What it Takes to Inspire Nurse Leadership

Kathleen Van Wagoner, MSN, RN

Nursing Education Specialist, Henry Ford Health System

Kathleen’s career in nursing leadership started as a freshman in a BSN program where she was unsure if nursing, let alone leadership, was the right path.

One of her academic mentors assured her: “You will be a great leader. You have what it takes.” With this kind of support and her own self-assurance as a caring person, Kathleen has had a successful career as a critical care nursing manager/leader in progressively responsible positions.

She was responsible for starting and sustaining several “phenomenal projects.” For example, she was asked to create an intermediate care unit where she was responsible for designing infrastructure of the unit as well as hiring, orienting, and maintaining a large nursing staff. Her success led to many offers by senior management to direct and manage other critical care units and high profile projects.

Kathleen feels that she was lead through her career by both her heart and her mind; engaging in critical thinking, life-long learning and caring. She has always focused on the highest of clinical standard: “what is right for her patients and their families.”

Kathleen stressed the importance of teamwork and collaboration across disciplines to assist patients to achieve this goal.

Her advice to someone considering nursing as a career: “Nursing is complex. It is about being an innovator, a teacher, a caregiver and largely about caring with your whole heart. Nursing is transformational work; we make a difference on many levels and in many lives.”