Healthy Nurse, Healthy Nation™ - #healthynurse Spotlight Series -  Katie Boston-Leary, PhD, MBA, MHA, RN, NEA-BC 4651

Healthy Nurse, Healthy Nation™ - #healthynurse Spotlight Series - Katie Boston-Leary, PhD, MBA, MHA, RN, NEA-BC


Nurse Steps Up to Build Diversity in Nurse Leadership

Some people are born as leaders. They know from an early age that they are called to lead. Others develop into the leaders they become. Their life experiences inspire them to act, and in doing so, they discover the leader within.

#healthynurse Katie Boston-Leary never considered herself a leader growing up. She was shy and introverted, not finding her voice until after college. As one of only a handful of Black students in her nursing school, she felt invisible — raising her hand and excelling in her tests but rarely being called on or recognized. It wasn’t until she attended one of the nation’s historically Black colleges and universities to earn her bachelor’s degree that she experienced a feeling of being welcomed and valued.

“When I had the opportunity to lead a few years later, I remembered that feeling,” Katie says. “I knew it was my opportunity to create an environment that allows every person to feel the same sense of belonging I felt when I walked onto that campus.”

Taking Action
No single event or turning point propelled Katie to where she is now — it was a growing collection of experiences and observations.

“I never saw diversity in leadership,” Katie says. “So, I often felt my actions were misinterpreted or misunderstood. I felt like I was suffocating, and that’s what happens when you can’t be yourself authentically.”

A lack of diversity in leadership has been a significant issue for Katie throughout her academic and professional journey. As she progressed in her career and became a nurse leader, she began to see that others felt the same way. She noticed more and more people going through the same struggles and saw a gap she could fill.

Katie decided to focus her efforts on building more diversity in nursing leadership. She recruited other nurse leaders to join her in speaking with nurses of color nationwide.

“I’m pretty resourceful and relentless when I put my mind to something, and it wasn’t hard to get people to join me,” Katie says. “People related to me and wanted to make a difference — they just didn’t know how. The goal was to have nurses of color see us and maybe consider a path to leadership for themselves.”

Approaching Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion From Many Angles
It didn’t take long for Katie to realize that if she continued to lead, people would follow. But her leadership style isn’t just about working through a to-do list. For Katie, successful leadership begins by building relationships.

“What I can offer is relatability,” she says. “I have lived experiences in the academic setting, in industry, and in the practice setting. I can talk about what goes on in any of those environments based on personal experience. I get it, and I think that serves as my megaphone and helps me get my message heard.”

Katie wears many hats these days, but those roles allow her to work toward change on multiple levels through:
  • Policy change: Katie’s work at ANA helps raise awareness and support policy creation on a national level. “We understand and surveil what’s happening in the nursing environment,” she says. “We look at what nurses are struggling with and the challenges they face. Then we identify how we can help nurses overcome those challenges.”
  • Support for future leaders: Working at the college level allows Katie to help young nurses of color see their potential. “You have to help these young, very impressionable folks see themselves as leaders right out of the gate,” Katie says.
  • Career coaching: Katie provides executive coaching for nurses of color. “I coach nurses wherever they are in their career — whether they are hoping to break through to the next level or under threat in their current roles,” she says. “The goal is to help them find balance, understand reality, and identify a safe and successful path forward.”

Urging Everyone to Engage in Change
If Katie’s experience has taught her one thing, it’s that there is room for everyone to do something — big or small — to support change. But righting the scales comes with some risk, Katie says. It’s important to understand that.

She recommends starting with one small step toward change and seeing how you feel. If you feel charged, you’ll know you’re doing something of value and meaning.

“We all have our charge, and there’s room for all of us in this space,” Katie says. “The fight for change moves forward when everyone is engaged.”

Katie Boston-Leary, PhD, MBA, MHA, RN, NEA-BC, is the Director of Nursing Programs at ANA, overseeing Nursing Practice and Work Environment and Healthy Nurse, Healthy Nation. She is also an adjunct professor at the University of Maryland School of Nursing.

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Blog #healthynurse Spotlight 01/29/2024 1:42pm CST

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this is awesome!

ChristiM ChristiM Jan '24



#healthynurse Spotlight
154 Posts 10
The #healthynurse Spotlight is a shout out to nurses who are making changes in their lives to improve their health and wellness. You can too! Read their stories for inspiration here.