Shameika Smith, RN, BSN, CRRN, is a registered nurse in the Spinal Cord Injury Rehabilitation Program at Shepherd Center. This rehabilitation hospital provides world-class clinical care, research, and family support for people experiencing the most complex conditions like spinal cord and brain injuries, multi-trauma, multiple amputations, stroke, multiple sclerosis, and pain.  

Smith is an important nursing leader, and we’re pleased to profile her as we celebrate Black History Month with the Black Nursing Leaders Series 2023. 

In February, we’ll highlight healthcare leaders who are prominent figures in their organizations and are making transformational impacts in nursing.

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Meet Shameika Smith, a registered nurse in the Spinal Cord Injury Rehabilitation Program at Shepherd Center

Talk about your career path and how you ascended to your role at at Shepherd Center

I started my nursing career as a Patient Care Technician in 1999 at a hospital in Florida. In the early 2000s, I moved to the metro Atlanta area, continuing my nursing career in several hospitals in Atlanta and Dekalb.

After becoming complacent in my current role, in 2008, I began taking my prerequisites part-time while working at Shepherd. It wasn’t until 2013 that I could give full attention to my studies, concentrating on becoming a nurse. I applied and got accepted to a BSN program. I completed my BSN in 2016 at Chamberlin University College of Nursing.

What inspired you to become a nurse?

I think caregiving has always been in my DNA. I love taking care of people. I love advocating for and encouraging patients when they may be at their lowest point spiritually, mentally, and physically. While working as a PCT was a wonderfully rewarding job, continuing my education and career path would afford me a broader span of what I could do in offering my services.

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

We have many new nurses who would benefit from a great leader. Nurses in leadership should lead with integrity and compassion and have excellent communication skills. We need to be able to share our knowledge and critical thinking skills to help our upcoming nurses be extraordinary.

What is the most significant challenge facing nursing today?

The most significant challenge facing nursing today is a clear shortage of nurses and, even broader, a shortage of nurses who are actually prepared for the nursing field. No matter what, there will always be a staff shortage in the medical field. Upcoming nurses should be nurtured and led to have great critical thinking skills as we work hard due to shortages, and the patient loads are more complicated at times. This can lead to one becoming overwhelmed, burnt out, and making too frequent nursing errors. My area of nursing is also physically demanding because many of our patients have paralysis, and we are their arms and legs.

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

As a nursing leader, I am overcoming these challenges by making myself available to help fellow nurses as a resource when they may feel overwhelmed or have nursing questions.

On my off days, I incorporate time to work out at a local gym in Atlanta and get plenty of rest. Spending time with my family is of high importance as well as relaxing. 

What nursing leader inspires you the most?

My manager, Angelique Howard-Morris, RN, BSN, inspires me. I’ve watched her start as a PCT, working thru all of life’s challenges and going to school while taking care of her family. Yet, she did not allow anything to stop her from accomplishing her goals. 

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

It doesn’t matter how or when you start. What matters is getting to the finish line. PERSEVERE! I promise you can do it. It is indeed one of the most rewarding things!

Renee Hewitt
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