Meet a Champion of Nursing Diversity: Shauna Johnson

Meet a Champion of Nursing Diversity: Shauna Johnson

Shauna Johnson is a registered nurse at Luminis Health Anne Arundel Medical Center (LHAAMC) in Annapolis, Maryland, and exemplifies the meaning of resilience.

She worked as a tech for LHAAMC more than ten years ago, but then life got in the way. After her mom died of breast cancer, she had to take care of her two brothers (who were 7 and 13 at the time). Eventually, Johnson went to nursing school and got her degree in May 2022. During her last semester, she gave birth and got COVID. At nursing school, Johnson fell in love with working with geriatric patients; now, she works in Luminis Health’s Acute Care for Elders (ACE) unit.

Someone at school believed in Johnson so much that they privately funded her education.

She credits Christine Frost, the chief nursing officer at Luminis Health, for being a significant influence in her life. When Johnson first worked at LHAAMC 11 years ago, Frost was her supervisor, providing Johnson with guidance and mentorship.

Shauna Johnson 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.

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Meet Shauna Johnson, a Luminis Health Anne Arundel Medical Center (LHAAMC) registered nurse.

Talk about your role in nursing.

As a registered nurse at Luminis Health Anne Arundel Medical Center, I provide optimal care to patients and the community. I love advocating for patients and helping them feel comfortable with their care. As a nurse, I am responsible for assessing, observing, and communicating well with patients. I collaborate with a team of medical professionals to ensure every patient receives the care they deserve.

How long have you worked in the nursing field?

I have worked in the nursing field for 15 years. I started as a patient care technician for 14 years and then earned my BSN and RN.

Why did you become a nurse? 

My inspiration to become a nurse started with a nurse who cared for my mom during her last hours of life. It was such a difficult time in my life that I can’t remember much except for this nurse who had so much compassion, love, and dedication. It showed in everything that he did. When I was only 19, I knew I wanted to be the same for others. I made it my mission to be a great nurse to patients, families, and the community.

What sparked your love for working with geriatric patients?

My love for geriatric patients came from my first job in the nursing field as a geriatric nursing assistant. From then on, I respected geriatric patients more and more. Geriatric patients demonstrate incredible strength on a daily basis. Despite a complex medical history, they never give up. Their will and determination to thrive in life are inspiring, and as a nurse, I want to assist in making life worth every moment.

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

Flexibility, love, passion, dedication, and resilience.

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

It means being a role model to other nurses and the community, even when off-duty. Despite my challenges, I am proud that I pushed through and achieved my goal of becoming a nurse. I demonstrate my passion for nursing every single day.

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

My first year in nursing was as a nursing assistant in a rehabilitation facility. After that, I worked as a patient care technician (PCT) in the Medical Surgical Unit for ten years. Then, I shifted from working with just adults to the Mother/Baby unit as a PCT, where I remained throughout nursing school. After graduating with my BSN, I wanted to work with adults again, specifically geriatric patients. I never gave up and never wanted to be a PCT forever. I kept pushing myself to grow and achieve my goals.

I chose to work at Luminis Health Anne Arundel Medical Center (LHAAMC) because it is home. Everyone is supportive, loving and caring. The care that Luminis Health provides to the community is outstanding, and this team of caregivers truly exemplifies our mission of enhancing the health of the people and communities we serve.

What is the most significant challenge facing nursing today?

The most significant challenge in nursing today is maintaining a healthy work environment. Focusing on mental health and preventing nurse burnout is essential. Our country experienced a historic pandemic, and healthcare workers are still experiencing the residual effects of COVID and how it impacted nursing care. As nurses, we must take care of ourselves to ensure that we can provide optimal care to others.

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

Mindfulness is key! That means being mindful, recognizing the importance of self-care, and creating a work environment where others can open up about hardships and mental health issues.

What nursing leader inspires you the most and why?

My former Chief Nursing Officer (CNO), Christine Frost, was my supervisor for seven years and a source of inspiration for 14 years. I watched her ascend to her new role as CNO at LHAAMC and remain passionate about nursing and its core values.

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Shauna Johnson with the nursing leader that inspires her the most – Christine Frost, the chief nursing officer at Luminis Health

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

The next generation of nurses should focus on showing passion and empathy rather than mastering every skill. Creating a safe environment for patients to open up and communicate with you about their health gives you so much knowledge on helping to develop the best treatment plan. Listen and assess!

