Simmons School of Nursing and Health Sciences Update

June 09, 2015

A message from Dean Judy Beal


Dear Friends of SNHS,

Graduation is always such a joyful time of year, and it was particularly beautiful in Boston after our long harsh winter. This year, for the first time ever, we hooded all of our doctoral students under a huge beautiful white tent on the academic quad. Candidates for the Ph.D. in health professions education, the doctorate of nursing practice, and the doctorate of physical therapy were all present and accounted for along with their families and friends. It was such a special moment to celebrate scholarship in SNHS. The following day, we pinned 85 new Simmons nurses. At SNHS, we prepare not only expert clinicians but also exceptional scholars and emerging leaders. Because we always give advice at graduation, I want to share three pieces of advice I would give to our aspiring new leaders in health care delivery. 
The first and most important piece of advice I have for an aspiring leader is to be SELF-AWARE. In the Robert Wood Johnson Executive Nurse Fellowship, I learned a great deal about leadership, but the greatest take-away was related to self-knowledge. Self-knowledge is “the ability to understand and develop oneself in the context of organizational challenges, interpersonal demands, and individual motivation” (RWJ Executive Nurse Fellowship Core Competencies). Self-awareness demands that you critically assess your leadership strengths as well as areas for improvement. One of my favorite books is titled FYI—For Your Improvement: A guide for development and coaching. In the 6th edition, Lombardo and Eichenger identify 67 leadership competencies, 10 performance dimensions, 19 career-stallers and stoppers, and seven international focus areas. They provide strategies for building skills and addressing an overused strength. In my fellowship, my 360 evaluation showed that I was a “top scorer” in action orientation. At first I felt quite good about myself, but on further reflection I realized that I overused this strength. As a result, I did not delegate well, was impatient, often made rash decisions, and was on the road to burn out. For aspiring new leaders, I suggest that you take some time each day to reflect. What went well today? How can I improve? What kind of leader am I? What kind of leader do I want to be? 

Second, I encourage new leaders to challenge the status quo. Take more risks. In the RWJ Executive Nurse Fellowship, this competency is labeled “risk-taking and creativity.” This is defined by “the ability to transform both self and organization by moving outside the traditional and patterned ways of success.” It is always easier to deal with the way things have always been done, but that’s so boring! Another favorite author of mine is Donna Diers, the former dean of the Yale School of Nursing and former editor of Image: The Journal of Nursing Scholarship.  In her book Speaking of Nursing…Narratives of Practice, Research, Policy and the Profession, she states, “Every once in a while, look up.” What else is going on around you, beyond your small sphere of life at work? Health care leaders – like the ones we graduated this May – need to be involved in politics, policy development, and the world. I love when Diers says, “Sometimes it is good to be a problem.” If you play it safe and do nothing, you will never get into trouble, but then NOTHING will change! Another favorite quote by Diers, “Toot your own horn.” Women are especially not very good at this. We are taught to be nice, to be humble, and not to brag. However, because of this, the American public truly does not understand what our professions do. This is our fault. Every chance you get, tell people what you do and why you chose to be a nurse, or a dietitian, or a physical therapist. 

Lastly, since I am a troublemaker, I am going to give you a list of my personal leadership do’s and don’ts:

• React calmly. Better yet, don’t react – be proactive.
• Think before you speak. Count to 10, or maybe even 100 in some cases! Or as my dearly departed mother was fond of saying, “Save your breath to cool your soup!”
• Be mindful of your body language – people are watching you.
• Don’t assume you are the authority. Enlist and value others’ opinions.
• Be assertive, never aggressive.
• Be polite. As Mary Poppins said, “A spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down.”
• Don’t burn ANY bridges. Our professions are small! 
• Ask yourself, “What would you think or feel if someone said THAT to YOU?”
• Act strategically. Do you really need to say that? What does it accomplish? 
• Be positive, honest, compassionate, and courageous.
• Engage in non-judgmental and constructive problem-solving.
• Maintain confidentiality.
• Recognize how your behavior impacts others.
• Project a professional image at all times and in all places.
• Have fun! 

Being a leader requires time and constant reflection: it is humbling, challenging, and can be lonely at times. Being a leader is not limited to your title and position, though. IT IS YOU! Happy summer to you all!

All my very best as always,


Judy A. Beal, DNSc, RN, FNAP, FAAN
Dean and Professor
School of Nursing and Health Sciences