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Inside Syllabus: Q&A with Kenya Williams, Executive Director, National Student Nurses’ Association

Inside this Syllabus Edition:

  • Q&A with Kenya Williams, National Student Nurses' Association

  • Foundation for Academic Nursing Announces 2024 Future Nurse Leader Scholarship Recipients

  • Apply for the Elevating Leaders in Academic Nursing Program

  • AACN Receives New Grant to Combat Racism Through Nursing Education

  • Celebrate Nurses Month with Syllabus Special Issue!

  • Upcoming Conferences

Read the Full Syllabus Newsletter Here

Kenya WilliamsAbout Kenya Williams, Executive Director, National Student Nurses’ Association

Kenya Williams, EdD, MSN, RN, RP, CAE, is the executive director of the National Student Nurses’ Association (NSNA) and the Foundation of the National Student Nurses’ Association. She previously served as the deputy executive director of the association. Dr. Williams leads the strategic and operational direction of these organizations with a vision of empowering future leaders in nursing. With over 15 years of experience in association management and healthcare administration, she has a track record of driving organizational growth, enhancing member engagement, and fostering a culture of excellence and collaboration. Dr. Williams holds a Doctor of Education degree from Creighton University, an MSN focusing on Health Systems Management from the University of Virginia, and a BSN from the University of Missouri-Saint Louis.     Founded in 1952, NSNA is a nonprofit organization for students enrolled in associate, baccalaureate, diploma, and generic graduate nursing programs, serving 60,000 members in 50 states, the District of Columbia, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Q&A with Kenya Williams,

What do you hope to achieve as NSNA Executive Director?

As the NSNA Executive Director, my ultimate focus is on heightening mentoring for the next generation of nursing students. I am committed not only to retaining the status of NSNA as the largest student nurse association worldwide but also to growing NSNA by leaps and bounds. In doing so, my intention is to maintain the organization’s stellar reputation of producing the next generation of healthcare leaders who make an impact both nationally and internationally. In addition to this, I strive to increase relationships and partnerships to strengthen opportunities for student nurse leaders. By forging strong alliances with healthcare organizations and educational institutions, we can provide extensive opportunities for our members to learn, grow, and excel in their nursing careers.

I am dedicated to fostering growth, support, and empowerment among student nurses. My objective is to create a strong sense of community within the NSNA, where student nurses can learn from experienced mentors, engage in meaningful discussions, and form lifelong connections with fellow nursing professionals. Furthermore, I am committed to advocating for the needs of student nurses, ensuring that their voices are heard, and that they receive the support and resources necessary for their success. Through strategic initiatives and collaborative efforts, I aim to provide student nurses with the necessary tools and opportunities for professional development. By offering a wide range of educational programs, scholarships, and leadership opportunities, we can empower our members to become the healthcare leaders of tomorrow. Together, we will strengthen the nursing profession and make a lasting impact on the healthcare industry.

What are some of NSNA’s top goals and priorities? 

One of the key priorities of NSNA is to educate and promote academic excellence among student nurses. We understand the importance of providing a strong foundation in nursing education to the next generation of nursing leaders. Another priority is advocating for the rights and welfare of student nurses, ensuring that their voices are heard and their needs are met. NSNA also emphasizes leadership development, recognizing the importance of equipping student nurses with the skills and knowledge necessary to lead and make a positive impact in the nursing profession.

Furthermore, NSNA is committed to fostering a culture of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) within the nursing profession. We understand that diversity and inclusion are essential for creating a healthcare workforce that can effectively meet the needs of diverse patient populations. By integrating DEI initiatives into all aspects of NSNA, we aim to educate and inspire future nurses to embrace and celebrate diversity in their practice.

An important aspect of NSNA’s role is to educate student nurses on the core elements of Professional Identity in Nursing. Through our programs and initiatives, we strive to instill in student nurses the values, ethics, and standards that are critical for building a strong professional identity. By emphasizing the importance of professionalism, integrity, and lifelong learning, we aim to shape the next generation of nursing leaders who will uphold the highest standards of care and make a positive impact in health care. 

In addition to these priorities, NSNA places a strong emphasis on community engagement. We believe that engaging with the community is essential for student nurses to gain practical experience, develop a deeper understanding of healthcare challenges, and contribute to the overall quality of nursing education. Through partnerships and outreach programs, we strive to create opportunities for student nurses to engage with patients, families, and communities, ultimately enhancing the overall quality of nursing education and care.

Why is academic progression important in nursing?

I have always believed in the importance of academic progression in nursing. It is through continuous learning and growth that nurses can acquire the essential knowledge, skills, and competencies needed to provide optimal patient care. As the field of nursing constantly evolves, it is crucial to stay informed and updated on the latest evidence-based practices, as they play a vital role in delivering high-quality healthcare.

I am incredibly thankful and proud to have been featured in the landmark Institute of Medicine report, The Future of Nursing: Leading Change, Advancing Health, while still an ADN student. It is a testament to my dedication and commitment to my education and the field of nursing. Being recognized in such a prestigious report has humbled me, as it highlights the significance of academic progression in nursing. It serves as a constant reminder of the responsibility we have as nurses to be lifelong learners and contributors to the advancement of our profession.

The NSNA is committed to ensuring that our future nurse leaders are educated on the importance of academic progression. We firmly believe that continuous learning and growth are fundamental to providing the best possible care to patients.

How do we instill a commitment to lifelong learning among those entering the nursing profession?

To truly instill a commitment to lifelong learning among those entering the nursing profession, we must actively engage in the process of mentoring our nursing colleagues. It is essential for us to convey the significance of continuing education and professional growth, not only during nursing school but throughout our entire careers. By consistently highlighting the benefits of staying up-to-date with the latest advancements and evidencebased practices in healthcare, we can inspire our colleagues to embrace a mindset of continuous learning and improvement.