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

Nursing is not just a career but a lifestyle. I am constantly thinking and performing as a nurse. There are many avenues in nursing and plenty of room for everyone with a heart. Nursing ROCKS!

Meet a Champion of Nursing Diversity: Stacey Garnett

Meet a Champion of Nursing Diversity: Stacey Garnett

Stacey Garnett, MSN, RN, PMH-BC, NEA-BC, FACHE, is the vice president and chief nursing officer at Sheppard Pratt, the nation’s largest private, nonprofit provider of mental health services. In the fast-paced and ever-evolving behavioral healthcare field, nursing leaders are crucial in ensuring efficient operations, a supportive work environment for nurses, and providing quality patient care.

Among these dedicated professionals, Garnett stands out as an exceptional leader whose unwavering commitment to serving people in crisis has made a significant impact on the nursing community. As the demand for behavioral healthcare services increases and burnout and staffing shortages weigh on nurses, she serves as a staunch advocate for patients and nurses alike—she recently received the Maryland Hospital Association’s Advocacy Champion Award for her role in helping to pass SB 960/HB 611, a bill that ensures adequate hospital staffing in Maryland.

As a minority leader with more than 30 years of experience in nursing and nursing administration, Garnett continues to lead and inspire future generations of gifted nurses. Her commitments to nurturing talent and diversifying her industry have not only enhanced the capabilities of individual nurses but have also contributed to the overall strength and competence of behavioral health nurse practitioners throughout the state of Maryland and beyond.

Stacey Garnett 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.

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Meet Stacey Garnett, vice president and chief nursing officer at Sheppard Pratt.

Empowering Growth

Garnett recognizes the importance of continuous professional growth and exhibits this in her commitment to teaching and mentoring the next generation of skilled nurses. In addition to leading Sheppard Pratt’s nursing team, she also serves as an educator and mentor. Garnett consistently enables her staff, students, and mentees to use educational and professional development opportunities to foster their growth and advancement.

As a leader who has overcome challenges, Garnett recalls being the only African-American student in her undergraduate nursing program. She now serves as a fierce proponent for diversity in the nursing field, creating opportunities for Sheppard Pratt to partner with historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs). She hopes that others will see representation in the field and continue to seek advancement opportunities.

Garnett’s success and dedication to excellence inspire her staff, students, and mentees. She understands that high-quality care begins with a personal commitment to perseverance in adversity. In 2019, she mentored a student struggling to pass her exam to become an LPN. After working with Garnett to master the material and conquer her testing anxiety, she passed the test and currently works as an LPN in hospice. Garnett’s tenacity and zeal energize her followers to achieve incredible feats.

Championing Patient-Centered Care

At the core of Garnett’s success throughout her 30-year career is a deeply rooted dedication to patient-centered care. As a motivated and passionate leader, she challenges and inspires her staff to prioritize each patient’s care, dignity, and progress during some of the most vulnerable times in their lives. She emphasizes the importance of building meaningful connections with patients, their families, and their communities. By actively listening to feedback, encouraging interdisciplinary collaboration, and prioritizing patient satisfaction initiatives, she establishes and maintains a patient-first mindset within Sheppard Pratt’s nursing staff. This holistic approach to patient care makes Sheppard Pratt a distinguished leader in behavioral healthcare and a place where patients can expect to be treated with the utmost care and respect.

Driving Excellence

As a transformational leader with a proven track record of generating and building relationships, managing nursing hospital operations, engaging and collaborating with physicians, and maintaining successful regulatory reviews, Garnett maintains a strong focus on delivering exceptional care. By setting these high standards, she has cultivated an environment encouraging continuous improvement and professional development among Sheppard Pratt’s nursing staff.

Garnett played a fundamental role in the launch of Sheppard Pratt’s new Baltimore/Washington Campus hospital in June 2021. Her colleagues have heralded her ability to think strategically as she responded to issues immediately and directly to open the new hospital to the public in June 2021. Her tenacity and innovation during the inception of the new campus, which offers five inpatient units, day hospital programs, and a Psychiatric Urgent Care, both set and maintained a precedent for a high standard of care across the hospital’s operations.

