May 10th, 2007 | Following the Leaders
When I was in nursing school, my favorite class was nursing history. We learned about the accomplishments of many nursing pioneers, and how their work saved lives while impacting our nation’s history. Of course, we spent hours talking about the accomplishments of Florence Nightingale, but as an amateur Civil War buff, the nurses who served during the Civil War especially intrigued to me.
My favorite Civil War nurse is Clara Barton. She was quite a gal. During a time when polite society reviled women who went into nursing, Clara voluntarily obtained and distributed supplies to wounded soldiers, and she provided nursing care to wounded soldiers under horrific battlefield conditions. Near the end of the war, Clara became the superintendent of nurses for the Union army, as well as an outspoken advocate for women’s suffrage and civil rights for blacks. Her circle of associates included Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass, and in 1881, Clara Barton began her most important work as the founder of the American Red Cross. She accomplished all of these feats without the use of a computer, a Blackberry, or a cell phone, and she did it during a time when most Americans believed that a woman’s place was in the kitchen. More remarkably, she achieved her goals while fighting her own battle against depression.
Unfortunately, my classmates and I graduated from school with the mistaken impression that great nurses ended with Clara Barton, however, during my years as a nurse, I have discovered that new nursing leaders are emerging within the profession to continue the work of those who came before us. I’ve had the honor of meeting nurses who are members of Congress, as well as nurse leaders who work quietly behind the scenes, out of the public eye. These nurses are impacting the health of our local communities, as well as communities around the world. I’ve learned by their example that leadership has less to do with someone’s titles or status in life, and more to do with an individual’s character. No matter where they work or what they do, all of these inspiring leaders have one thing in common; they are working to ensure that everyone has the opportunity to live a happier and healthier life.
Following the Leaders is a weekly column about leadership, and leaders in the nursing community. Each week I will profile a nurse who is working in the public or private sector, and who is demonstrating leadership abilities in their area of expertise. Nurses profiled in the column will include men and women who come from diverse educational backgrounds, and who are working in a variety of settings. If you know a nursing leader who is the next Clara Barton, please write to me at BylinesRN@gmail.com. Please include your contact information and a brief statement as to why you believe your nominee is an outstanding nurse leader.
Join me. Let’s follow the leaders.