One way to accomplish this is by encouraging nursing students to actively participate in research opportunities, pursue additional certifications, and engage with professional organizations such as the NSNA. These experiences provide valuable exposure to a diverse range of perspectives and challenges, fostering a curiosity and passion for ongoing professional development. Moreover, as more experienced nurses, we have a responsibility to serve as mentors and role models for our colleagues. By sharing our own experiences and knowledge, we can inspire and guide them towards actively seeking out opportunities for learning and growth. This can include highlighting various educational resources, recommending relevant workshops or conferences, and encouraging a supportive environment where colleagues feel comfortable discussing and collaboratively addressing current healthcare challenges.

Ultimately, we need to recognize that the impact of lifelong learning extends far beyond our own personal professional development. By actively engaging in the process of mentoring our nursing colleagues and cultivating a culture of continuous learning, we empower ourselves and our communities with the knowledge and skills needed to provide exceptional patient care and positively influence the future of nursing.

What do you think of the new AACN Essentials and the move to a competencybased approach to nursing education?

The move to a competency-based approach is innovative and has the potential to greatly impact patient outcomes. By focusing on the specific skills and competencies that future nursing colleagues need, the AACN Essentials can better prepare students for the challenges they will face in the healthcare field. This shift not only highlights the importance of practical knowledge and hands-on experience but also emphasizes the need for critical thinking, communication, and problemsolving abilities. Overall, I am impressed with the AACN Essentials and believe that this change will ultimately lead to highly qualified nurses who can provide the best care possible to their patients.

Why is leadership development important for nursing students? 

Investment in leadership development is an investment in the future of nursing, as it empowers students to advocate for their patients, collaborate effectively with interdisciplinary teams, and drive positive change within healthcare systems. By prioritizing leadership development, NSNA is committed to fostering the growth of influential healthcare leaders who will shape the profession for the better. 

NSNA recognizes the significant importance of leadership development for nursing students. As a result, we have taken proactive steps to cultivate leadership skills through the establishment of NSNA Leadership University Honor Society. This prestigious society was developed to not only recognize exemplary leadership abilities, but also to serve as a catalyst for further development in nursing students. 

What is one of the biggest challenges facing student nurses today?

One of the biggest challenges facing student nurses today, especially in light of the post-pandemic society, is the need to adapt and evolve with the everchanging realities of the healthcare profession. As the healthcare landscape continues to shift, nursing students are required to keep pace with the new protocols, technology advancements, and updated best practices.

Not only do nursing students grapple with the complex and demanding nature of their education, they also contend with the additional pressures brought on by limited resources and support within a postpandemic society. The aftermath of the pandemic has highlighted the importance of mental health and the need to prioritize selfcare while navigating the rigorous demands of the nursing program. Balancing clinical responsibilities with coursework has become even more challenging in the wake of the pandemic, as nursing students may need to adapt to new infection control measures, telehealth practices, and evolving patient care guidelines. Moreover, the financial constraints exacerbated by the pandemic can add further stress and uncertainty to an already demanding educational journey.

Recognizing the unique difficulties faced by nursing students in this new normal, NSNA is dedicated to addressing these challenges head-on. By providing comprehensive resources, creating support networks, and advocating for improved learning environments, the NSNA strives to empower nursing students to overcome these hurdles. With a focus on the everchanging realities of a postpandemic society, NSNA aims to ensure that nursing students are equipped to thrive and contribute effectively in the current healthcare landscape.

What advice do you have for students interested in shaping health policy?

My advice for students interested in shaping health policy is to understand the importance of local governance and politics. It is crucial to establish personal relationships with local and state elected leaders who have the power to make decisions that directly impact healthcare and nursing practice. By actively engaging in healthcare advocacy, students can voice their concerns and have a real impact on health policy. Furthermore, seeking mentorship from experienced nurse leaders is invaluable. These mentors can provide guidance and share their knowledge of navigating the complex world of healthcare policy. Their insights will help students better understand the intricacies of policy-making and develop effective strategies for enacting positive change.

It is also essential for students to stay informed about healthcare policy issues. By staying up-to-date with current research and legislative developments, they can effectively contribute to the policy dialogue and advocate for evidence-based policies that address the needs of patients and the nursing profession.

Finally, students must recognize the power of the nurse voice in shaping health policy. As trusted healthcare professionals who are on the frontlines of patient care, nurses possess unique perspectives and insights.

How can AACN deans and faculty best support the mission of the NSNA?

To support the mission of NSNA, AACN deans and faculty should actively collaborate with student nurses and involve them in decision-making processes. This can be done by providing mentorship, guidance, and creating opportunities for students to gain leadership experience. By doing so, deans and faculty can contribute to the development of the next generation of nursing leaders. It is important for AACN deans and faculty to support NSNA’s advocacy efforts by engaging in ongoing dialogue with NSNA leadership. This will help strengthen the partnership between AACN and NSNA and ensure the voices of nursing students are heard. In addition to these efforts, AACN deans and faculty can also encourage their pre-licensure and current nursing students to participate in NSNA activities.

Moreover, AACN deans and faculty members should also take advantage of the continuing education opportunities offered by NSNA. Attending the NSNA MidYear Conference and NSNA Annual Convention can provide faculty members with the latest knowledge and advancements in nursing education. Also, NSNA’s partnership with Laderal Medical allows nursing students to engage in cutting-edge clinical simulation experiences at these conventions.

By actively supporting NSNA and involving nursing students and faculty members in its activities, AACN deans and faculty can play a crucial role in supporting the growth and development of the nursing profession.


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