Meet a Champion of Nursing Diversity: Kendra Coles

Meet a Champion of Nursing Diversity: Kendra Coles

Kendra Coles, DNP, RNC-OB, C-EFM, NEA-BC, is a seasoned nursing leader with over 20 years of experience in the field. For 17 years, she has been dedicated to women’s services and has a wealth of knowledge in managing inpatient and outpatient obstetric care. She also has a knack for communication and team empowerment. Coles is known for optimizing performance and outcomes for obstetric and neonatal populations, achieved through fostering collaboration and building multidisciplinary teams.meet-a-champion-of-nursing-diversity-kendra-coles

Since 2019, Coles has been Director of Women’s & Children’s Services at the University of Maryland Baltimore Washington Medical Center (UM BWMC). In this role, she oversees a team of 125 FTEs across various units, including Labor & Delivery, Postpartum, Pediatrics, and Special Care Nursery. Coles is responsible for strategic planning, equity, diversity, and inclusion initiatives and developing nurse leaders. She is committed to achieving organizational goals while maintaining fiscal responsibility and ensuring the highest quality and safety standards for patients and staff.

She’s highly skilled in change management and program development, which has been critical in introducing obstetric and newborn care services. Her expertise and leadership have made her a trusted figure in the field.

Coles’ contributions to the nursing field have earned her a spot in the Champions of Nursing Diversity Series 2024. This series highlights healthcare leaders who are prominent figures in their organizations and making significant changes in the nursing field.

Meet Kendra Coles, DNP, RNC-OB, C-EFM, NEA-BC, Director of Women’s and Children’s Services at the UM BWMC.

Talk about your role in nursing.

As the Director of Nursing for Women’s and children’s services, my responsibilities include the operations of obstetrics, newborns, and pediatric care. In this role, I have the honor of impacting the care that women receive during pregnancy and delivery, a newborn’s early days of life, and sick children who require hospitalization. The role requires leading health initiatives such as hypertension and hemorrhage management, safe sleep, and pediatric respiratory illness management.

As a health equity leader and advocate, I have led initiatives to reduce maternal morbidity and mortality and served on the Anne Arundel County Maternal Infant Health Task Force. I co-chair the Equity, Diversity & Inclusion Council at UM BWMC and train other nursing teams in leadership, communication, and staff empowerment to optimize performance and patient outcomes.

How long have you worked in the nursing field?

I have over 26 years of nursing experience and have been a nursing leader for 20 years. My clinical experiences include caring for patients in Labor and Delivery, Mother, Baby, and Nursery. I also have expertise in the operations of inpatient and outpatient care.

Why did you become a nurse?

I became a nurse because I genuinely wanted to care for others. I was raised in a family of five kids and watched my mom always care for someone in the home or family. Nursing is a noble and humbling profession that allows interpersonal reward.

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

Resilience, compassion, innovation, and grace. Today’s nurse leaders must be resilient as they face daily changes in healthcare. Compassion is needed to care for the patients, but it is also required for the care of the staff caring for others. Nursing leaders must develop and embrace new technologies and advances in clinical practices in a rapidly evolving healthcare system. As the nursing leader supports innovation, it’s through grace that you allow forgiveness and create an environment where learning occurs for team members. Grace can also be given to patients who desire to improve their health status and may not always have the resources to make the healthiest choices. We offer our patients new opportunities to be informed and empowered in their care through grace.

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

As a nursing leader, my task is helping others to help others. Nursing leaders can ensure our patients have the best outcomes by leading a team of professionals to their highest potential and encouraging their growth as caregivers. Nursing leaders drive changes that change lives. I’m most proud of starting an obstetric program at UM BWMC in 2009 and participating in its ongoing growth to improve maternal and newborn care in Anne Arundel County.

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

My nursing career started in 1997 at the University of Maryland Medical Center, the University of Maryland Medical Systems’ academic hospital in downtown Baltimore, serving in Labor & Delivery. I simultaneously worked at another hospital in the region in the Mother Baby Unit. I found myself excited about the nursing profession and joined a nursing agency where I took on a variety of nursing contracts caring for obstetric and newborn patients. My interest in leadership began as a charge nurse at UMMC and grew into a senior clinical nurse role. I was offered an opportunity for frontline leaders to obtain a Master of Science in Healthcare Leadership & Management. I completed my Master of Science in Nursing in 2009 as UM BWMC started recruiting for their new OB program leadership and staff. As a brand-new manager, I recruited a phenomenal team to open the Pascal Women’s Center. In 2018, following the retirement of the director at the time and a national recruitment effort, I was chosen to advance into the Director of Nursing role.

