Dear OADN Members: On a daily basis, my thoughts frequently reflect on so many things related to nursing and the direction of nursing. The past couple months those wandering thoughts have been focusing on leadership. Perhaps it is my new role as OADN’s CEO that has triggered more thoughts on leadership; or it may also be related to the exciting initiative, the Nurses on Board Coalition that OADN was a founding member of and continues to strongly support. Often I think it is the responsibility I feel to represent all of you and associate degree nursing in an extremely positive manner while advocating for our role in the education of the future generation of nurses.
Leadership is a term that often is used in the context of the nursing profession, and appropriately so, as they have a powerful pairing. Some might think of leadership only as it relates to a position of being a chief nurse executive, dean and/or director of a nursing education program, or a position in an organization. However, the reality is every nurse is a leader, but each individual has their own style and approach to leadership.
Let me explain in more detail my thoughts about leadership in nursing. All of us during the educational process have been introduced the principles of leadership and management topics. For most of us, on some days we sat in a classroom thinking “will we ever use this?” However the reality is nurses use leadership skills on a daily basis whether it is in the practice, education, or everyday life. Nurses are “take charge” individuals. If there is a task to be completed, you can assign it to a nurse and yes they will accomplish the task. Leadership development is very individualized and all of us have a different path in our development. On any given day, I shake my head and reflect on my own leadership development. If I would have looked into a crystal ball in 1978 and saw my current position, I would have said this is the “wrong crystal ball for Donna Meyer.” But the truth is my crystal ball was very accurate. I have been given the opportunity to work with all of you and I am a passionate about advocating for associate degree nursing
But where did this begin? I think the following story was the beginning of my leadership journey. I will always remember as a new graduate nurse, my patient Ben (not his real name). He had recently been diagnosed with a fatal disease. His mother had bought him a new pair of shoes and he was so proud of them. He desperately wanted to sleep in those shoes. Although I was his primary nurse, the charge nurse for the evening insisted he remove his shoes for bedtime. I was determined for Ben to be able to leave on his shoes. Somehow, as a new graduate nurse, I found the courage to advocate for what mattered to my patient. He never forgot it, nor did I. Ten years later, when I attended his funeral his mother gave me flowers in a pair of ceramic sneakers. It is moments such as this that fuel my passion for nursing and was the beginning of my leadership development.
A colleague once described my leadership style saying the following. “Donna’s leadership style is one of active involvement. Her leadership in nursing education is passionate and innovative. The first word I think of when I think of Donna is collaborative, she is eager to seek out all sides of the situation and even ask for the voice of some who might not be contributing to the discussion. She is fair in hearing everyone's point of view and yet has completed the research to know about the issues being discussed. She is not afraid to stretch herself in the pursuit of goals and outcomes. She is vigilant to the details that are involved in being a leader but not mired by them, and will figure out a way to get things accomplished.” I think (and hope) her perceptions were correct, and I want to continue to be involved with all of you in our support of associate degree nursing education. I want to hear from all of you and together we can get more accomplished!
So I ask all of you think about your own leadership style and abilities, become involved in our profession and help others get involved because nursing and leadership is our path; we can and do make a difference. I truly believe we all have leadership skills whether it is with our students, patients, or colleagues. Remember nursing plus leadership is very powerful.
And now it is time to board a plane for Australia to represent all of you and associate degree nursing in the United States. Thank you for such an honor and privilege. I wonder what the crystal ball holds for all of us!