Thoughts for Thursday

Part 2: The Leader as Pioneer



Leadership is both a science and an art, requiring a process, influence, and vision.1 And—coincidentally?—we could also define nursing in those terms. After all, health care leaders must possess the vision and ability to translate their passion and establish an environment of trust with their teams to achieve the desired outcome.

When I reflect on my experiences as an NP, I think about those who influenced me to pursue this career. My mentors were both scientists and artists who translated their passion to me. Without their combination of caring and competence, I wouldn’t be where I am today. There’d be one less NP—and for me, part of being an NP is showing others the essential value of our profession.

Throughout my career, my mission was to bring NPs into more health care settings—such as urgent care and emergency departments in rural areas—where greater access to care was needed and where NPs were woefully underutilized. Advocating for NPs also led me into nonclinical settings, such as my time as a Health Policy Coordinator. As mentioned last week, this position required me to communicate the needs of both patients and health care providers to multiple groups, including industry associations, federal agencies, and professional licensure boards. No matter the setting, I had to understand its specific function and needs in order to envision and then explain how it would benefit from a stronger NP presence. This always included how NPs would complement other health care providers and professionals.

My mission to bring the NP role to new settings led me to surprising places. For example, I had the opportunity to be the first NP to serve as a Medical Officer on an expedition for JASON Learning—a pioneering nonprofit organization established to engage students in scientific research and expeditions led by leading scientists.2 How did I do that, you ask? Well, as a graduate student, I worked on a project with the JASON team. When I had the chance to speak with the expedition coordinator, I mentioned my interest in marine biology. I then asked about the composition of the expedition support team and discovered that they didn’t have an NP. Here was the chance to utilize my communication skills to sell the idea of having a pediatric NP (PNP) on an expedition! I explained my vision of the role a PNP could play, emphasizing how an expedition would benefit from an NP with experience in caring for teenagers.

I must have been persuasive, because that conversation landed me with a primary role as the health care provider on an expedition to the Everglades National Park in Florida. In addition to reviewing the medical history of each “Argonaut” (participant), I treated minor illnesses and injuries and prevented sunburn during the expedition. I also had the opportunity to become certified in Snorkel and SCUBA—and I still use the former today. As a bonus, I met Bob Ballard (known for finding the wreckage of the RMS Titanic) and learned how to tag an alligator.

The excursion to the Everglades was an accomplishment that needed a process, influence, and vision. Later, when championing the creation of AANP, I was able to put these skills into action again. In 1984, when there was no group dedicated to representing NPs, I challenged an audience of colleagues to start a new organization and offered up seed money. A small group of us soon banded together and eventually rallied other NPs to embrace the concept of an NP-specific organization. We developed bylaws, and a year later, our organization was incorporated as a 501(c)(3). The legal address was my home in Lowell, Massachusetts.

Each of these situations required a relationship with the people on the team and a mission to expand the NP profession. In every situation, I translated my vision to others, and we worked together to achieve goals—just as I had been taught through the example of my own mentors.

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