What is the most significant challenge facing nursing today?

The most significant challenge facing nursing is staffing shortages. Like many industries, especially health care, COVID-19 changed the workforce. Nurses experienced compassion fatigue, burnout, and difficulty finding work-life balance. They began to leave the bedside, searching for a less stressful environment or more profitable opportunities. Subsequently, the nursing shortage grew, and we continue to rebuild the nursing workforce.

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

Developing and introducing new nurses into the profession is an ongoing challenge. As a nurse leader, I have embraced programs such as the Academy of Clinical Essentials, an initiative developed and spearheaded by the UMMS Chief Executive Officer, which allows nursing students to partner alongside one of our experienced nurses and have early exposure to the art of nursing. We have modified our nursing preceptor program to enable our most experienced nurse to focus on a core group of new hires. We have customized our nurse residency program for the OB, Neonatal, and Pediatric specialties. We have integrated simulations as a core training component in team building and communication skills in high-risk situations. To help our teams address fatigue and burnout, we offer flexible staffing, relaxation rooms, and RISE support resources.

What nursing leader inspires you the most and why?

Rose L. Horton, MSM, RNC-OB, NEA-BC, FAAN, the Founder and CEO of #Notonmywatch Consulting Partners, inspires me. She is a Women & Infant health care executive leader at Emory Decatur Hospital, who believes nurses can change maternal morbidity and mortality. Horton called nurses to action by encouraging them to use their voices to support and advocate for others. She has been a strong influence for improving care during her tenure as the Association of Women’s Health, Obstetric, and Neonatal Nurses (AWHONN) president and while serving on the Synova leadership Board of Directors. I’m really inspired by her dedication to raising awareness about issues compounding black maternal health and how she successfully advocates for change.

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

No matter how hard your shift may seem, never forget why you became a nurse. Take every opportunity to serve and care for someone else because you never know the difference you make.

Meet a Champion of Nursing Diversity: Barbara Bosah

Meet a Champion of Nursing Diversity: Barbara Bosah

Barbara Bosah, MS, RN, PCCN, is a highly skilled nurse manager in the thoracic and surgical intermediate care unit and vascular progressive care unit at the University of Maryland Medical Center (UMMC), downtown campus in Baltimore, MD. meet-a-champion-of-nursing-diversity-barbara-bosah

With over 14 years of experience leading care teams for patients with complex medical conditions, she is passionate nursing leader who fosters dynamic and supportive work environments that encourage continuous learning and professional growth.

Bosah has been recognized for leading several important nursing initiatives at UMMC that have positively impacted quality and patient experience. 

She is particularly proud of her role as a founding leader for the Academy of Clinical Essentials initiative. This revolutionary academic-practice partnership model has been implemented at the University of Maryland Medical System (UMMS) and has resulted in intentional support for new graduate nurses as they prepare for and transition into clinical practice.

Bosah’s contributions to the nursing field have earned her a spot in the Champions of Nursing Diversity Series 2024. This series highlights healthcare leaders who are making significant changes in the nursing field and are prominent figures in their organizations

Meet Barbara Bosah, MS, RN, PCCN, nurse manager in the thoracic and surgical intermediate care unit and vascular progressive care unit at the University of Maryland Medical Center. 

Talk about your role in nursing.

I am the Nurse Manager for the Surgical and Thoracic Intermediate Care & Vascular Surgery Progressive Care units. Our unit specializes in providing care for some of the sickest patients within the Maryland region. These patients are admitted to our unit after undergoing surgery. As a Nurse Manager, I lead our team of dedicated nurses. Our primary focus is to provide high-quality and patient-centric care. This involves ensuring that all staff members are well-trained and equipped to handle the complex needs of our patients.

