“Community college nursing education is essential for the health of the country.”
In these challenging COVID-19 times our nation has embraced nurses as the heroes among us. We often look to our heroes and leaders for guidance. Now, more than ever nurse leaders are being recognized for their important role in leading through crisis and beyond. As we celebrate Nurses Week 2020 Sharon Goldfarb had the opportunity to talk with Donna Meyer, CEO, Organization for Associate Degree Nursing about her pathway, the profession and the role nurses play in the health of our communities.
Her Nursing Journey:
At sixteen, Donna Meyer volunteered as a candy-striper at Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital in St. Louis. This rewarding experience had a profound influence on her career path. Like so many college students, Donna wanted to find a major to “save the world” and after considering psychology, her sister, a nurse, implored her to consider nursing. She enrolled in Southern Illinois University, Edwardsville and began working as a patient care technician at St. Louis Children’s Hospital. After graduating with her BSN she was
hired as a staff nurse. The work was very fulfilling. Donna admitted that when working with the children and their families she often “received more from them than she gave,” as they provided her with continued inspiration. Her clinical excellence did not go unnoticed and she was soon precepting student nurses. She found the mentoring experience gratifying and loved seeing the moment when a student’s lightbulb went off. It was clear then that her path would be to become a nurse educator.
When Donna was hired at Lewis and Clark Community College she did not realize it would be a life-changing transition. The college had a bold, visionary President with an institutional culture that supported the faculty and innovation. The passion and dedication of the nursing faculty to support student success was a culture that matched Donna’s core values. During her tenure, Donna developed the first community college based, nurse-managed, interprofessional clinic for a rural community in the nation, with a mobile unit to boot. She also assisted in creating an ADN college program in a Navajo community.
After her tenure as a faculty member, Donna was appointed Director of Nursing and enjoyed the administrative role. Her talent was evident, and Donna became Dean of Health Professions at the community college. Active in nursing organizations, Donna achieved prominent roles in both Sigma chapter of Epsilon Eta and the Illinois OADN chapter. A mentor encouraged her to run for the board of directors of the Organization for Associate Degree Nursing (OADN). After two terms, Donna became president of OADN and served from 2011-2014. In 2015, Donna became OADN’s first Chief Executive Officer, and she was inducted as a fellow in the American Academy of Nursing in 2019.
“It is important to support each other; we are stronger together.”
Donna has charted a meteoric trajectory for OADN and associate degree nursing today. She has overseen dramatic growth in the organization, adding membership and garnering important attention to the vital contributions of associate degree nursing graduates. Donna uses her platform as a frequent national speaker to elevate the voice of the associate degree nurse at national professional nursing meetings and other convenings of healthcare leaders. OADN members were thrilled to see her give testimony at the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine for the inaugural meeting of the Future of Nursing 2020-2030 Consensus Study Committee. See her remarks here.
Donna continues to work on thoughtful strategies for academic progression for the associate degree nursing student. She also wants to help associate degree nursing faculty, dean’s and directors be more empowered as leaders recognizing that guidance, support, and mentorship are essential for nurse educators. As our leadership grows, and we model leadership for the future nursing workforce, the role of professional nurses will continue to evolve. “In a perfect world,” Donna states, “we would see nurses playing a more vibrant role in ambulatory care settings; nurses are the key to a better health care system, and RN’s should be utilized to the full scope of their practice.”
“Social mission is about making health not only better but fairer—more just, reliable, and universal. It focuses on the purpose of education in the health professions, the ethical dimension of what it is to be a teaching institution and to whom the institution is accountable.” Fitzhugh Mullan
Donna is also translating her work nationally through the George Washington University Mullan Institute’s Committee on Social Mission in Health Education and spear-heading the Social Mission in Associate Degree Nursing Education. “Community college nursing is the community it serv
es,” Donna asserts. “Social Mission is the very essence of the nursing profession. Our historical roots lay in the work Florence Nightingale accomplished 200 years ago, the roots of nursing in the Red Cross. We must always acknowledge that the social determinants of health and population health are the heart of nursing and open-up the dialogue to be strategic in promoting health equity across the nation. Nursing is positioned to tackle issues of educational disparities, food deserts, access to clean water, and social determinants of health to meet this challenge.” One way of achieving this, Donna suggests, is to emphasize the importance service community projects as part of associate degree nursing curriculum.
“Nevertheless, she persisted”
Donna has embraced this motto and is reminded every day by a bracelet she wears with the quote engraved. Her advice to all is “Be true to yourself, be compassionate, and support each other.” With Donna’s energy, vision, wisdom, and intelligence, OADN has a dynamic leader shaping the future of nursing. What better time than now to support the future of the nursing profession and support OADN by becoming a member.
Join OADN today and support Donna Meyer’s vision and mission: Join Here