Skip to main content

Secondary navigation:

William F. Connell School of Nursing

Nursing Leadership: In the Footsteps of Amazing Women

student voice - katy phillips ms '10 - spring/summer 2008

phillips“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.”  —John Quincy Adams

What is a leader? A leader is someone who lives their life as an example for others, while simultaneously inspiring them to express their unique gifts. Nursing leaders were my inspiration for entering the field. My earliest experience with nurses was as a young child when I required surgery for a double hernia. The nurses were there to comfort me, helping me to understand what was happening. I can still sense how their genuine kindness affected me.

By the time I reached high school, I’d decided on a career of social change. At the same time, I was encouraged by my Girl Scout leader, Nancy Haynes, to complete a project for my gold award. Nancy’s nephew had leukemia, bouncing in and out of the hospital for years. I wanted to do something to help him and other children like him, so I decided to focus my project on getting volunteer marrow donors and raising money for the National Marrow Donor Program. The project turned out to be much larger than I expected. It propelled me into the public spotlight, speaking to public groups, TV, radio, and newspapers. Suddenly, I was teaching the public about marrow donation, while simultaneously finding my calling.

After the marrow donor project, I began reading about social entrepreneurs. It was the book entitled How to Change the World: Social Entrepreneurs and the Power of New Ideas by David Bornstein that initially exposed me to nursing leadership. A few chapters in, Florence Nightingale was highlighted. I went on to read about the work of Margaret Sanger and Lillian Wald. It was the vision, dedication, and passion of these women that spoke to me.

A while later, I decided to try working in long term care. One of the residents, Maureen Young, was an Advanced Practice Nurse who began encouraging me to consider nursing as a career. The interaction between the calling in my heart and Maureen’s inspiration led me to becoming a nurse.

Each of these amazing women affected my life in significant ways. Their strength and mentorship inspired confidence in my ability to make a difference. I believe we all need mentors to help guide us on our path. In taking on a leadership role as a Graduate Student Association Co-Chair, I want to help others to make an impact on the world. Through our events, we strive to give students the opportunity to give back to their community in ways that fit into their busy schedules. As our political leaders say, “Together we can!” We each fill an import role in defining our future and leaders help us to find our path. I’m so glad to be a part of a profession whose leaders have carved out bright futures for underserved populations. I hope to follow in their footsteps!