Additionally, I oversee the allocation of staff and financial resources to ensure the effective operations of our unit. By carefully managing these resources, we can maintain a safe environment for our patients while delivering exceptional care. Our team is committed to staying up-to-date with the latest surgical and thoracic care advancements. We regularly participate in professional development activities and collaborate with other healthcare professionals to provide the best possible outcomes for our patients. My role as the Nurse Manager involves overseeing our unit’s day-to-day operations and creating an environment that promotes collaboration, excellence, and compassionate care. 

How long have you worked in the nursing field?

Nursing is my second career. Before pursuing nursing, I obtained my Bachelor of Science in Business Administration with a focus in Marketing and a minor in International Business from the University of Louisville in Louisville, KY. Following my passion for healthcare, I furthered my education and earned a Bachelor of Science in Nursing from Bellarmine University in Louisville, KY.

In 2005, I began my nursing career at UMMC as a new graduate nurse in the Surgical Intermediate Care Unit. Over the past 19 years, I have dedicated my professional life to serving patients at UMMC, gaining valuable experience, and honing my nursing skills. I take great pride in my journey from business administration to nursing and the diverse skillset it has provided me. Through my years of experience at UMMC, I have developed a deep understanding of the healthcare industry and a genuine passion for delivering high-quality care to those in need.

Why did you become a nurse?

I choose to pursue a career in nursing because I find fulfillment in assisting patients and their families during difficult times. I thrive in situations where the outcomes are unpredictable, and I can provide the necessary support and guidance. It is gratifying to ensure that their journey through the hospital is as seamless as possible, and I strive to treat each patient and their family with utmost respect and care. 

My approach involves delivering high-quality, empathetic, and compassionate services. Moreover, I believe in establishing a personal connection with them and valuing them as individuals rather than just patients. They become part of my extended family in my care, and I am committed to meeting their needs and advocating for their well-being.

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

I firmly believe that nursing leaders are crucial in addressing staffing challenges. They need key attributes to be effective. First, they must be transformational leaders who inspire and empower their staff. A clear vision is essential for navigating complex situations and guiding teams towards success. Accessibility promotes open communication and collaboration. Empathy fosters a supportive work environment. 

Lastly, a passion for mentoring and developing nurses is essential for continuous growth. By embodying these attributes, nursing leaders can lead their teams, inspire excellence, and drive growth.

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

I am honored to serve as a nurse leader, particularly as a minority nurse leader, at UMMC. I have the privilege of contributing to the future growth and development of new nurses entering the profession and mentoring experienced nurses to strive for advancement in their careers, whether as a clinical nurse, an Advanced Practice Provider, or a nurse leader. 

While I thoroughly enjoy working with patients and their families, I am incredibly proud of the exceptional team I work with on the Surgical & Thoracic IMC and Vascular Surgery PCU. Our team demonstrates remarkable resilience and delivers outstanding patient care while supporting one another. The collaboration and teamwork within our team are truly impressive, as we care for some of the most critically ill patients in the Maryland Region. I am inspired to come to work each day because of the unwavering dedication of this remarkable team, as each staff member contributes to the mission and vision of UMMC. I am incredibly proud and humbled to be their leader.

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

I started my career as a new graduate nurse in the Surgical Intermediate Care Unit. Initially, I was still determining what my career path would be. However, I approached each day with dedication and focused on providing the best possible care to my patients. Although I was unsure if there was room for growth as a nurse then, I was determined to make the most of my past experiences and leverage my background in business and marketing. I set goals and developed a vision for my career to ensure that I had a clear direction. One area that I had always been passionate about was quality and performance improvement. 

Fortunately, my nurse leader, Cindy Dove, MSN, RN, Director at UMMC, recognized my passion and took me under her wing. She became my mentor and played a crucial role in my leadership development. Thanks to her guidance and support, I was able to advance through the Professional Advancement Model (PAM) from Clinical Nurse I to Senior Clinical Nurse II, and I currently hold the position of Nurse Manager. 

This journey has spanned 19 years, during which I have continuously grown professionally and personally. Looking back, I am grateful for the opportunities to expand my horizons and make a difference in nursing. I am excited to see what the future holds and how I can continue contributing to nursing.

What is the most significant challenge facing nursing today?

