Leadership Message – September 2023

September 8, 2023

Reflections on Leadership: Sustaining Excellence through Succession Planning

Dear OADN Members,

I hope this message finds you at the end of a pleasant summer break and ready to embrace a new fall academic term. I’ve always loved the first day of the school year as it is an exciting time to engage with new students and share innovative ideas for instruction. It also ushers in a renewed enthusiasm and commitment to guide our students on their journey toward becoming a nurse. For me, this season looks very different. In June, I retired from a program leadership role after 29 years, and now I am discovering my new normal. As I reflect, I am grateful to OADN for the invaluable resources it offers our programs, faculty, and students. In particular, I am indebted to the OADN Leadership Institute for helping support my program’s leadership succession plan. 

Fifteen years ago, my predecessor believed in my ability as a future leader. Her vision for me was cast, and a succession plan was set in motion. For four years prior to my predecessor’s exit, she mentored me in an intentional way that in the end, yielded a seamless transition for our program. I wanted the same experience when developing my own succession plan. I recognized the leadership potential in one of my faculty members, so I supported her participation in the OADN Leadership Institute. Through her immersive experience in the cohort based OADN Leadership Institute, she gained tremendous insight into her own leadership capacity, which directly contributed to her pursuing the Program Administrator role at our school upon my retirement. This serves as an exemplar of three generations of leaders who benefitted from mentoring support along with expert guidance offered in the OADN Leadership Institute. 

With the reality of faculty and program administrator shortages, we must consider succession planning as a solution for approaching retirements. Navigating the tumultuous waters of institutions that do not support succession planning requires great finesse. It involves open and transparent dialogue when approaching college officials. As is often the case, our nursing programs don’t fit the typical mold of other college departments. We are obliged to deliver strong outcomes to remain a viable program in the eyes of our regulatory and accrediting bodies. As program leaders, we must help college administrators understand the importance of seamless transitions to sustain those outcomes, which ultimately benefit our students, the nursing workforce, and the communities we serve. 

Open and transparent dialogue is also necessary when approaching someone who possesses leadership potential. Casting that vision might be the first step in helping that person see themselves in a leadership role. Once identified, the purposeful work of mentoring can begin. Even though a formal succession plan was not in place at our school, I knew the success of our program required intentional action. For two years prior to my exit, I worked with my successor, introducing her to key people in our institution as well as in our community and state. When challenging situations arose, I asked her opinion, and with each exchange of ideas, her confidence grew. When the time came to find a new Program Administrator, the job was posted to uphold the process, but by that time the new leader had been identified and accepted, not just by me, but by her colleagues.

I encourage you to consider the OADN Leadership Institute for your own faculty leadership development and succession planning needs. Over the past two years, seven cohorts have successfully completed this outstanding program. OADN will soon launch the next round of applications for this one-of-a-kind member benefit. If, like me, you see an emerging leader on your team, this is the perfect time to consider supporting that individual by encouraging them to apply for the 2024 OADN Leadership Institute. Doing this ensured a seamless transition for my faculty and students and provided me with the confidence to move on from a program that I loved serving for 29 years. 

What better way to leave a meaningful legacy than by taking the time to nurture a colleague, invest in their leadership journey through the OADN Leadership Institute and ensure your program’s sustained excellence?



Karen LaMartina, PhD, MSN, RN
OADN President