Collaboration and Communication

Effective communication and collaboration are vital in any healthcare setting, but these factors are critical in behavioral healthcare. Garnett truly has a heart for the patient, frequently interacting with them directly on units. She understands and appreciates that everyone has a journey and a story—by actively listening to the people she serves, she gains insight and perspective into the lives of others to help them overcome life’s most difficult challenges. When patients feel their voices are heard, they feel empowered to share their stories—these stories can reveal crucial information about a patient’s diagnosis, treatment, and recovery.

Garnett fosters a culture of open dialogue and teamwork, where patients, their families, and staff value her as someone with whom they can discuss difficult issues openly, honestly, and without judgment. She actively encourages nurses to voice their ideas, concerns, and suggestions, ensuring that all perspectives are valued and considered. By promoting transparency and maintaining strong lines of communication, Garnett has facilitated a collaborative environment that empowers nurses to work together, resulting in streamlined processes and improved patient care.

Garnett is a beacon of hope for a nation desperately needing passionate and skilled behavioral health nurse practitioners. Her leadership inspires current and future nurses to provide patients with the high-quality care they need and deserve.

Meet a Champion of Nursing Diversity: Blake Lynch, AKA Nurse Blake

Meet a Champion of Nursing Diversity: Blake Lynch, AKA Nurse Blake

Blake Lynch, aka Nurse Blake, loves caring for and helping patients and caring for and helping fellow nurses. As a popular nursing influencer, internationally touring comedian, healthcare advocate, and keynote speaker, Nurse Blake uses humor to bring nurses together.

Working in trauma centers around the country, Nurse Blake started posting original comedy videos aimed at his profession to cope with the stress of his nursing job. His lighthearted videos connect with nurses, nursing students, and healthcare workers worldwide, and he entertains almost 4M followers on social media while lifting healthcare workers across the globe.

But Nurse Blake is about more than comedy.

He always wanted to be a nurse and started working in healthcare as a patient transporter at age 17 and graduated with a BSN in 2014 from UCF in Orlando, Florida.

Advocacy has always been a part of Nurse Blake’s life. During nursing school, he was the President of the Florida Nursing Student Association, and in 2013 he started Banned4Life, to end the permanent FDA gay blood ban, which ultimately contributed to the lifetime ban being lifted in 2015.

Now Nurse Blake uses his online content and comedy shows to advocate for underpaid healthcare workers.

He’s also the creator of NurseCon at Sea, one of the largest and most popular nursing conferences, and the NurseCon App, which provides free continuing nursing education courses, and author of the #1 best-selling children’s book “I Want To Be A Nurse When I Grow Up” just like the nurse from his favorite TV medical drama. Blake learns that it won’t be easy, but if he puts his mind to it, he can become a great nurse.

Nurse Blake is an important nursing leader, and we’re pleased to profile him 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 Nurse Blake, a nurse, creator, internationally touring comedian, healthcare advocate, and keynote speaker.meet-a-champion-of-nursing-diversity-nurse-blake

How long have you worked in the nursing field?

I’ve been a nurse for nine years now. I stepped away in early spring 2021.

Why did you become a nurse? 

I knew a hot hospice nurse caring for my grandfather, and I’m like, he’s a hot nurse. I want to be a hot nurse. (Nurse Blake jokes).

My dad’s a respiratory therapist. He’s worked on the night shift for over 30 years. So growing up, he would tell me the coolest stories about him caring for others. So I think that’s what inspired me. I haven’t considered any other profession. I was in the healthcare academy in high school. When I graduated that summer, I was doing prereqs. So it was a no-brainer for me.

Do you miss being a bedside nurse and getting more content for your shows?

Yes. To some extent, people may call me crazy, but I miss the camaraderie of working in that team environment and patient interactions.

I stay up-to-date with all the evidence-based stuff and what’s going on. I get a lot of feedback from nurses who watch my videos, and we get their stories and stuff. Based on my time as a nurse, I have stories for years and years to come because so much can happen in a 12-hour shift, right? Like so many stories and things that can happen in 12 hours, I’ve had that experience multiplied by a few years, so I have endless content.

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

Equality and inclusiveness. Nursing leaders ensure their staff and their patients are safe. Many leaders care about making the higher-ups happy or just looking at a certain number instead of really caring. It’s truly caring about the patients and their staff. I tell nursing leaders that you should treat your staff the same way you want your staff to treat patients. The lack of bedside staff nurses in those leadership roles is the problem. That’s the huge disconnect.

