Marie Ann Marino, EdD, RN, FAAN
Dean and Professor, Thomas Jefferson University - College of Nursing
Vice President, Nursing Academic Partnerships & Innovation - Jefferson Health
An Inspiring Conversation with Nursing Icon, Dr. Ernest Grant
Jefferson College of Nursing Commencement and Nurses Week Speaker
Few careers match that of Ernest J. Grant, PhD, RN, FAAN, immediate past president of the American Nurses Association. Over 30-plus years, Dr. Grant has become an internationally recognized burn-care and fire-safety expert. An adjunct faculty member at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill School of Nursing, he works with students in the classroom and clinical settings.
In 2022, for the fourth consecutive year, Modern Healthcare named him as one of the 50 Influential Clinical Executives in Healthcare and one of the 100 Most Influential People in Healthcare. In 2002, President George W. Bush presented Dr. Grant with a Nurse of the Year Award for his work treating burn victims from the World Trade Center site. Holder of a BSN degree from North Carolina Central University and MSN and PhD degrees from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, he was inducted as a Fellow of the American Academy of Nursing in 2011.
That life of accomplishment made Dr. Grant a logical choice as Jefferson College of Nursing’s honorary degree recipient and commencement speaker at our upcoming May 11th ceremony. While in Philadelphia, he also will be the keynote speaker at our May 9th Nurses Week alumni celebration event, with his subject Navigating Complexity: Leading with Moral Courage. We also will present to Dr. Grant the 2023 Jefferson College of Nursing HERO Award, which honors individuals, teams or organizations that make extraordinary contributions to improve lives and positively impact their communities.
In a recent conversation with Dr. Grant, I asked him about his work as one of America’s foremost nurse leaders:
Dr. Grant, you are the first male nurse to lead the ANA, but this is not your first time as a male leader in nursing. Can you comment on your experiences?
In every aspect where I have served as a leader, whether it’s the charge nurse, committee chair, President of the North Carolina Nurses Association or Chairman of the Board for the National Fire Protection Association, I have used those experiences to help guide my decision-making and to make me a better servant leader.
What were the special challenges of leading the largest nursing organization through the pandemic? What contributions do you feel the ANA made to helping nurses deal with the special challenges of that time?
The biggest challenge was letting nurses know that we were advocating for them…whether it was for more PPEs, addressing mental and physical fatigue, workforce issues, etc., and meeting their educational needs regarding the virus. I think the greatest contribution that ANA made was to serve as the trusted resource center to provide updated scope and practice standards.
President Bush recognized your work and expertise as a burn care leader at the World Trade Center site. How did being at that site impact you?
Being at the site was heart-wrenching! It made me appreciate the fact that I had a gift that could be used to help heal those who had been injured, but to also help set policies to ensure that something like this never happens again on American soil.
You appeared on MSNBC and many other programs to support the safety and efficacy of vaccines. You reached out to address the skepticism in communities of color. What feedback did you receive?
I received wonderful feedback for my advocacy…especially from communities of color. Once individuals learned that I personally participated in the clinical trials, it was enough for some to drop any doubts about the efficacy of the vaccines and to roll up their sleeves and take it.
You led the formation of the National Commission to Address Racism in nursing. What do you hope to accomplish with the Commission?
I am a firm believer that nursing should be reflective of the people that we care for. I hope the work of the Commission will address and combat the issue of racism within the profession so that more nurses of color and more men who enter the profession will not suffer moral or physical harm but are accepted for who they are and what skills they bring to the table.
As the leader of the ANA you focused on reaching out to millennials. What is your message to young nurses about the importance of joining your professional association?
My key message to millennials is that it is important that they join their professional organization and become an ACTIVE member. They need to be at the table and have a say in how the profession is governed. Otherwise, someone who is far removed from nursing that has no idea of who we are and what we do, will be making those decisions for us. My favorite saying…if you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu!!
How best can nurse leaders motivate nurses – from those new to the profession all the way to advanced practice nurses – address both bedside challenges and those related to workforce shortages?
I think in most cases nurses just want to know that they have been heard. The best thing leaders can do is to be open to actively listen to what it is that nurses have to say regardless of their practice setting and seeking opportunities to solve problems together. Leaders should also create opportunities for leadership growth such as being a mentor or arranging for them to attend leadership academies.