For Cecilia Boyd, RN, MSN, MBA, CCM, faculty member at the Helene Fuld School of Nursing in Camden County, the Minority Nurse Leadership Institute offered new career challenges. The institute at Rutgers University School of Nursing empowered Boyd to foster her leadership potential and give back to nurses and her community.
A graduate of the program in 2003, she was always drawn to mentoring and wanted to learn more about it. Now that I have completed the MNLI program, I have mentored new nurses and new faculty at Helene Fuld. I mold them to become leaders and they say, I want to mentor like you do. Thats a great compliment, Boyd says.
A Place to GrowValerie Smith Stephens, director of the of the MNLI, left, welcomes Mayor Robert Bowser from East Orange.
The brainchild of Ana Martinez, MA, former Education Opportunity Fund director, Deanna Johnson, RN, APN, their students, and other visionary nurses, MNLI arose out of the EOF in 1999 as a way to groom minority nurses for leadership positions, says Valerie Smith Stephens, EdD, LCSW, assistant dean for the EOF and director of the MNLI, Rutgers University College of Nursing. We are proud to be the first in the state that places a special focus on developing nurses of all ethnic backgrounds in leadership roles.
Nurse fellows meet one Saturday a month at Rutgers to learn from local nursing leaders who have made a difference in healthcare in their communities. Theres nothing like hearing firsthand from nurse leaders about their experiences and what they have accomplished and then discussing leadership opportunities with one another, Stephens says. The curriculum covers topics such as the meaning and value of mentorships, how to write effectively and prepare for publication, leadership styles, nurse entrepreneurs, moving from the bedside to the executive suite, and careers in academia. During the seminars, we also network and talk about other nurse leaders in the community who can serve as excellent resources and mentors, says Deborah Walker-McCall, RN, MBA, associate dean of Academic Affairs for the Academic Foundations Center at Rutgers University, and past director of MNLI.
Mentor MatchingPast and present mentors join nurse fellows and the mayor of East Orange at the 10th anniversary MNLI celebration of Rutgers University School of Nursing.
Seminar work is just one part of the institute. Right from the start, every nurse fellow meets with an RN mentor, who finds out about the nurses professional aspirations and desires. The mentor assists the fellow in development of a community project related to healthcare in minority groups, for example, breast cancer awareness in black women and health issues in the Asian community. Mentors volunteer for the position, receive a small stipend, and are individuals who have a vested interest in helping nurses become leaders in their workplace, community, or professional association, Stephens says.
When the nurse fellows choose a project, we ask that it be a sustainable one, Walker-McCall says. If the project is worth doing, then it is worth sustaining, whether nurses train someone or continue to run it themselves.
Projects in Action
Over the past 10 years, nurse fellows have organized and led health fairs and community walks related to various aspects of healthcare, such as hypertension, sickle cell anemia, and diabetes. One nurse coordinated a program at a local community center on breast cancer, wrote and published an article on the topic, and presented research at a New Jersey State Nurses Association meeting. Another investigated the literature on the needs of those with sickle cell anemia, what services are available, and organized a community program that informed and connected participants with SCA resources.
Boyd served as a mentor before participating in the institute, and says she used that experience to jump-start her own fellowship project. At a Partnership for Youth program in Camden where she was the director of health services and education, Boyd met with at-risk adolescents to talk with them about their lives, address concerns, and help them with self-esteem and healthcare issues. In my program called Girl Talk: Empowering Female Adolescents to Change Destructive Behaviors, I encouraged participants to develop their talents, to take credit for their work, and to aspire to be and do what they want, Boyd says. She continued in a leadership role in the program for two years after completing the institute.
Once the nurse fellow engages in a project, he or she feels that I can do this, I have something to offer as a leader, Walker-McCall says. Being a leader in nursing becomes real and attainable.