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

It would be NurseCon at Sea, the nursing conference I have on a cruise ship. Seeing the nurses have their best life and feel so safe and just let loose to have nursing students who are 20 dancing on the dance floor in crazy costumes with a 70-year-old retired nurse. That’s what makes NurseCon at Sea so special. And that’s what makes me the most proud.

What is it like to watch NurseCon at Sea grow to become one of the largest nursing conferences?

It’s cool to see that community grow and thrive. I provide the ship. We have education, but the participants make NurseCon at Sea feel and vibe that it is.

What is the most significant challenge facing nursing today?

Staffing, staffing, staffing is the number one issue and affects nurses and patients at the end of the day. But it makes me so happy to see nurses going on strike. And record numbers like they are. Big hospital system striking like they haven’t seen it in decades. It’s inspiring to see nurses coming together over that.

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

It’s just giving them a venue and a community to let loose to forget about the stresses of their job. I tell nurses all the time you’re not going to be perfect. You’re not going to get it all done within 12 hours. You’re not going to do it. Just try to be the best nurse you can be. Do your best for your patients, knowing you won’t accomplish it all.

What nursing leader inspires you the most and why?

It was one of my professors. It was Professor Angela Renton. She was one of my professors in health assessment. I remember how she made me feel to this day. She would start every class and come in and say hello, future nurses. And just by saying hello, future nurses made us realize we will get through it. And that one day, we’re going to be nurses, and that she sees as not being lower than her. We’re all in this learning process together on a learning journey. So she’s someone I think about all the time. She made me feel just so warm and so safe with her. I try to take that energy and feeling into my show and NurseCon at Sea. How do I make people feel? How does the show make people feel? How do the people on this cruise feel? 

What do nurses tell you after seeing one of your comedy shows?

I’ve been following them with a hidden camera because we all go through the same thing. They’re not alone. Some nurses say I considered leaving the profession because I’m so stressed out, and they just really needed this night. What’s so cool about my shows is nurses come in party buses. So they come in groups of like 30 and 40. They make t-shirts and posters, and the energy is unbelievable and wild. And again, even at my shows, you got the younger and more experienced nurses of all ages and backgrounds coming together. And that is just, like, so cool. So I think it’s just relatability. I’m telling my stories, how they happened in my life and my years as a nurse, and seeing what others went through is my most common feedback. Like we’re all missing a bladder scanner. Like we’ve all had the patient that’s pulled their flexi seal out.

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

Know you have a voice. If there’s ever something you’re passionate about and want to change, do it because if you don’t, who will?

Meet a Champion of Nursing Diversity: Aneesah Coates

Meet a Champion of Nursing Diversity: Aneesah Coates

Aneesah Coates, BSN, RN, is an experienced psychiatric mental health nurse with nearly ten years of experience in acute care, long-term care, and home health care. She is the owner of aneesahcoates.com and is passionate about helping nurses, current and aspiring, learn more about the profession.

Coates works at a mental health crisis center as a senior professional evaluation nurse, preceptor to new nurses, Nursing Journal Club facilitator, and nursing department trainer for new staff. She’ll graduate with her doctorate in nursing practice as a psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner in December 2023.

Coates 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.

Aneesah Coates is senior professional evaluation nurse at a local mental health crisis centerand a Champion of Nursing Diversity

Meet Aneesah Coates, BSN, RN, and senior professional evaluation nurse.

Talk about your role in nursing.

I wear several hats in my current nursing role. I am a senior professional evaluation nurse at a local mental health crisis center. We’re part of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, specifically under the Western Psychiatric Hospital umbrella, a national leader in diagnosing, managing, and treating mental health and addictive disorders. And we are located in an urban community setting, so we get consumers with various needs and diagnoses.

My duties include triaging consumers coming into the center, conducting intake assessments, making referrals to the appropriate level of care, and working with local pharmacies to ensure that our consumers can access the medications they need. I also serve as a resource for other nurses and clinicians in the facility, providing mentorship and guidance to new staff members and helping with problem-solving when necessary.

