administer vaccines and provide health education to under-resourced communities disproportionately affected by COVID.

As the founder and inaugural Director of the GNYCBNA’s Opioid Overdose Prevention Training Program (designated by the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene{DOHMH}), I was instrumental in addressing rising NYC opioid overdose death rates in communities of color. We provide annual training to 400+ undergraduate/graduate nursing students through a multi-university collaboration. We also developed an innovative partnership with national music artists, DJs, and an LGTBQ+ clinic, allowing us to create a community coalition delivering ongoing naloxone training to over 400 clubgoers, owners, and personnel within the LGBTQ+ community. Because of the success of our program, I collaborated with the DOHMH on their 2023 Overdose Awareness Media Campaign. As the only NP featured in the campaign, my ad highlighting the use of naloxone for overdose prevention has been placed around NYC in train and ferry stations, neighborhood businesses, and online (in English and Spanish). Banners can be found on the DOHMH website, and the videos are accessible on their  YouTube page.

I think about all of the mentoring I have received throughout my career. I gained all the knowledge from seasoned nurses, all of the great times, and, yes, even the challenging times. I sought out mentors because of their stellar leadership or outstanding accomplishments, as well as those who saw something in me that could develop into something even more significant and wanted to play a part in my professional development. They have helped me grow personally and professionally in so many ways. I’ve gotten so many opportunities from mentorship or simply connecting with different people I’ve met. Because of this, I pay it forward and mentor the next generation. I encourage others to pay it forward, mentor and support nurses of color, and do their part in diversifying our nursing workforce and combating health inequities.

What nursing leader inspires you the most and why?

To know where we are going, we must understand where we came from. Black nurses can be found throughout U.S. history, but they faced racism on all fronts. It took dedication and perseverance to obtain an education and recognition. They had to fight to progress and pave the way for more nurses. Without them, there is no me. I think about Mary Eliza Mahoney, the first Black American to earn a professional nursing license, dedicating her life to increasing access to nursing education for people of color. I think about Estelle Massey Osbourne, the first Black American to earn a master’s degree in nursing. Because of her work, more nursing schools began to admit Black students. I think about Hazel Johnson-Brown, the first Black female brigadier general in the U.S. Army, in charge of thousands of nurses. I think about Eddie Bernice Johnson, the first nurse to win a national office, elected to serve the 30th Congressional District of Texas (1993). I think about Ernest Grant, the first black American Nurses Association (ANA) male president spearheading their Racial Reckoning. I think about living legend C. Alicia George, educator, practitioner, community activist, and the creator of the National Black Nurses Association’s (NBNA) annual Day on Capitol Hill. I think about Beverly Malone, ANA’s past president and chief executive officer of the National League for Nursing. They have truly paved the way for people like me to succeed. I stand on the backs of my ancestors, and I am committed to pulling up others as I climb.

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

What I love about the new generation of nurses is their fearlessness and willingness to speak up and to advocate for themselves, their patients, and their profession. For them, that may often seem like a huge weight to bear, but they will be the ones who will push our profession forward. I want them to remember what it took to earn their title. Remember how they’ve triumphed, persevered, been resilient, and supported one another. Remember the challenges they’ve overcome and all that they’ve learned along the way. Remember to be as kind to themselves as they are to others. Remember to care for yourself because you can’t pour from an empty cup. Remember to give yourself grace and that learning is a life-long process. Remember always to do what’s right and prioritize accessible and equitable healthcare. 

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

Remember, not every path is a straight line. Our identity as nurses is shaped by our formal education and, more importantly, by the challenges, obstacles, difficulties, opportunities, and victories we’ve experienced. Continue to pay it forward. Be that preceptor, that mentor, that faculty member, that leader you had, or even wish you had. You never know who’s watching and who you’re helping to develop their identity as a nurse. In my circle, we have a saying: Show up, show off, and show out. So show up as your authentic self. Show off all you have accomplished because you never know who you are inspiring. Show them that you are outstanding, even when imposter syndrome is knocking at the door.

