A Servant Leader: Nena Sanders

Nena Sanders

Nena Sanders, a Servant Leader, Who Leads Nursing Students and Faculty With Passion and Through Inspiration

By Kara Kennedy

Being a Servant leader is how Nena Sanders defines her role as dean of Samford’s Ida V. Moffett School of Nursing.  This is a role and philosophy that she takes very seriously she told me, especially because she is working to shape the lives of our nation’s next generation of students entering the nursing profession.

“Servant leaders approach business from the concept that emphasizes service to others; it is a holistic approach to work; it promotes a sense of community and sharing of your decision making power with others,” said Nena Sanders.

Using those attributes she believes in, is the reason the school has been catapulted in the last 10 years, and becoming a nationally recognized school.   Currently there are 700 nursing students enrolled in the undergraduate and graduate programs with the number in each program split half and half.  The undergraduate program has always been the cornerstone of the school, but in recent years the addition of a five-bed simulation center and movement to online programs for graduate level

classes, the school has grown in both numbers and reputation.

What has differentiated Samford’s Nursing program from other similar programs is the fact that because Servant leadership plays such a big role in the course work, the school is able to offer all of its students international mission opportunities.  “We offer a unique course to our undergraduate students entitled Missions Nursing, which allows students and faculty to make an international mission trip each year,” Nena added. In addition to that particular course, the school also works in the Black Belt, one of the most poverty stricken areas in Alabama as well as with a medical clinic in Ensley and with migrant farmers in Alabama’s Hispanic communities.   Other distinguishing factors for the program are in the area of graduate education, which offers students opportunities in specialized areas such as nursing education, administration, nurse anesthesia and family nurse practitioner.

Nena’s work to elevate the nursing program also has resulted in a number of national recognitions such as being recognized by the National League of Nursing for being a Center of Excellence and being recognized as exemplar by Health Resources and Services Administration for the nurse educator program.  HRSA also has awarded Samford several grants, with the largest being awarded helped establish the nurse anesthesia program and, another grant, which helped create the clinical simulation center.

“Your traditional thoughts of the nursing profession can be thrown out the window today,” said Nena. “It’s now about patient care what I consider the core and heart of nursing.  Our major focus is patient care and outcomes.”  She went on to tell me that Johnson and Johnson recently came out with a book that offered more than 200 career paths for people who were considering nursing as a career.

I couldn’t really do this post without traveling down the path of how the new Healthcare Law will affect the nursing profession.   According to Nena, the new requirements will present both a challenge and an opportunity for the profession.  Nena also told me that under the new law that nurses are more than likely to be the largest provider of Primary Care for patients and additionally, the role that nurses play in health care is anticipated to become a significant part of the way Health is promoted.  “A majority of the requirements in the law will focus on preventive illness and will encourage people to remain healthy by making certain lifestyle changes,” she added.   “The law also will increase the number of patients that will have to be seen which, in my mind, will create added burden and stress to our existing health care delivery system and the providers.”

A major challenge she sees is in having enough health care providers to take care of the increased patient load and having enough who are trained in Primary Care.   Another challenge will be in access to medical care.  Rural America including parts of Alabama simply don’t have the infrastructure according to Nena to offer health care services.  Reimbursement costs to implementing the changes to healthcare also need to be outlined.   Despite a number of challenges Nena has outlined for me, she also sees some major benefits for the health care system such as a shift of focus to health promotion and healthy life-styles and providing care to those who need it and that they now can actually receive health services.

“The new law also will make imperative than we ensure that our nursing education program adequately prepare those entering the profession for this evolution in the health care system.” Nena said.  With that being said she is in the process of thinking about the role Samford’s school will have to play.  For one, it will have to ensure that there is a focus on helping to provide enough nurses to meet the needs of the new system.   A focus on nurse practitioners will be critical as well as outlining a transition to adding new faculty as some retire over the coming years.   “The opportunities will be endless for the nursing profession,” she added.  “The future is bright and it is an area that the employment projections are expected to jump in the number of jobs becoming available.  Being a nurse gives many rewards and blessings to those who serve almost on a daily basis.”

The expansion of Samford’s nursing school through Nena Sanders’ leadership can be seen everyday.  In my mind, she is a leader for all women who are aspire to be greate leaders in business.   Nena tells me that the best business advice she can offer is that there is one major factor that results in failure every time, and that is trying to please everyone.   Success she says is getting up more times than you fall and having the passion for what you do.

“My strongest inspiration is knowing that God has placed me on this earth for a specific reason and that I have to figure out what that purpose is and set goals to achieve God’s purpose,” she added.   “As a leader, you have to be willing to lead with integrity, honesty, forward-looking, competency, inspiration and intelligence.  You also have to create an environment that your employees can perform in that is effective and efficient. To sum it all up, you have to recognize that people are your greatest asset and you have to let them do what you’ve asked them to do.”

Click here for more information on: Samford’s Ida V. Moffett School of Nursing

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