Rounds with Leadership - Standing on the Shoulders of Giants

Published February 22, 2017

Welcome to Rounds with Leadership, a new forum for AACN’s Board Chair and President/CEO to offer commentary on issues and trends impacting academic nursing.

The celebration of Black History Month would not be complete without acknowledging the rich legacy of achievement forged by African American nurses. These pioneers recognized a strong connection between education and the ability to provide high quality, culturally competent, and accessible patient care.

In this month’s column on Rounds with Leadership, we’ve invited Dr. Vernell DeWitty, AACN’s Special Advisor for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, to share her thoughts on some of nursing’s forebearers who have had a lasting impact on how nurses are trained and how they practice. In 2014, Dr. DeWitty was recognized by the American Nurses Association with the prestigious Mary Mahoney Award for her work to help diversify the nursing student population as the leader of the New Careers in Nursing Program, a joint initiative mounted by AACN and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. We are proud of Vernell and the high standard she sets for all those committed to creating an inclusive and diverse nursing workforce. 

Vernell-DewittyStanding on the Shoulders of Giants
By Vernell DeWitty, PhD, RN

During a recent visit to the National Museum of African American History and Culture, I was reminded of the contributions made by early African American nurses in advocating for better patient care, equity in education and training for all nurses by creating opportunities for nurses of color to serve our country and the wounded. 

Sojourner Truth was born into slavery, but through her persistent and diligent efforts, advanced to work at the National Freedman’s Relief Association in Washington D.C., where she lead the effort to improve the cleanliness and quality of care. Before any formal training for nurses existed, she used her strong voice to advocate for the need for nursing education, far ahead of her times.

Susie King Taylor served as a Civil War nurse charged with providing care to all soldiers, black and white, even if it meant creeping into their tents (which was not permitted at the time). She understood the importance of patient-centered, bedside care.

Mabel Keaton Staupers was an early pioneer in the fight for racial equality and acceptance of all ethnicities in the U.S. Army and the American Nurses Association. Estelle Massey Osborne, the first black woman to earn a master’s degree in nursing, worked for the National Council for War Services and helped lift the color ban in the in the U.S. Army and Navy.

These early trailblazers made it possible for Hazel W. Johnson-Brown to eventually become the first black woman to be promoted to brigadier general and the first to head the 7,000-strong U.S. Army Nurse Corps. After her retirement, General Johnson-Brown founded and directed the George Mason University Center for Health Policy. These outstanding accomplishments came after her early years when she was denied admission into a local hospital school of nursing because she was black.  

In 1879, Mary Eliza Mahoney became the first black registered nurse when she graduated from a training program in New England. She demonstrated that African Americans could not only become nurses, but that they could do the job with excellence, compassion, and efficiency.

In 1936 the American Nurses Association created the Mary Mahoney Award to be presented to nurses who go above and beyond when it comes to integration and equal opportunities for minorities in the field of nursing. With this recognition comes the responsibility to continue the work initiated by these early pioneers who made a real difference in the lives or patients and within the nursing profession.

As leaders in nursing education, I invite you to join us on the path to embracing diversity, equity, and inclusion throughout all sectors of the academic nursing community.
During a recent visit to the National Museum of African American History and Culture, I was reminded of the contributions made by early African American nurses in advocating for better patient care, equity in education and training for all nurses by creating opportunities for nurses of color to serve our country and the wounded. 

Sojourner Truth was born into slavery, but through her persistent and diligent efforts, advanced to work at the National Freedman’s Relief Association in Washington D.C., where she lead the effort to improve the cleanliness and quality of care. Before any formal training for nurses existed, she used her strong voice to advocate for the need for nursing education, far ahead of her times.

Susie King Taylor served as a Civil War nurse charged with providing care to all soldiers, black and white, even if it meant creeping into their tents (which was not permitted at the time). She understood the importance of patient-centered, bedside care.

Mabel Keaton Staupers was an early pioneer in the fight for racial equality and acceptance of all ethnicities in the U.S. Army and the American Nurses Association. Estelle Massey Osborne, the first black woman to earn a master’s degree in nursing, worked for the National Council for War Services and helped lift the color ban in the in the U.S. Army and Navy.

These early trailblazers made it possible for Hazel W. Johnson-Brown to eventually become the first black woman to be promoted to brigadier general and the first to head the 7,000-strong U.S. Army Nurse Corps. After her retirement, General Johnson-Brown founded and directed the George Mason University Center for Health Policy. These outstanding accomplishments came after her early years when she was denied admission into a local hospital school of nursing because she was black.    
In 1879, Mary Eliza Mahoney became the first black registered nurse when she graduated from a training program in New England. She demonstrated that African Americans could not only become nurses, but that they could do the job with excellence, compassion, and efficiency.

In 1936 the American Nurses Association created the Mary Mahoney Award to be presented to nurses who go above and beyond when it comes to integration and equal opportunities for minorities in the field of nursing. With this recognition comes the responsibility to continue the work initiated by these early pioneers who made a real difference in the lives or patients and within the nursing profession.

As leaders in nursing education, I invite you to join us on the path to embracing diversity, equity, and inclusion throughout all sectors of the academic nursing community.