Enough! Why the Claudine Gay Resignation Hurts

Enough! Why the Claudine Gay Resignation Hurts

What we all feared just happened when Claudine Gay, the first Black president of Harvard University, announced that she was stepping down after only six months on the job—the shortest stint ever for the university’s president position.why-the-claudine-gay-resignation-hurts

The latest news about Claudine Gay admittedly dredged up some all too familiar and saddening experiences for me and many executives like me when I heard the news. While writing this, I just saw a news report about the inauguration of the first female mayor of Philadelphia, Cherelle Parker, who is only the fifth Black woman to run one of America’s largest cities. They highlighted parts of her speech about shattering the glass ceiling and opening up opportunities for more women and POCs to walk through.

Is that really the case?

We felt the same hope, promise, and determination when we first heard of Dr. Gay’s appointment. And yet, six months later, here we are. Her interim replacement looks and sounds like nothing of that promise or the person who just vacated that position.

This is not about Dr. Gay’s congressional testimony, and let’s set aside the plagiarism allegations for now. We continue to witness and experience this trend for people of color. When we finally think that we’ve made it and there is finally a path for distributive power, another (one) bites the dust, or another door closes and closes tightly with little expectation for the change we hoped to see. The quote by David Thomas, president of Morehouse College, that “… (this situation) does put in relief the vulnerability of Black female leaders. When they do ascend to these positions — there will be people who come after them” is real and jarring.

The evidence is quite clear that we have work to do not only with diversifying the nursing profession but with diversifying nursing leadership even more. According to a study by the National Center For Education Statistics, Black women have been obtaining degrees at a consistently high rate for the past 11 years, obtaining more associate, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctorate degrees. And yet, a health affairs study found that “historical legacies of sexism and racism, dating back to the division of care work in slavery and domestic service,” even though Black women are more overrepresented than any other demographic group in healthcare.

Nurses of color represent fewer than 20% of U.S. leadership roles in nursing administration, education, and professional organizations. A 2023 scoping review revealed that Black nurse leaders face obstacles and challenges with entering into or remaining in leadership roles, along with limited and inadequate research on Black nurses in leadership roles.

For many of us who have supposedly “made it” as nurse leaders of color, the fight to hold on has a weathering effect. The path is long and winding, with a constant need to justify your position with the stress of constantly overperforming, outworking, outproducing, and over-justifying why you belong in your role. I vividly recall my first experience of this when, with my first major promotion to an executive role, a position I was offered and didn’t even apply for.

After I received the unexpected and exciting news of my promotion, I was told by my then-boss, the CNO, that one of the surgeons (who was white) felt that he still needed to be convinced that I was qualified (I was overqualified with dual master’s degrees). She insisted that I stop by his office to meet with him, only to be subjected to degradation and veiled threats that he was watching me and he had the power to bring me down if I didn’t prove I was worthy of the role. My joy of being promoted suddenly turned into fear. I adopted the familiar methodology of being the first in and last to leave during my entire career there as I struggled, which also impacted my family and finances. Even that was not enough, or I didn’t know what enough was. It was an unclear and constantly moving target.

Back to the shattered glass analogy. This continuing trend is evidence that the shards of glass from glass ceilings that are figuratively shattered when people of color are appointed to these positions are never thoroughly picked or cleaned up. The shards remain littered in paths for people of color in these leadership positions to step over and avoid cutting themselves carefully. We’ve all literally seen the effects of broken glass, and shards tend to spread far, go wide, and hide. Even the most meticulous cleaning reveals a piece of glass days, months, or weeks later, which may have been missed, causing a cut or becoming embedded in limbs, causing harm when and where you least expect it. These injuries can also cause permanent damage – in this case, spirit murder.

When are we enough? Is it ever enough? And, once we get into these prized positions and the celebratory “being the first” honeymoon phases are over, what is enough? For all the Claudine Gays in nursing and other careers that have been loved, lifted, and are now lost or are fighting to hold on, it’s tough to play the game when you don’t know the rules when they are unwritten and constantly changing. A friend of mine sent me a quote that we continuously have to be “twice as good to get half as far” as some of our counterparts. This is not the way we wanted to start the year 2024.

