Meet a Champion of Nursing Diversity: Marliyn “Nia” Wright

Meet a Champion of Nursing Diversity: Marliyn “Nia” Wright

Marilyn “Nia” Wright, MSN, MHA, RN, CNOR, is a retired nurse who can’t stay away from the industry she loves.

As a nurse student, Wright was nicknamed Nia, an acronym for Nurse in Action, because she was eager to care for people and often volunteered to do whatever she could for as many patients as she could, whether or not those patients were part of her assignment. Wright exemplified this enthusiasm throughout her entire career. 

Wright is an author, teacher, international speaker, and nationally certified nurse and was recently named a 2022 Nurse of the Year for the state of Maryland by the Maryland Hospital Association and The Daily Record.

She retired from her position as senior nursing director of one of the largest and busiest surgical services in Maryland at Luminis Health Anne Arundel Medical Center (LHAAMC) after serving in that role for over a decade.

Wright is a passionate, enthusiastic advocate for the promotion of diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace, serving for four years as the co-chair of the Cultural Diversity and Workplace Advocacy Nursing Initiative and was instrumental in expanding the committee’s membership to include members from the community as well as other hospital departments. As a result, the initiative’s name was changed to the Cultural Diversity and Workplace Advocacy Collaborative, and in 2018 Wright became the Executive Sponsor of the Collaborative.

She was also the executive sponsor and founding member of the African American Business Resource Group, a Luminis Health grassroots endeavor formed by employees across all demographics focused on creating a welcoming environment for underrepresented demographics and removing barriers that impact diversity, equity, and inclusion in the healthcare system. 

Wright now serves as senior justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion (JEDI) consultant for Luminis Health. Her philosophy is that diversity is a valuable asset to any organization, allowing for creativity and productivity that incorporates multiple perspectives and perceptions and enabling the organization to cast a wider net and meet the needs of a larger population, including the employees themselves.  

Nia Wright 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-a-champion-of-nursing-diversity-marliyn-nia-wrightMeet Nia Wright, MSN MHA RN CNOR, Senior Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion consultant for Luminis Health.

Talk about the roles you held in nursing.

I started as a staff nurse on a med/surg unit in 1979. Through the years, I have progressed in leadership roles to continuously improve the patient’s care and the support and shared governance of the clinicians and support staff.

How long have you worked in the nursing field? 

45 years. 

Why did you become a nurse?

I’ve wanted to be a nurse since I was seven. As a child, I was prone to upper respiratory infections; the nurses were always kind and gentle and made me feel better. I knew I wanted to be like them. I was that little girl with the nurse’s bag who bandaged my dolls and my friends if they had little cuts or scrapes. So I wanted to do anything I could do to help people heal and feel better. 

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

Caring for the caregivers, fostering resilience, and leading by example regarding self-care. Nursing leaders must Look for opportunities to ensure shared governance and support their staff’s professional growth.

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

Being a nurse leader means providing strategic direction, tactical operations guidance, resources, and support to the nurses and all of the members of my team of healthcare associates. I am most proud of how I led my team during the pandemic with caring, compassion, transparency, tenacity, and resilience.

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

My career path has been one of progressive leadership in education and management. I have served as a preceptor, educator, and clinical specialist. Honestly, the leadership roles chose me. I’ve always been the kind of person to see a problem and want to solve it. I offered suggestions to resolve issues. My first leadership role was as assistant head nurse of otolaryngology. I transitioned from med/surg nursing to the operating room, and my leadership path began as a team lead of Ophthalmology. I progressed to a clinical manager, assistant director, director, and senior director through the years. In each role, I endeavored to incorporate others in the decision-making process. I believe that each of us, regardless of title or job category, has something to offer to improve and enhance the care we provide continuously. The leader’s role is to tap into each team member’s knowledge, talents, and skills, enable them to do their best, empower them to be change agents, and help them grow professionally. 

What is the most significant challenge facing nursing today?

The most significant challenge facing nursing today is the stress of the job. The stress originates from staffing challenges that include re-designing staffing structures, such as re-visiting the team nursing model and adding licensed practical nurses to personal life challenges.

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

As a nurse leader, I must ensure my staff knows I support them. Just as the challenge is multi-faceted, so is the approach to resolution. I worked with the staff and leaders to revise the on-call program, which gave the team more control over their schedules and reduced the number of on-call shifts. We worked together. That’s the key. I had an open door policy so that staff and leaders knew they could come by to discuss a personal or professional concern confidentially. I always encouraged them to practice self-care. If they did what was best for them to thrive, it would positively influence the care provided to the patients and the other team members, and the work environment.  

How are you helping advocate for promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace?

Previously, I established a platform for open, honest dialogue on diversity and inclusion issues. As a result, Luminis Health became the first Healthcare System to sponsor a local chapter of Coming To The Table – a national organization focused on healing the wounds of inequity caused by racism. The Luminis Health chapter seeks to heal the wounds of all biases and injustices. As the first executive sponsor of the Cultural Diversity and Workplace Advocacy Collaborative, I led many informative and interactive educational events to heighten awareness of the need for diversity, equity, and inclusion in every aspect of the organization.

Tell us about your new role as the Senior Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (JEDI) consultant for Luminis Health.

I work with the various Business Resource Groups (ex. LGBTQIA), Inclusion Groups (ex. Counter Racism Task Force), Human Resources partners, and leadership in providing guidance, being a sounding board, offering assistance with seeing concerns through the lens of Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion, provide group and individual education, assist with policy development and revisions, analyze metrics that measure our JEDI progress and collaborate with leaders and staff in developing strategic plans and goals for our Luminis Health JEDI Journey.

What nursing leader inspires you the most and why?

Today, I am most inspired by the president of Luminis Health Doctors Community Medical Center, Deneen Richmond, MHA RN. She is a nurse who has been a stalwart advocate for justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion throughout her career. She is a formidable force, particularly in quality and population health. She is well respected by her peers and those she supports. Additionally, Deneen is an African American woman who graduated from my alma mater, the University of the District of Columbia. She is a stellar example of how true grit and determination can make a difference in the communities we serve and the industry we love. 

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

You are in the world’s most trusted profession. Your work is vitally important. So stay in the driver’s seat. Let your voice be heard. Advocate for your patients, your community, and yourself. 

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

My professional mantra for over forty years has been, “I touch the world one person at a time. I make a difference in people’s lives every day… I am a nurse.”