One of the most critical issues currently confronting the nursing profession is the persistent problem of staffing constraints and burnout. This challenge has been further exacerbated after the COVID-19 pandemic, which has left nurses exhausted and overwhelmed. The shortage of qualified nursing staff has put immense pressure on healthcare systems, leading to increased workloads and reduced quality of patient care. The demanding nature of nursing work, coupled with the long hours and high stress levels, has dramatically increased burnout rates among nurses. This not only affects the well-being and job satisfaction of nurses but also directly impacts patient outcomes and overall healthcare system effectiveness.

Therefore, addressing staffing constraints and burnout is of utmost importance to ensure the sustainability and effectiveness of nursing care in the present and future. Efforts should be made to implement strategies such as increasing the recruitment and retention of nurses, improving working conditions, and providing adequate support and resources to prevent burnout and promote the well-being of nurses. By addressing these challenges, we can create a more resilient and robust nursing workforce that can deliver high-quality care to patients and contribute to the overall improvement of healthcare systems.

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

As a nurse leader, overcoming the challenges in nursing has been quite difficult. It requires a lot of patience, as sometimes it may seem like no end in sight. However, it is important to remain hopeful and continuously review the current best practices to combat these constraints effectively.

One way to address these challenges is by actively listening to the concerns and needs of the bedside staff. We can create a more supportive and empowering work environment by advocating for their needs and ensuring that their voices are heard. Additionally, reviewing and implementing wellness programs specifically designed to support the staff is crucial. Encouraging participation from the entire team by forming task forces can help us successfully enact these changes.

Furthermore, it is essential to focus on the recruitment and retention of nurses. By actively promoting the profession and fostering a healthy work environment, we can attract and retain talented individuals passionate about providing high-quality care. This can ultimately contribute to our nursing practice’s overall success and improvement.

What nursing leader inspires you the most and why?

The saying “It takes a village to raise a child” resonates with me as I reflect on my journey from being a new graduate nurse 19 years ago at UMMC. Throughout my career, I have been fortunate to have the support and guidance of numerous UMMC leaders who have inspired me. Being a nurse goes beyond the technical aspects of the job; it involves working with phenomenal stakeholders and partners across various departments such as Rehab (Physical Therapy & Respiratory), Case Management, Hospital Operations, and Pastoral Care. However, I must highlight the significant impact that the Surgery and Neuroscience division’s nurse managers, Cindy Dove and Ruth Lee (VP of Patient Care Services), have had on me. Their leadership and dedication have been a constant source of inspiration, and I consider them part of my extended family within the hospital.

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

As a proud member of Delta Sigma Theta, Inc., the quote by our dynamic Soror Nikki Giovanni resonates with me, and I hope it will inspire you!

“A lot of people resist transition and therefore never allow themselves to enjoy who they are. Embrace the change, no matter what it is; once you do, you can learn about the new world you’re in and take advantage of it.” – Nikki Giovanni

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

I am incredibly grateful and deeply honored to have this fantastic opportunity to share my journey with you. It fills my heart with immense joy to connect with you and inspire you. I want to emphasize the importance of staying true to yourself and embracing self-love. Remember, you can shape your destiny and create the life you desire. Cherish every moment of your journey, and let your inner light guide you towards greatness.

Meet a Champion of Nursing Diversity: Kimberly Williams

Meet a Champion of Nursing Diversity: Kimberly Williams

Kimberly M. Williams, DNP, MSN, RN, NE-BC, has dedicated her career to serving patients at every level. She started in health care as a front desk clerk and worked up to her current position as the Director of Nursing Operations at the Bass Center for Childhood Cancer and Blood Diseases at Stanford Medicine Children’s Health.meet-a-champion-of-nursing-diversity-kimberly-williams

Williams is an important nursing leader, and we are honored to feature her in the Champions of Nursing Diversity Series 2024. This series highlights healthcare leaders who are prominent figures in their organizations and are making significant changes in the nursing field.

Meet Kimberly Williams, DNP, MSN, RN, NE-BC, Director of Nursing Operations at The Bass Center for Childhood Cancer and Diseases at Stanford Medicine Children’s Health.

Talk about your role in nursing.

