Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Executive Nurse Fellows

An RWJF National Program

Dates of Project: April 1997 through September 2017

Description: The RWJF Executive Nurse Fellows program is a three-year, advanced leadership program designed to address the needs, opportunities, and challenges of nurses in senior leadership roles—building capacity among nurses to help transform health care at local and national levels.

“Being part of the Executive Nurse Fellows network has absolutely influenced my effectiveness as a leader. I am truly inspired by the fellows in my cohort.... I receive encouragement and guidance from some who are chief nurses. Theymake me feel part of a community that I didn’t have before.”—Program Alumna

While the structure of the program has changed over time, fellows have attended seminars, designed leadership projects at their home institutions or within their communities, and worked with mentors and executive coaches. Since 2011, fellows also participated in Action Learning Team projects where they worked in teams to apply enhanced knowledge about themselves as leaders and shared leadership concepts and skills.

“This past year has been one of the most significant years in my career. I participated in an action learning project with my Executive Nurse Fellow cohort that stretched me beyond what I thought was imaginable.”—Program Fellow

Authorized in 1997, up to 20 highly qualified nurses have been selected each year to participate in the program. In May 2014, the last cohort was chosen. They will graduate in September 2017, after which the program is scheduled to close.

“I changed as a person and as a nurse leader as a result of the retooling of skills I possessed when I joined the program.”—Program Fellow

Key Results

  • Since accepting its first cohort in 1998, two national program offices—the Center for Health Professions and the Center for Creative Leadership in partnership with the UNC-Chapel Hill School of Nursing—have supported or will support 301 fellows in 16, three-year cohorts.

  • Since the program’s inception, executive nurse fellows and alumni were promoted or appointed to advanced positions in government, academia, and professional organizations; authored published papers; and received numerous honors. Fellows said that these career steps resulted, at least in part, from their participation in the program.

  • In July 2011, the Center for Creative Leadership launched a new, public website for the program featuring information for potential applicants; program evaluation data; written testimonials from fellows; and videos discussing the program’s impact.

“I am different. I think differently: bigger, broader. I am braver. I see possibility all the time.”—Program Alumna