As summer heats up, so do the incredible nurses who focus on the hottest professional topics.
This month’s Nurse On the Move is Helene Bowen-Brady, M.Ed, BSN, RN-BC, the program manager for professional development at Brigham and Women's Faulkner Hospital. Not only does she focus on guiding the Department of Nursing on a Magnet Journey, but she also sits on the Steering Committee for the CLCDN (Clinical Leadership Collaborative for Diversity in Nursing), and recently served as the site coordinator for an international nursing research project.
Bowen-Brady previously served as a nurse educator, lactation consultant, and school nurse, all while raising her four children. She received her BSN from Boston College. She also earned a master’s degree and is currently exploring doctoral programs.
I interviewed Bowen-Brady to discover what drew her to such different roles in nursing and what she sees for the profession in the future.
Q: Why did you choose nursing as a profession?
A: Honestly, I wasn’t sure when I was 16 what I wanted to do. In the early 70’s, the career advice I received was to become either a teacher or a nurse. In the end, the motivation was simply that nurses who went to diploma schools got to live away at school, and if I became a teacher, I would have to commute to college. At 16, it was a very easy decision – I wanted to live away. In retrospect, it was the best decision for me. As a nurse, I have had an incredible career.
Q: You worked with Canton public schools as a school nurse. How was that working environment and why did you choose to pursue a different venue for nursing?
A: I started working as a substitute nurse because the hours worked for my family. Little did I know what a great career move that would turn out to be and what wonderful clinical and leadership experiences school nursing would provide. In all of the nursing roles that I have had, I think that school nursing was probably the most challenging. School nurses work independently in most settings to manage a variety of complex acute and chronic healthcare needs for students of all ages.
Q: You were previously a lactation consultant. What drew you to that role?
A: Personal need – when my first son was born there was limited, if any, support for breastfeeding mothers in my community. When I worked as a VNA nurse, I was fortunate to work with an innovative nurse director who supported me to expand the services we provided for families with newborns.
Q: What encouraged you to continue your education as a nurse?
A: I believe that lifelong learning is essential for every nurse. The knowledge I gain from reading journal articles, attending classes, listening to webinars, or taking an online class absolutely helps me to be a better practitioner.
Q: You’ve spent a good amount of your career working in staff development and education. How has professional development changed over the years, if at all?
A: The biggest change is the technology. When I first became an educator in 1980, I had to handwrite every lecture, which was then typed by the department secretary since she was the only person with a typewriter. Finding relevant journal articles meant a trip to a hospital library or a local college. Today, I have countless electronic folders stored on my computer. Search engines make it easy to find reliable and current information about any topic. There are so many new and innovative technological strategies and tools that educators can use to engage adult learners in order to positively enhance learning activities to make them more meaningful for staff.
Q: What do you envision for the future of nursing?
A: When I entered nursing school in the early 70’s, healthcare was primarily provided in the acute care hospital. Over the past 40 years, healthcare has changed dramatically. Nurses have an opportunity to play key roles in the future of healthcare and most of these expanded roles will be outside of the inpatient setting. I truly believe that the changes ahead will prove to be in the best interest of our patients and families.
Q: For a nurse starting out, what would be your number one piece of advice?
A: It would be to encourage nurses to get involved. Step outside the comfort zone of the unit or area you work in – join a committee at work or the professional organization that represents your practice area’s local chapter. There are so many incredibly talented and innovative nurses within the profession that each one of us can learn from.