I am the director of nursing operations at The Bass Center for Childhood Cancer and Diseases at Stanford Medicine Children’s Health. As the director of nursing operations at a world-class pediatric hospital, I hold a multifaceted role encompassing numerous responsibilities. My role extends beyond the provision of patient care and involves strategic decision-making and ensuring the overall efficiency and effectiveness of the Center’s nursing operations. To do so effectively, I partner with over 180 nurses throughout the Bass Childhood Cancer Center’s various departments, including hematology, oncology, stem cell transplant, and the Center for Definitive and Curative Medicine. We deliver compassionate, high-quality care to our young patients and their families.

As the chair of the Patients and Families Committee on the house-wide Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Council, I actively address health disparities, advocate for culturally sensitive care, and promote diversity, equity, and inclusivity within the healthcare system. I also mentor aspiring nurses, guiding and empowering them to pursue their dreams and overcome obstacles.

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

My path progressed with a series of fits and starts. As a parent, I had to juggle motherhood, a full-time job, and my academics, so it took me roughly six years to obtain my BSN. Upon graduating from Texas Christian University in 2001, I settled into my first nursing role at Cook Children’s Healthcare System on the medical/surgical floor. Still, I always had my eyes on becoming a PICU nurse. After a year there, I transferred to the PACU to get some experience in intubation and sedation. I then transferred to the PICU, where I worked as a nurse and a charge nurse. There, I got the desire to return to school and obtain my master’s. I completed my MSN in 2010 from the University of Phoenix. Afterward, I accepted a job as a nurse manager, where I spent eight years before taking a leap of faith and accepting a position at Stanford Medicine Children’s Health as a patient care manager for The Bass Center for Childhood Cancer and Diseases. I worked in that role for about two years before taking the interim role of director of nursing operations. I have now been in that role for a little over three years.

It’s been a long journey, beginning as a Black, economically disadvantaged girl from a small town outside Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Growing up, I faced numerous challenges that could have hindered my progress. However, I was fueled by a burning desire to make a difference, overcome limitations, and pursue my dream of becoming a nurse. I rose above my circumstances to succeed in nursing, and my experience culminated in a leadership position at Stanford Medicine Children’s Health, serving as a testament to determination, resilience, and the power of education.

How long have you worked in the nursing field? Why did you become a nurse?

Sometimes, others can see something within us that we may not recognize.

I have been in nursing for almost 25 years and came into this field by happenstance. I was a single mother of three rambunctious boys at the time, working as a clerk in a children’s hospital. One of the physicians I worked with recognized that I had the qualities and potential to excel as a nurse. She would often tell me I should consider going to nursing school. For over a year, she kept encouraging me and was determined to get me to take one class. I finally agreed. I will never forget the first class I took, Psychology 101. I received an ‘A’ in that course. All I needed to confirm that I could do anything I put my mind to. I owe a lot of gratitude to that doctor. Her encouragement motivated me to pursue a new path and passion, creating a better future for myself and my family. Looking back, I feel that my journey is a true testament to the transformative power of mentorship.

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

I want to be intentional in answering this question from the lens of a Black nurse and DE&I advocate. I feel the most essential attributes of today’s nursing leaders include cultural competency, advocacy, mentorship, and community engagement.

To truly provide equitable, compassionate care, we must recognize and respect the unique cultural dynamics and challenges faced by the diverse communities we serve. As leaders, we must be attuned to these nuances through cultural learning, which equips us to deliver holistic care, meeting each patient’s and their family’s psychological, emotional, spiritual, cultural, and individual needs.

Advocacy is a crucial attribute for leaders in the nursing profession today. We can promote patient rights, ensure patient safety, empower patients with the needed information to make informed decisions, and more through advocacy.

As I mentioned before, mentorship has the power to change lives. When I came into the field, few Black nurses were in any leadership roles. I was often the only Black leader in more rooms than I’d like to remember. And this was the catalyst for my commitment to promoting and supporting up-and-coming nurses and diversity within the profession.

The last attribute I’d like to touch on is the importance of community engagement. People don’t know what they don’t know. As the eyes and ears of some of our most vulnerable populations, we must embed ourselves within our communities to promote community health initiatives, provide educational resources, and collaborate with community leaders to address health disparities and promote health equity.

What is the most significant challenge facing nursing today?

