1. Volgraf, Jill BA, RN

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In 2015, the Society of Trauma Nurses (STN) Leadership Committee tasked itself not only with engaging more of the membership but also in offering programs with value from which the members could benefit. Over the next year the Leadership Committee worked on many projects, including a leadership edition of the Journal of Trauma Nursing, the Leadership Institute, and the newly formed Leadership Externship. The vision behind this externship program was to help trauma nurses gain experience in the specialized needs of a trauma leader, exposing them to different STN activities and encouraging them to get involved in both STN and other organizations.


I was the first recipient of the STN Leadership Externship. I was incredibly fortunate to have been chosen, and once I got started I sought to gain all the experience I could. I initially had learned about the opportunity as many of you would, through e-mails from the STN office. The application process included 3 essays, submitting my resume/CV, and getting a letter of recommendation. I had been a member of STN, but had not, at that point, joined any committees or even attended an annual conference. As for my background, I am the trauma program manager at a Level 1 state-designated academic institution. At the time the externship was awarded to me, I had been in my role for almost 2 years.


Although many believe "no man is an island," I would say that they have never met a trauma program manager. Although many jobs in health care are challenging, I believe that this position has unique challenges. There is usually no one in the hospital who has done this job before. Although succession planning is fantastic, there really are not many different people at an institution from whom you can draw wisdom. That is what makes this opportunity so fantastic. Being a Leadership extern, you will get to draw upon the knowledge of so many people from so many different institutions. The networking opportunities are amazing!


The externship is the brainchild of the Leadership Committee. They have been working hard on finding different venues so that the membership at large can grow in their respective roles. From the Leadership Institute to mentoring programs, they are challenging themselves to find and explore new opportunities. I am grateful to have been the first beneficiary of this specialized program, as from the first phone call extending the offer of the externship, I was welcomed into the fold. One of the opportunities this position gave me was a spot on the Leadership Committee itself. I got a bird's eye view on upcoming events. I sat in on the conference calls and in-person meetings. This group of go-getters is always looking for the next project to do.


As part of the externship I also received a spot at the Spring 2016 Leadership Institute. It is a wonderful, well-rounded online program that provides the learners with the opportunity to do some introspection on the type of leader they are. It looks at ways to become a mentor as well as identifying good mentors for you and your leadership style. The course touches on finance, survival skills, and conflict management. The application process for the Leadership Institute is similar to that of the Externship and the course is made up of trauma nurses--from bedside to director positions--from across the country, spanning all levels of verification. This course offers a chance for learning, sharing, and networking. If you are interested in the institute, I highly recommend learning more about it by reading more on the site:


One of the most exciting opportunities I had in the externship program was attending the 2016 STN TraumaCon in Anaheim, CA. Before the conference started, I sat in on the Board of Directors meeting. I was given a chance to talk to the executive board as well as the directors throughout the conference. All had their own pearls of wisdom and suggestions for me. There were team-building activities as well as opportunities to just sit back and get to know each other. I was also able to participate in the Leadership Preconference. This was a great kick-off to the conference. Some of the topics presented included professional presence and body language, key principles of leadership and succession planning. The preconference was organized by the leadership committee and had experienced trauma program people presenting, including members of the STN board of directors. If you get the chance to go to TraumaCon, I highly recommend finding a way to attend the Preconference as well. The speakers and presentations are fantastic and given by people with experience both in the field and in the STN.


Part of the externship includes identifying projects on which you would like to work. As I stepped into this role, I was not sure in which direction to go. No worries to that, however, as the Leadership Committee members helped me select them as I went along. I was able to sit in on the subcommittee that updates the Leadership Institute to make it even more robust, but also make it more provider focused-as opposed to the heavy focus on the management aspect. I helped with the Leadership Preconference for the 2017 TraumaCon, being fortunate enough to have all the presenters be past STN presidents sharing their experience and knowledge.


And my final act as the first extern, it is a mentor to the next. In late 2016, the 2017 extern was announced. I have been working with Shawn Patton to make sure he is able to get everything he is able to out of this great experience. I am now a standing member of the leadership committee and looking forward to giving back anything I can to the committee and the group as a whole.


As I was sitting down to write this article, I had a chance to reflect on the year and all the opportunities I had. I am so fortunate to have had the experience. I was able to take a look at different aspects of the organization and see where my best fit was, where I thought I could help, and what areas I could benefit from. I was able to help update and redesign the leadership institute-a course I sat through just last year. I have made friends with other program managers and am now able to call on them for wisdom and support-or just to obtain their take on the latest standard update. After my experience, I would recommend it to all who are interested in looking outside of their institution for experience. The wealth of knowledge, expertise, and friendship within the STN organization is amazing, and I was very fortunate to be able to tap into it. I would just like to end with a thank-you to all that took the time to help mentor me in the past year. It is very much appreciated.