Keynote Speaker Brenda Stutsky’s Poignant Leadership Driven Address to Nursing Students
Distinguished guests, faculty, family, friends, and students:
I am so proud and honoured to be invited to speak at your Nursing Induction Ceremony. This is the day that you start writing the first page of your nursing story. Nursing has a rich history, and many stories have been told including those by Florence Nightingale, the founder of modern nursing, to Hiroko Minami, the current president of the International Council of Nurses, representing millions of nurses practicing in direct care, education, research, and leadership in our hospitals, clinics, nursing stations, schools, and homes, in urban, rural, and remote areas of more than 128 countries including Grenada. Many prominent leaders have guided our way, and today YOU begin to lead nursing into the future. You may be asking yourself right now, “How can I be a nursing leader when I am just starting?” James Kouzes and Barry Posner, researchers and authors of the “Leadership Challenge,” have identified five main practices of exemplary leadership based on asking thousands of individuals their best personal leadership stories. They found that when individuals are at their personal best they Model the Way, Inspire a Shared Vision, Challenge the Process, Enable Others to Act, and Encourage the Heart. I challenge you to start incorporating these leadership strategies into your nursing practice today, and if you do, I know you will be a nursing leader throughout your educational program and your nursing career.
Model the Way
Going first and setting an example, educating yourself, and doing what you say you will do, are examples of how you Model the Way. Just being here today, you are modeling the way for young women and men to follow in your footsteps and enter nursing. As you are ONLY the second class to begin your nursing education at St. George’s University, you will always be regarded as the ones who modeled the way. So make sure that during your time as a student at St. George’s, you share your stories of being a nursing student to your sisters, brothers, nieces, and nephews. Set an example for them, and let them know that with hard work and determination that anything is possible.
Inspire a Shared Vision
To inspire a shared vision, you begin by imagining what could be, by dreaming, and creating something no one else has created. As students in a new nursing program, you are in an ideal position to establish a vision for your student body and this nursing program. Maybe your collective vision for this program is to be internationally recognized for producing extraordinary nursing graduates who are able to provide exemplary patient care not only here in Grenada, but around the world. I want my colleagues in Canada to know about you! Many know about your Medical program, but they don’t know you have started a Nursing program. How are YOU as a student body going to become internationally recognized? Start with small steps. I think one of the first things you have to do is to let the international nursing student community know that you exist. MAYBE you do that by starting your own student body Web site or wiki where you share your own knowledge and stories with each other. MAYBE you will then ask nursing students in neighbouring Carribean countries to join in. MAYBE your student body president then attends a nursing conference in the Unites States, England, Africa, or Canada, and shares your concept of an online community of learning for nursing students in the Carribean. Nurses in other countries love the idea and join your online community sharing their own expertise, knowledge, and stories. However you decide to inspire a shared vision, start small, but dream big, and follow that dream.
Challenge the Process
Kouzes and Posner say you must always ask, “Why are we doing it this way?” Since you will be one of the first students to complete the newly established courses, your faculty will rely on you to provide constructive feedback that will continually shape the nursing curriculum. Your clinical practice as students here in Grenada and other countries will challenge not only YOUR own nursing skills and knowledge, but it will be expected that YOU WILL CHALLENGE and question policies, procedures, and practices based on current evidence based knowledge, and not just accept “sacred cows” which are nursing practices that have gone on for years – just because – these sacred cows are not based on current evidence, and they may not necessarily be the best and safest practice for quality patient care. Leaders take risks, and although risks can sometimes result in failure, we learn from our mistakes and continue to challenge the process.
Enable Others to Act
Kouzes and Posner equate leadership with team effort. They also said that it is very easy to identify a true leader, and that is by how many times a leader says “We” as opposed to “I.” It is impossible to provide quality patient care without working as a team, for each healthcare professional and discipline adds their piece to the complex puzzle. Learn about your role as a nurse and how you can support your healthcare team, and in return, you will get the support that you need.
Encourage the Heart
Encouraging the Hearts of your fellow nursing students is extremely important. This is going to be a very demanding time in your lives, and you will need to make sacrifices to be successful. It is without question that you will need the support of your family whether near or far, I know, as I have had the support of my mom for many years, and she is here today, but you also need the support of your fellow students. Providing positive feedback and ongoing encouragement to your fellow nursing students is crucial, as there will be many fun and wonderful stories that you will be able to tell for years to come, but there will also be tough and challenging times, and you will need that “pat on the back” or that shoulder to cry on from someone who can really understand what you are going through. I must tell you that today in my role as a doctoral student, I have a support group that consists of fellow students from Alaska, Minnesota, Missouri, Texas, and yes, Grenada. I must tell you, that your faculty ALSO needs an encouraging word along the way, so don’t forget to tell them when they did a great job when they helped you understand a difficult concept, or helped you get through a challenging clinical day.
I asked nurse educators who are participating in my dissertation research if they had any advice for you, and one educator from British Columbia, Canada, said, “Never stop asking questions.” One educator from Manitoba, Canada, said, “When I graduated from nursing school, two former graduates from the year ahead of us came back to tell us “what it was really like out there.” One of them, a male, said something that I still remember today “Accept the compliments and gratitude from your patients… it is what will keep you coming back”
In closing, I wish to show you the front page of the Winnipeg Free Press newspaper from Wednesday morning that shows Barak Obama as he became the 44th president of the Unites States, and the first African-American president in history. The headline reads, “A Dream fulfilled!” You have much in common with the new president, you both have a dream that is coming true, you are both leaders.