More formally, I am trained as a preceptor to new nurses, so I help lead nursing orientation and provide ongoing support during the onboarding process. As the trainer for the nursing department, I give presentations to new staff from all disciplines, providing them with an overview of the nurse’s role within the team. My goal is to ensure everyone who works here understands our role as nurses and how we fit into the team’s overall approach to helping our consumers.

Lastly, I serve as the Journal Club facilitator for the nursing department. I started this initiative by creating a presentation to refresh us on defining key research terms and levels of evidence. Every month, I select a journal article relevant to our work, conduct an article critique, and provide the group with a summary of the main findings. I also provide them with a blank copy of our research critique form and encourage them to reply to the initial email to share their thoughts to foster discussion. Each of my roles has this common thread of support for consumers and staff alike and empowering everyone in the process.

How long have you worked in the nursing field?

This year marks a decade as a nurse for me.

Why did you become a nurse? 

Becoming a nurse was a natural progression for me. Seeing my dad in the hospital greatly impacted me as a child, and I was continually inspired by the nurses who cared for him. Despite being in and out of the hospital, my dad was involved in my education and invested a lot in my early education. He nurtured my curiosity and encouraged me to keep learning. My mother’s hard work ethic was also an influence on me.

Between their encouragement and my growing interest in healthcare, nursing seemed the perfect fit. I was drawn to all aspects of the profession and wanted to make a difference with my work. That desire has only grown since then, and I’m continually driven to learn more and improve my practice.

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

A great attribute for today’s nursing leaders is being able to role model the behaviors and attitudes they’d like to see in their staff. Nursing leaders should be able to demonstrate qualities such as professionalism, accountability, and integrity. It’s also important that nursing leaders are problem-solvers and innovators, ready to take on challenges and come up with creative solutions for their teams. Nursing leaders should strive to be lifelong learners and stay current on best practices and evidence-based research to improve care.

Many attributes that contribute to successful nursing leadership can be learned and developed over time. So if an aspiring leader still needs to possess the desired qualities, they can acquire them through professional development opportunities such as certifications and continuing education. Mentorship and networking can also be great resources for learning and developing these skills.

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

Being a nursing leader means taking an active role in helping shape healthcare’s future. It’s about understanding how my work can impact the lives of my patients, their families, and our community. It’s about being an advocate for all those I serve and working to ensure that everyone has equal access to healthcare. It’s also about empowering my colleagues, mentoring them, and encouraging them to reach their potential as healthcare professionals. And this can all be done no matter what level of nursing leadership you are in.

I take my leadership role very seriously. I am continuing my education to obtain my doctorate in nursing practice (DNP) to become a psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner (PMHNP). I plan to graduate this December and am excited about the opportunities this degree will bring. I am also excited about the work I have done to create aneesahcoates.com, a website devoted to helping students and new and seasoned nurses navigate the world of nursing by providing access to resources and insights on a variety of topics.

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

My career path in healthcare began 20 years ago as a dietary aide in a hospital cafeteria. My nursing career started sometime after that when I decided to attend a local community college and obtain my associate’s degree in nursing science. From there, I went to the California University of Pennsylvania for my bachelor’s degree in nursing. And three years ago, I entered Robert Morris University’s BSN-DNP program to become a psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner. As a nurse, I have worked in an acute care setting caring for lung transplant patients. I have also worked in skilled nursing, home health care, long-term care, and psychiatric mental health care.

What is the most significant challenge facing nursing today?

The most significant challenge facing nursing today is the shortage of nurses (source). The nursing shortage results from multiple factors, including low enrollment in nursing programs, a lack of nursing school faculty, and a significant segment of the nursing workforce nearing retirement age. Not to mention how the pandemic has put an even more tremendous strain on the nursing profession. And the shortage is likely to have several downstream effects, including a strain on staffing ratios, leaving nurses overworked and stressed out, which can lead to nurse burnout. This can negatively impact patient outcomes and the quality of patient care. To address this, we need to focus on initiatives such as recruitment and retention programs and professional development opportunities that focus on building leadership skills. We should also continue to invest in incentives such as tuition reimbursement and scholarships to encourage more people to enter and stay in the profession.

These initiatives can create a pathway for nurses to move up the ladder, which not only increases retention but also helps to foster an environment of strong leadership among nurses. I don’t want to minimize the challenge the nursing shortage presents. It’s a complex issue that requires innovative solutions and collaboration between multiple stakeholders.

