Nurses: Leading with Purpose, Power, and Passion to Advance the Nation’s Health

Jan 15, 2014, 3:32 PM, Posted by

A High Priority for Action in 2014

Marsha Howell Adams, PhD, RN, CNE, ANEF, is president of the National League for Nursing (NLN), and senior associate dean of academic programs and professor at The University of Alabama Capstone College of Nursing.  This post is part of the “Health Care in 2014” series, in which health leaders, as well as Robert Wood Johnson Foundation scholars, grantees, and alumni, share their New Year’s resolutions for our health care system and their priorities for action this year.


This past December, I was lucky to attend a holiday reception at the White House with Judith Halstead, PhD, RN, FAAN, ANEF, my immediate predecessor as president of the NLN. It’s one of the nice benefits of being president.

I have experienced the White House via public tours many times throughout the years, but this visit was very different. We were able to explore rooms that those on White House tours can only glimpse from the hallways. We could study the art on the walls and absorb a sense of the purpose, power, and passion of past and present leaders. The prospect of meeting the president and first lady created such an excitement in me that it almost took my breath away. No matter one’s political point of view, meeting our nation’s president, especially in the White House, is truly an honor and a privilege.

As we begin a new year, I think it is vital that as nurse educators, we examine our own purpose, power, and passion as they relate to leadership. What role will nurse educators play in the future health care system? How can we position ourselves for leadership roles and demonstrate the knowledge, skills, and confidence necessary to play a vital role in transprofessional decision-making?

In the 2011 RWJF-funded, Institute of Medicine’s landmark publication, The Future of Nursing: Leading Change, Advancing Health, a key message is that “nurses should be full partners, with physicians and other health care professionals, in redesigning health care in the United States” (p. 7). Two of the report’s recommendations for nursing education programs and nursing organizations are to take the lead in preparing nurses to assume leadership positions and to provide development in leadership, knowledge, skills, and attitudes.

The NLN’s answer to this charge is exemplified through: our mission “to promote excellence in nursing education to build a strong and diverse workforce to advance the nation’s health;” our core values of excellence, integrity, diversity, and caring; and our seven Centers for Nursing Education. Through NLN programming, nurses, nurse educators, and deans and directors have a unique opportunity to develop skills in the management of organizational complexity, the creation of innovative strategies to advance organizational systems, and the promotion of evidence-based nursing education.

The new year represents a time for each of us to reflect on goals we have achieved and those areas we hope to develop. I, for one, will continue to be inspired by the purpose, power, and passion I experienced in the White House inspiration that is highlighted by our move to Washington. Let’s make 2014 a year of personal and professional growth and work together to build a strong and diverse workforce to advance the nation’s health. The NLN will be there with you, every step of the way, as you strive to meet your goals as leaders in nursing education.

This commentary originally appeared on the RWJF Human Capital Blog. The views and opinions expressed here are those of the authors.