Enough already.

Vanderbilt University School of Nursing Secures Grant for Leadership Academy

Vanderbilt University School of Nursing Secures Grant for Leadership Academy

Boosting its commitment to underrepresented nursing leaders, Vanderbilt University School of Nursing has secured a grant from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation for its innovative leadership program, Academy for Diverse Emerging Nurse Leaders.

The academy is a groundbreaking, five-day immersive fellowship designed to train nurses from underrepresented backgrounds in nursing leadership who are in early leader roles in health systems and nursing schools and those committed to expanding and supporting diversity in nursing leadership. It is produced in partnership with Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

The program began in November 2022 with Rolanda Johnson, PhD’98, FAAN, professor of nursing and School of Nursing associate dean for equity, diversity, and inclusion, and Mamie Williams, PhD, Vanderbilt University Medical Center senior director for nurse diversity and inclusion, serving as co-directors. Johnson is named as the principal investigator for the grant.

The program—and the Moore Foundation grant—are designed to meet a very specific challenge in nursing leadership.

“The number of administrators from diverse backgrounds is limited in nursing education and health care systems. Students and the nursing workforce need leaders with shared experiences and those who support diversity in nursing,” said Pam Jeffries, PhD, RN, FAAN, ANEF, FSSH, dean of the School of Nursing. “The academy is the vision of two talented leaders and educators, Rolanda Johnson and Mamie Williams. They saw a need to create and build a pipeline for diverse leaders at Vanderbilt and throughout health care and academia nationally.”

The primary goal of ADENL is to equip nurses at the early stages of their managerial careers with education, tools, and support to navigate the challenges of being leaders committed to expanding and supporting diversity in nursing leadership.

“The academy provides a unique opportunity for a diverse group of emerging nurse leaders to come together, develop networking opportunities and peer-to-peer opportunities, and gain information from leadership experts within the nursing profession and other disciplines,” Johnson said.

ADENL’s curriculum covers key leadership skills such as strategic planning, team building, and finance. Additionally, the program prioritizes personal development, focusing on mediating biases and understanding how personal experiences influence leadership approaches. It also addresses specific topics such as health equity, racism mitigation, and productive conflict.ADENL offers fellows the opportunity to engage with leaders across diverse sectors, emphasizing that the challenges tied to justice, equity, and diversity permeate beyond just nursing.

The academy’s vision extends beyond the program, closely tracking each fellow’s project development and career progression to measure the initiative’s long-term impact.

Upon completing the academy, fellows venture into real-world leadership projects. Current projects include support initiatives for male nurses and specialized programs for international nurses in hospitals.

With the goal of extending the ADENL initiative on a national scale, particularly in collaboration with HBCUs, the program aspires to mentor and shape 80 national nursing leaders over the next two years. The Moore Foundation grant will allow Vanderbilt to offer the program twice a year, expand recruitment, and assist with various program needs, including faculty travel, scholarships for fellows, and funding for individual leadership projects.

The inaugural ADENL cohort in 2022 witnessed participation from 18 fellows spanning nine states. Their experience was enriched by insights from 31 national and regional faculty members.

Williams said that fellows count the relationships they make with other students as a significant asset of the program. “They formed very strong bonds and very strong relationships with one another,” she said. “I think that will continue throughout their careers, and these will be people that they can rely on to offer them advice, support, and encouragement.”

The fall 2023 ADENL session welcomed 16 participants from November 13-17, 2023. The new spring academy, made possible with the Moore Foundation grant, will be held March 18-22, 2024. More information is available here.

In a fitting tribute to her commitment, Johnson was recently honored with the Joseph A. Johnson, Jr. Distinguished Leadership Professor Award. The award celebrates a Vanderbilt faculty member who has proactively nurtured an academic environment where everyone feels valued, and diversity is celebrated.