It’s About More than Money

Oct 22, 2014, 9:00 AM, Posted by Heather Kelley

“Being selected as a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Future of Nursing Scholar was such an honor!  I was already excited about starting my PhD program, but this took that excitement to another level.  I wasn't sure what to expect from the boot camp, but it was truly transformative.”  - Laren Riesche, a Future of Nursing Scholar attending the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Riesche was one of the 16 new scholars I was privileged to meet on August 5 and 6 at our program’s first-ever scholars’ event.  In addition to providing financial support to nurses to complete their PhDs in three years, the Future of Nursing Scholars program will also provide a series of leadership development activities.  One of these activities is a boot camp which will be held for each cohort prior to the start of their doctoral programs. 

The first-ever boot camp was a two-day event at which the scholars were able to meet and connect with one another, and begin the work of developing skills that will serve them well as they pursue their PhDs.  Sessions addressed crucial issues, including developing strategies for peer coaching, and identifying and understanding one’s own approach to change and exerting influence.  The new scholars met with current doctoral students to discuss a variety of issues and were given time to network with program leaders, guest speakers, and each other.  A workshop served as an introduction to scholarly writing and the event closed with a panel on selecting and working with mentors.

Pam McCue, RN, MS, an RWJF Future of Nursing Scholar at the Rhode Island Foundation, who is attending the University of Rhode Island, said that the event demonstrated the investment that RWJF is making in each scholar.

“Boot camp provided me insight into my own personal attributes, and gave me tools and tips that I know will help me as I begin my scholarly work.  It also became quite evident that RWJF is investing not only in my education but in the resources that will make me successful as a nurse leader far beyond graduation,” McCue said.

At the end of a very busy two days together, program leaders asked the scholars to reflect on some of their biggest “take aways” from the event.  Among them:

·         Riesche said the “peer coaching sessions about challenges we foresee and approaches to working through those challenges were not only helpful because we were able to discuss our concerns and how we plan to address them, but the safe environment allowed us to express our vulnerabilities which ultimately brought all of us closer together.” 

·         Alexis Chettiar, an RWJF Future of Nursing Scholar attending the University of California, San Francisco, said she felt empowered to “think big” when it comes to selecting mentors and shared that she now has more specific ideas about what a successful mentor-mentee relationship involves.

·         Stephen Perez, an RWJF Future of Nursing Scholar at the Independence Blue Cross Foundation at the University of Pennsylvania, said he knows the program will provide support throughout his journey.

·         Latia Wade Hickerson, an RWJF Future of Nursing Scholar attending the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, said she understood the importance of building networks and was inspired by the writing workshop to master use of one electronic database prior to starting her doctoral program.

·         Millicent De Jesus, an RWJF Future of Nursing Scholar at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, attending the University of San Diego, said she appreciated the discussion centered around influencing styles, noting that the boot camp has encouraged her to think about how to interact with groups outside of the network she has developed over the last 17 years in nursing. The guided activity with her RWJF colleagues also helped to validate the importance of aligning her research focus and doctoral studies to influence for positive outcomes, she said.

At the end of our time together, I left Princeton excited about the wonderful group of nurses in the Future of Nursing Scholars program’s first cohort.  We are looking to this inaugural cohort with great anticipation not only for the work they will contribute to the science, but because their experiences and responses will help shape this program for future scholars.  With that in mind, we are thrilled to welcome them to the RWJF family.  And they made it clear that they are delighted to be here.

As Riesche recently wrote to me: “The hard-work and seriousness of the boot camp was balanced with plenty of laughs and being warmly welcomed into the RWJF family ... what an amazing family!  I'm really looking forward to seeing everyone again next summer at what will undoubtedly be another great event.”

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