Passion Personified: Ora Strickland on the Nursing Profession

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By Megan M. Krischke, contributor 

February 15, 2013 - During the month that we honor the achievements of African Americans in our nation's history, we can also find a number of emerging leaders who are shaping the future of the nursing industry. One is Ora Strickland, PhD, DSc (Hon.), RN, FAAN, who stands out as an example of what anyone can accomplish when they combine passion, hard work and professional curiosity. 

“The beauty of nursing is that you can be anything you want to be because of the broad nature of the education,” asserted Strickland, dean of the College of Nursing and Health Sciences at Florida International University (FIU).

Passion for Nursing
Ora Strickland, PhD, DSc (Hon.), RN, FAAN, dean at Florida International University, is an internationally known specialist in nursing research, measurement, evaluation and maternal and child health.

Strickland knows the truth of her statement from personal experience. She has worked as a nurse at the bedside, won journalism awards for her column in the Baltimore Sun, consulted on maternal and child health to several African nations, conducted cutting-edge research, and served as a health policy intern with the U.S. Congress; she is also the founding and senior editor of the Journal of Nursing Measurement and has had an extensive career in academia.

“When people ask me what opportunities there are for nurses, I say, ‘The real opportunity is being a nurse.’ I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw a nurse as president of the United States someday,” she added. 

Strickland was always drawn to health care. She first considered becoming a physician, but was won over to nursing because she saw that nurses spent real quality time with patients. She could see that nurses understood how health problems affected the patient and they provided patients with the knowledge to care for themselves and implement treatments.

“I have never, not for one nanosecond, regretted becoming a nurse. I have reveled in every minute of it,” she effused.
“What I like about my current job as dean is the challenge,” Strickland said. “I like being in a leadership position as health care is evolving and transforming to a more consumer-based system that is really going to begin to address more patient needs, regardless of ability to pay. I enjoy preparing other professionals to be a part of that.”

Strickland attributes her many accomplishments to being the kind of person who sees what is possible. She also is driven by a passion to improve patients’ lives.

When she was inducted as a fellow of the American Academy of Nursing, at age 29, she was the youngest person to have ever earned the honor. Strickland was also selected for the exclusive Kellogg National Fellowship for the nation’s top young professionals, and she helped to found the Institute of Health’s National Institute for Nursing Research, among a myriad of other achievements.

“I look at where we are and what is, and then I think about what can be. Then I try to move forward and make those things happen,” she stated. “What I learned as a young professor was that I could affect more patients through my students by making sure they did an excellent job as nurses. The accomplishment I am most proud of is that I have had a positive effect, not only on my students, but on many, many patients, because I have taught so many students at all levels.”

Strickland said success in nursing requires a real dedication and commitment to make a difference in the lives of patients and students.

“We can’t look at a clock and say we work 40 hours,” she explained. “We have to stay up on the literature and constantly renew ourselves. We’ve got to be totally committed to lifelong learning and growth to meet the demands of health care as it evolves.”

Strickland sees this as an exciting season for nurses.

“A lot of what nursing has been doing for decades is becoming more formalized and recognized--the public has a much better understanding of what nurses do,” she said. “Nursing research has had a tremendous impact on developing knowledge in health care, particularly in looking at the patient and the family as a treatment unit. Nurses are expanding knowledge in the care of individuals, in both the prevention and the treatment of disease and in keeping the cost of care down.”

Other exciting changes she noted are the growing number of men entering the field of nursing--a third of FIU nursing students are men--and that, increasingly, nurses with advanced degrees are no longer working under standing orders from physicians.

“With the formal evolution of the nurse practitioner role over the past few decades, the nurse’s role in diagnosing and treating patients has become more recognized and sanctioned in the health care field,” she remarked. “It is really evolving in many ways to the benefit of the public. Nursing care costs the public less and is as good or better as the care provided by primary care physicians. It is a very exciting time to be in nursing.”

Strickland offered these final words of advice: “Be the best that you can be in any job that you are in and don’t be afraid to move into other areas of nursing that you have a real interest in. You can be as creative in evolving your career as you want to be.”



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