One of the most significant challenges facing nurses today is the persistent disparities and inequities in healthcare access and outcomes among marginalized populations. One key challenge is the need for more diversity within the nursing profession. While progress has been made, nursing continues to struggle with achieving a workforce that reflects the racial, ethnic, and cultural diversity of our communities. A homogenous nursing workforce can limit patients’ ability to connect with and receive culturally sensitive care from healthcare providers who understand their unique needs and backgrounds.

Additionally, biases and discrimination persist within the healthcare system, impeding equitable care delivery. Implicit biases can influence decision-making, communication, and patient interaction, leading to disparities in treatment and outcomes. Moreover, the challenge of healthcare access persists for marginalized populations, including racial and ethnic minority groups, low-income individuals, LGBTQ+ communities, and those with limited English proficiency. These populations face significant barriers, including lack of health insurance, geographic disparities, and social determinants of health, contributing to healthcare inequity.

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

As a Black nurse leader, I strive to create inclusive and welcoming healthcare environments.

While often difficult to navigate, we can overcome many challenges by advocating for policies and practices that address these systematic barriers.

Nurses can foster culturally sensitive, competent care by actively listening to patients’ concerns, promoting patient autonomy, and respecting patients’ values and beliefs. As mentioned earlier, I am chair of the Patients and Families Committee on the house-wide Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Council at Stanford Medicine Children’s Health. In this role, I advocate for inclusive policies and practices that value and support diversity, prevent discrimination, and cultivate an inclusive workplace that celebrates different perspectives and ensures equitable opportunities for professional growth. Through organizational partnerships, Stanford Children’s is addressing some of these challenges by developing nursing-focused education programs that emphasize DE&I as fundamental components of the curriculum. This ensures that our workforce, especially nurses, are clinically skilled and culturally educated. Ongoing diversity training, mentorships, and continued education opportunities can promote nurses’ understanding of diverse patient populations and foster inclusive practices.

Despite the numerous obstacles within our profession, I am confident that with continued education and systemic support, nurses can play a vital role in advancing health equity and reducing disparities in healthcare.

What nursing leader inspires you the most and why?

There are so many who inspire me. When I look at the history of Black nurse leaders, the first person that comes to mind is the remarkable contributions of Mary Eliza Mahoney. Mary Eliza Mahoney (1845-1926) was the first African American registered nurse in the United States. Mahoney’s resilience and dedication to overcoming significant adversity in pursuit of her nursing career during a time of racial discrimination and inequality had a lasting impact on nursing and continue to inspire nurses of all backgrounds to this day.

However, the nurse leader who inspires me the most is my sister-in-law, Dr. Shakyryn Napier, DHS, RN, CPN, NEA-BC, LSSYB, and the Director of the Heart Center at Cook Children’s Healthcare System. Dr. Napier is one of the few Black nurse leaders I’ve enjoyed working alongside for most of my career. She possesses exceptional humility, demonstrating intense sincerity in her interactions with others. What sets her apart is her unwavering commitment to professional and personal mentorship. She invested her time and energy into me and was one of a few Black nurse leaders who recognized my potential, even when I doubted it myself. She believed in me and played an integral role in my leadership development.

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

I want to share a personal experience reaffirming that I am truly walking in my purpose.

Four months ago, my father was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer that metastasized to his bones and spine. About a month after his diagnosis, my 35-year-old son underwent an above-the-knee leg amputation. The experience of sitting on the other side of healthcare as a daughter and a mother has profoundly touched me and deepened my understanding of humility, compassion, mercy, and grace. As I provide support to my father and son during these difficult times, I am witnessing firsthand the physical, emotional, and psychological toll that illness and disability can have on families. This experience has enabled me to approach my role as a nurse leader with an even greater depth of compassion and understanding. Humility is a crucial quality in healthcare, as it allows us to recognize our limitations and biases while respecting the diverse perspectives and needs of those we care for. My experience has humbled me, reminding me of life’s vulnerability and fragility. Through my experience, I hope to provide a comforting presence, lend support, and cultivate stronger connections with patients and families navigating their difficult journeys.

Lastly, I’d like to emphasize the importance of self-care. Please seek support when needed, as our careers and personal lives can also affect our well-being. When prioritizing well-being, we can provide better compassionate care and leadership to those who need it.

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 years.meet-a-champion-of-nursing-diversity-suzette-porter

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 nursing.meet-a-champion-of-nursing-diversity-dr-selena-gilles

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.

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