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

I am working to overcome this challenge by engaging in various initiatives and activities to help recruit, retain, and mentor nurses. I am doing this through my website, which provides essential nursing resources to students and new nurses looking to enter the profession. My current professional role allows me to precept students and new nurses, allowing me to share my passion and excitement for the profession. I make it a point to express how nursing is a dynamic profession that can be whatever we make it. In the future, I plan to use the knowledge I have gained through my DNP program to contribute to initiatives and programs that will empower nurses through education and advocacy.

I am interested in health economics and policy, so we’ll see what opportunities open up.

What nursing leader inspires you the most and why?

Nurse Alice Benjamin inspires me. She does so much that you can’t help but be inspired by her. Nurse Alice has achieved so much in her career and is passionate about helping others do the same. She is a leader who uses her platform to promote health and wellness while advocating for nurses and patients. Nurse Alice is a force of positivity, and her passion for nursing is contagious. She’s an author, TV medical contributor, ambassador for the American Heart Association, Chief Nursing Officer at Nurse.org, and the list goes on. Her work goes beyond the traditional boundaries of nursing leadership, and she is an excellent example of how nurses can impact healthcare through direct patient care and advocacy.

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

My inspirational message to the next generation of nurses is this: the sky is truly the limit. You can make a real difference in healthcare and positively impact the lives of those who need it most. Believe in your professional abilities, stay true to your values, and don’t be afraid to push the boundaries of being a great nurse.

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

I want to remind readers that we all have the power to make a difference in the healthcare field and that each of us has unique skills and talents that we can use to help others. No matter what role you play in healthcare or how much experience you have, your contribution matters. So stay motivated, focus on the task at hand, and always remember why you decided to pursue a career in healthcare in the first place.

Meet a Champion of Nursing Diversity: Cara Lunsford

Meet a Champion of Nursing Diversity: Cara Lunsford

Cara Lunsford is the VP of Community at Nurse.com, fostering a community where nurses can find peer support, allies, professional opportunities, resources, and education. She’s also the host of Nurse.com’s NurseDot Podcast and a member of the LGBTQ+ community, highlighting a variety of voices within the nursing industry while also speaking to her personal experiences as an RN and founder of HOLLIBLU, a social networking app exclusively for nurses (acquired by Nurse.com in 2022).

Lunsford 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.

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Meet Cara Lunsford, RN, CPHON, VP of Community at Nurse.com.

Talk about your role in nursing.

Beginning my career in pediatric oncology, I witnessed firsthand the effects such a stressful job can have on a nurse. I observed my peers experience burnout and abuse on a daily basis. I heard their stories of adversity, trauma, and hope and joy. With my fellow nurses at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles (CHLA), we started the first Supportive Care Committee to ensure nurses had an environment available to help cope with job stress. However, there remained a greater need for resources like this committee at every hospital and nurses throughout healthcare sectors to improve retention and recruiting.

Realizing there was a broader need for a safe and supportive community and the potential technology had to solve this issue, I had the idea to found HOLLIBLU, the first social media network for nurses. The app was designed to provide peer support, professional advice, and connections with other nurses. In 2022, HOLLIBLU was acquired by Nurse.com, where I was brought on as vice president  of community to oversee the Nurse.com app platform. 

To continue amplifying voices within the nursing community, we launched the NurseDot Podcast late last year. I sit down with my nursing peers to discuss their stories, industry trends, and professional growth advice.

How long have you worked in the nursing field?

I have been in nursing for over 15 years, working in the acute setting as a pediatric oncology, home health, and home infusion nurse. Throughout the past five years, I have used my clinical knowledge as a registered nurse (RN) to take on an entrepreneurial role delivering technology solutions to my fellow nurses to help with everyday challenges. Most recently, I have been using my voice and platform in the nursing space to elevate other nurses, fostering a supportive community for nurses of all specialties and settings. 

Why did you become a nurse?

I started my career as a nurse in pediatric oncology back in 2008 at CHLA. Before that, I worked as an American Sign Language interpreter at Cal State Northridge, where I discovered my interest in oncology. For two consecutive semesters, I interpreted the Biology of Cancer class, and as I was listening and interpreting, I became more interested in oncology and the nursing profession in general. Ultimately, I was so intrigued that I was motivated to embark on a career in nursing. From there, I went to Los Angeles County College of Nursing and Allied Health, where I received an Associate of Science degree and became an RN. 

