What better time than National Nurses Day to call out important leaders within nursing? And as a platform for minority nurses, Minority Nurse wants to pay special attention when a minority nurse advances to a leadership role.
The significance of the election isn’t lost on Harris. “This makes me feel I am living my passion,” she says. “It makes me a little nervous, too. I have big shoes to fill.”
Harris says she finds a nursing career a definite calling. “I chose nursing because I always had a passion for helping others,” she says. “Being a nurse is one way I can help others when they are in a vulnerable time of need.”
But Harris also sees education as a big part of a nurse’s role and looks forward to having a bigger voice in the nursing industry to help spread the word about education. Because nurses teach patients and the general population about their health, about taking care of themselves or loved ones, and about prevention, their practice encompasses more than just a specific illness or injury.
“It is every aspect,” says Harris. “It’s about the physical, emotional, and spiritual.” And Harris says her own decisions have been led in part by her own faith and spirituality. “For me, I just feel God has put me on this earth to do something bigger than myself,” she says.
And for Harris, one of her biggest drives and skills is being what she calls a “connector.” When a student needs a preceptor, she can scan her network and help connect people. When a patient needs an appointment with a specialist but isn’t sure where to go, Harris can get that all moving.
And being elected the first African-American nurse president of the organization makes her feel good. “It’s important being an example for African-American women and showing them they can do this,” she says. “They can be leaders.” Harris plans to use the platform to help bring nurses in the state together to unite their voices. “We have 100,000 nurses in Alabama,” she says. And many varied nursing associations represent these nurses including the Birmingham Black Nurses Association and Central Alabama Nurse Practitioners Association, both of which Harris is also a member of. “Imagine if we all came together and had one voice,” she says. “We could make real decisions about moving nursing forward.”
Some of the more pressing issues Harris sees is the mounting healthcare crisis that intensifies with each hospital or facility closing. “Access to healthcare is significantly decreased,” she says, noting some people have to travel for hours to reach a facility when the closest one to their location closes.
As a minority nurse, Harris found joining professional organizations to be an excellent way to connect with other like-minded nurses and to make a difference. As for the Alabama State Board of Nursing, Harris says they can make an enormous impact on nursing legislation and policy. “We are the voice of nursing,” she says. Increasing the membership numbers is one of Harris’s goals as is building strong connections within the nursing community and reaching out to the organizations that touch on nursing issues and patient care.
“Nurses are dealing with so much more,” says Harris. “The good thing is there are new advances and opportunities for growth within nursing. They can do anything and can work in hospitals, schools, factories … there are so many opportunities for nurses. And it’s so rewarding when a patient says to you, ‘I can tell you really love what you are doing.’”