View from the Top

Forefront Magazine, Spring 2019
Graphic illustration of people climbing the corporate mountain/ladder.

How do you get there from here? Nurse leaders share how to set new sights in your professional horizon.

By Elizabeth Lundblad | Forefront Magazine, Spring 2019

Policymakers, entrepreneurs, academicians, and philanthropists joined fellow alumni on campus last fall to kick-off the Marian K. Shaughnessy Nurse Leadership Academy, as part of the 2018 Homecoming and Reunion Weekend, at the Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing.

During the all-day Nurse Leadership Conference, graduates with a view from the corner office discussed how they parlayed their nursing education and skills into prominent leadership roles across a variety of disciplines.

At the same time, they looked to the future of nursing and how the Marian K. Shaughnessy Nurse Leadership Academy can help fill the leadership gap in nursing.

That gap is seen in the lack of nurses in the C-Suite, the boardroom, and legislature despite making up 30 percent of the health care workforce and delivering 80 percent of the health care worldwide.

Recognizing these challenges, Marian K. Shaughnessy, DNP, MSN, RN, along with her husband, Michael, made a $5 million commitment in 2018 to establish academy that bears her name to infuse transformational leadership education into the School’s existing curricula.

“I knew if I wanted to do anything in leadership, I needed to be at FPB,” said Shaughnessy, who earned both her MSN and DNP at Case Western Reserve.

“FPB is the leadership destination,” added Joyce J. Fitzpatrick, PhD, MBA, RN, FAAN, the Elizabeth Brooks Ford Professor of Nursing. “We want to think big, and our students and alumni can help us think bigger.”

Fitzpatrick serves as the inaugural director for the academy, which has several primary objectives. Those objectives focus on inspiring leadership in faculty, staff, current students, and alumni through education, partnerships and policy.

Raising a Leadership Voice

In her lecture, “Finding Your Nursing Voice,” Margaret Fitzgerald, DNP, RN, made a simple appeal to the audience, “Acknowledge your part in the conversation, and get your voice out there.”

Fitzgerald (DNP’06) is the founder, president, and principal lecturer with Fitzgerald Health Education Associates, an international company that provides nurse practitioner certification preparation and continuing education for health care providers.

She noted that nursing consistently ranks as one of the most respected professions in annual Gallup Polls. “It’s time that nurses start regarding themselves as highly as the public does,” said Fitzgerald.

“We mentor others, and allow others to carry the nursing voice-our message,” Fitzgerald explained. “Our work is based on science and evidence-based practice, but we’re known for our caring. Nurses are more than four million strong. We need to be in more boardrooms and be heard.”

Embracing ones’ skills and adding your voice were common takeaways from the conference speakers.

As Director of Policy at the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN), Colleen Leners, DNP, APRN, FAANP, evaluates federal legislation and provides regulatory analysis for the association. In her lecture, “State of Play in the Beltway 2018,” Leners emphasized policy to affect change in one of the largest sectors of the national budget: health care.

With a quarter of the federal budget spent on Medicare and Medicaid, the government relies on lobbyists and policy wonks to craft health care policy. The legislators’ health care communities—especially nurses— are underutilized or underdeveloped. Yet, nurses are critical to shifting debate and focusing attention on workable solutions to health care crisis.

“Be the subject matter expert that you are. Be the clinical expert that you are,” Leners, DNP’12 advised. “Advocacy works. Your ability to be a voting advocate is huge.”

Legislators, especially those who wish to stay in office, are concerned with how the health care bloc of their community will to vote. “News, time and money drive action when it comes to policy,” she added.

Leners noted some emerging issues that the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) is watching include, the opioid epidemic, telehealth, rural health, and the Medicare Access and Chip Reauthorization Act (MACRA) implementation as well as the increased role of nurse practitioners (NPs) in primary care delivery. Fitzgerald added that NPs are the primary source of health care available to the public. 

In January 2019, the American Association of Nurse Practitioners, released its 2019 National Nurse Practitioner Sample Survey, which estimated that more than 270,000  NPs licensed to practice in the United States—almost 30,000 more than last year's estimate. That number has more than doubled over the last 10 years, when there was an estimated 120,000 NPs in 2007.

Getting in the Game

The Leadership Conference’s final speaker, the Honorable Carol Roe, JD, MSN, RN, the mayor of Cleveland Heights, Ohio echoed the sentiments of both Leners and Fitzgerald. She noted that participation is the seed of leadership.

“Participation in the process is key. In your community, workplace, professional organizations and government,” said Roe (MSN’79). “Policy is the choices we make with money, and politics is the process of influencing the allocation of scarce resources. Like many say, if you’re not at the table, you may be on the menu.”

Roe, a former lobbyist for the Ohio Nurses Association, was one of the architects of the legislative strategy to recognize Advanced Practice Registered Nurses as primary health care providers in Ohio. She was a key player in establishing minimum standards for dialysis technicians in the state.

Citing Florence Nightingale’s famous quote, “I attribute my success to this—I never gave or took an excuse,” Roe said that nurses should equip themselves with a 30-second elevator speech.

“It should be no more than three bullet points. Nurses bring great listening skills to the table,” she adds. “It’s important to understand to listen to both sides of an issue, and be able to negotiate something in the middle.”

Communication is instrumental to progress.

“Tell your story,” Leners noted. “You are the expert. Invite them to your practice.”