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

Successful nurses and nursing leaders are empathetic, drawing from personal experiences and truly listening to others from different backgrounds. Having navigated the healthcare system as a queer family put me in the patient’s shoes rather than the clinician’s, with which I was very familiar. My wife and I had a child with two HIV+ gay men, and we all continue to co-parent together. To have our son, we had to meet with multiple IVF clinics and experienced professionals who were either unfamiliar with our family situation or had stigmas around HIV and LGBTQIA+ healthcare issues. I understand what it is like to be rejected from care because of the stigma around your sexuality and hurtful preconceived notions. As a queer nurse, it’s important for me to share my experiences with patients and fellow nurses to create a better care environment for everyone and foster the best possible results for all patients, regardless of background.

With this experience as a patient, I can relate to the struggles my patients are going through. Similarly, as a nursing leader, I understand the struggles of my peers. This knowledge allowed me to create an app to best support nurses and care for their needs. To care for patients you do not know, sometimes nurses must put their own mental health and personal life on the back burner, requiring nurses to be extremely caring and understanding. While this means caring for patients of all backgrounds, it also means putting yourself in their shoes.

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

It’s important to acknowledge that nurse leadership brings a tremendous amount of responsibility. Nurses have faced unprecedented challenges in the past few years, resulting in a staffing crisis. The solutions nurses seek will require that people across healthcare get aligned on the reasons behind this crisis. Nurse leaders are being called to use their voices and platforms to ensure these messages reach the decision-makers within this industry. I had spent most of my career being the squeaky wheel, speaking up even when it was unpopular. I have taken huge personal and professional risks to create a safe space for nurses and bring awareness to their challenges. But with risk came great reward. Nurse.com believed in my mission and vision. In March 2022, they acquired my company, brought our small but mighty team into the Nurse.com family, and are helping us to continue our mission of providing a vibrant community where nurses thrive.

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

After years of nursing and founding HOLLIBLU, I was drawn to Nurse.com given its 30+ year legacy. The biggest thing that pushed me to collaborate with the company was its mission, which completely aligned with mine. Nurse.com aims to improve the lives of the most vulnerable members of society and those who care for them. As a nurse, this resonated with me deeply. It is a company I wanted to associate myself with and help build toward this mission by including the app I was so passionate about creating. 

What is the most significant challenge facing nursing today?

Following the COVID-19 pandemic, the broader public became abruptly aware of nurses’ important role in the healthcare system and their daily challenges. In this post-pandemic world, with severe nursing shortages putting increased pressure on healthcare staff, nurse burnout, and professional stress are incredibly high, not to mention the grief and trauma that comes from caring for patients.  

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

Nurses need resources and support to equip them with the skills to deliver better care. The last few years have proven that nursing is one of our society’s most demanding and crucial jobs, so we must do something about it. It is vital to provide nurses with adequate resources and a supportive community to deal with burnout and improve their mental health. Nurses need accessible and effective training to help them advance in their careers and targeted job postings to help them find the best roles that fit their interests and experience. At Nurse.com, we put nurses’ needs first, providing them with a community of peers, reading materials, continuing education courses, and the ability to take control of their career paths. 

What nursing leader inspires you the most and why?

A few nurse leaders come to mind, but I would start with Rebecca Love. Rebecca has been working to empower and elevate the nurse profession, whether it’s through grassroots initiatives, like founding the non-profit SONSIEL (Society of Nurse Scientists, Innovators, Educators, and Leaders) or giving TedTalks about how nurses can drive healthcare innovation. Most recently, Rebecca has set her sights on a significant issue, the insurance reimbursement of nursing services. The Commission for Nurse Reimbursement explores the history of how the rates of nursing services were once set by the nurses themselves and how changes made over 100 years ago has resulted in nurses now being a cost instead of a benefit to hospitals. I just interviewed her on the NurseDot Podcast, and you can listen to that episode here

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

Nursing is a marathon and not a sprint. If you want to work in this profession for decades, it is important to prioritize your personal needs, practice professional boundaries, and know when to say “no” or “not right now.” Remember that you are human first. Practicing awareness will help you identify when it’s time to make a change, so don’t be afraid to leave your comfort zone and try something new.

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