There are those who view leadership as an innate set of qualities that catapult individuals into positions of influence; they hold a belief that leaders are born into the role. Here at the John A. Hartford Foundation, we believe that leadership, while certainly requiring some level of natural talent, can and must be nurtured. Our 2008 Annual Report details personal accounts of achievement and suggests that formal training has been a critical factor in fostering national leaders in the field of geriatrics. Formal training is one of the four key pillars of any leadership program; the other three are mentoring, peer networking, and answering the call.
Having served as Nursing Education Initiatives Director of the Hartford Institute for Geriatric Nursing at New York University, the Hartford Foundation’s first investment in nursing, I saw and experienced the impact of the Foundation’s formal training initiatives. In addition to the initiatives highlighted in the annual report, NYU ran a Hartford-funded Geriatric Nursing Research Summer Scholars Program, a boot camp of sorts to strengthen proposal submissions and careers of young researchers. The leadership training component of the program strengthened participants’ professional networks, presentation skills, and career planning. This formal training has had a remarkable impact on the field.
Take, for example, Jean Lange, PhD, RN—a 2002 Geriatric Nursing Research Summer Scholars Program participant—who is now professor of nursing at Fairfield University. Jean’s participation in the Geriatric Nursing Research summer program fostered a set of professional relationships that directly affected Jean’s career and encouraged her to become a national voice for geriatric nursing. In 2008, Jean served on the American Association of Colleges of Nursing’s task force charged with revising the Baccalaureate Essentials document. The Essentials document is the framework for nursing program accreditation. Based on the recommendations of the task force, for the first time geriatric content is required in the baccalaureate curriculum. Jean’s leadership and the leadership of her colleagues will have a significant impact on the competence of our nation’s nursing workforce for years to come.
The Annual Report on leadership is more than a synopsis of funded initiatives; it demonstrates the continuum of leadership development. Kathy Wright, RN, MS, of Summa Healthcare—a participant of Sigma Theta Tau’s Geriatric Nursing Leadership Academy—demonstrates how formal programs can change a participant’s leadership trajectory. As a result of her participation in the leadership academy, Kathy is now enrolled in a doctoral program at the University of Utah’s Hartford Center of Geriatric Nursing Excellence. I expect that Kathy will have a strong national impact, like Jean, in the not-too-distant future.