It’s impossible to gauge how many nurses and nurse leaders point to Katie Bray as an inspiration, motivation or role model in their professional lives. During her more than 40 years in nursing, Bray’s purpose became more and more focused: to develop strong nurse leaders in California to perpetuate the work in which she ardently believed.
Katie (Kathryn) Bray, RN, MSA, passed away April 18, 2011, in San Francisco, about eight years after her initial diagnosis of cancer. She was 62 and left behind her husband, Tim Guiney.
Despite eight years of cancer treatment, according to her friends and colleagues, the disease never won over Bray’s strong spirit and unreserved commitment to nursing.
Her most recent job had been as the nurse recruitment manager for Kaiser Permanente in Northern California. It was a significant position, said Ray Riordan, executive vice president, sales and marketing, Gannett Healthcare Group.
“Kaiser was the largest employer of nurses in California during most of Bray’s time in that job, so she was the most influential person in terms of nursing employment in the state,” he said. Her long-standing advocacy for nursing was recognized in 2001 when Bray received the Lifetime Achievement Award from NurseWeek during the magazine’s annual Nursing Excellence Awards.
Finding her platform
After graduating from Chico State College for Nursing in 1970, Bray worked at Stanford Hospital. Stanford Hospital Office of Emergency Management Administrative Director Bernadette Burnes-Line, RN, MS, was a new grad starting at Stanford when the two became acquainted. She said Bray moved into nurse recruitment in 1978, which became her platform for growing a stronger profession in California.ACNL members meet at the 2006 annual program in Century City, Calif., from left, Katie Bray, RN; Bernadette Burnes-Line, RN; and SHarron Hadick, RN.
“Katie was the consummate nurse, an advocate for those new in nursing even while she was sick in the hospital,” Burnes-Line said.
In 1987, Bray joined the Kaiser Permanente staff as nurse recruiter coordinator for Northern California.
“She progressed to being a preeminent nurse recruiter,” said Burnes-Line, “a talent expert in nursing resources and career mapping. She was passionate about the profession of nursing and wanted the right people to come into the profession, those with the same passion. And she did all she could to help them become successful.”
As a role model, Bray was especially tuned in to student nurses and new grads. Patricia McFarland, RN, MS, FAAN, said Bray’s vision was to establish close relationships with these new nurses. “She engaged them in professional nursing organizations and provided mentorship for those who had true leadership potential,” McFarland said.Katie Bray and husband, Tim, at the Association of California Nurse Leaders annual program in February 2010 in Palm Springs, Calif.
Commitment to growing leaders
Bray’s clear commitment to growing nurse leaders was evident in her involvement with the Association of California Nurse Leaders, where McFarland is CEO. McFarland said student nurses “flocked to Katie, as honey to a bee; they adored her.” Bray was inspirational and unwavering in her commitment to growing the next generation of nurse leaders, she added.
McFarland said Bray was very much involved in ACNL on committees and a variety of roles. “She gave freely of her time; her real message was that nursing was a profession to be proud of, and that we as leaders are needed to grow up the generation of nurse leaders.”
Among the initiatives Bray created was the Coalition for Nursing Careers in California, an independent coalition of healthcare organizations, hospital administrators, nurse educators and nursing faculty working together to address the long-term nursing shortage in California. The organization and its offshoot, the choosenursing.com website, both serve to confront stereotypes that often deflect potential nursing candidates.
Another avenue Bray pursued was offering her input and experience to the NurseWeek Advisory Board, where she interacted with Judith G. Berg, RN, MS, FACHE, Vice President of Nursing Communications and Initiatives for Gannett Healthcare Group. Bray was one of the original board members, Berg said, and continued to offer her expertise even after she became sick.
“She was one of the most positive, uplifting people I’ve ever met,” Berg said. “Nothing ever got her down, she just powered through all her adversity.”
Tangible help for students
Berg added that Bray left money from her estate to help fund scholarships for nursing students. Students have been receiving emotional and financial encouragement for seven years via the $2,000 Katie Bray Scholarship sponsored by the Northern California Association of Health Care Recruiters.
“Katie would connect with each student who received the scholarship,” Berg said, “even while she was undergoing chemo. Her focus was on helping the students become the leaders of tomorrow.”
Lindsay Combs, RN, MSN, FNP candidate, was one of those students who is indeed in the process of becoming one of those nursing leaders. While a student at San Francisco State University, she received the Katie Bray scholarship.
“I was absolutely amazed when I received the award, and learning about Katie and her story made it even more special,” Combs said. “The award helped me with school expenses and also gave me funds to continue to participate in CNSA and NSNA activities.
“Meeting and speaking with Katie was amazing! She was incredibly positive and encouraging. It was astounding to know how much she was going through with her health, yet she still managed to put considerable effort into being a mentor and furthering the nursing profession. It was truly a passion of hers, and it showed.”