1. Gilroy, Heidi PhD, RN, NPD-BC, EBP-C

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Areas of Expertise: Trauma-informed care, teaching, public health, pediatrics

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Background: Heidi Gilroy is the Director of Professional Development, Magnet, and Research at Memorial Hermann The Woodlands Medical Center. She received her Master's in Nursing from the Benedictine University and her PhD in Nursing Science from the Texas Woman's University. She is certified in professional development and evidence-based practice. Dr. Gilroy has worked in health care for more than 20 years and has held leadership positions in hospital, community, and academic settings. She has spent the past decade doing research on vulnerable populations and seeking to understand the connection between trauma and health and wellness. Her current focus is creating a trauma-informed approach for leaders to enhance the professional development of nurses and their mental and physical health at the same time.


DD: How would you describe your leadership philosophy?


HG: I think all leaders pull from various leadership styles for different situations, but I relate most to the relational theory of leadership. Most of my previous leadership experience has been in project management, volunteer organizations, and other roles where I had leadership responsibility but not necessarily the power to hold others accountable. Because of those experiences, I rely heavily on relationships to motivate teams and get things accomplished. I also enjoy encouraging people around me and watching them grow. People will go to great lengths and work very hard for you as a leader when they know you, believe in you and your cause, and know that you will have their back when something goes wrong.


DD: What are the significant professional milestones, thus far, in your career journey?


HG: I am incredibly grateful for a wonderful career as a nurse. I have had the opportunity to earn my master's degree and PhD. Several research projects that I have worked on have resulted in knowledge and tools that are currently being used to help people with trauma. I am most excited about the framework that I am building around trauma-informed professional development. This really is my life's work. I am certainly not finished yet, but this milestone of sharing the framework with others is probably my favorite.


DD: From your perspective, what do you see as significant trends or gaps in nursing practice that nursing professional development (NPD) could address?


HG: One of the principles of the trauma-informed approach is safety. We know that physical and psychological safety are important, but I propose that professional safety is something we need, as well. Nurses are caring for sicker patients with more medication, more machines, and more tasks. Nurses are also being asked to work in environments or with patient populations that they may not know well. This causes nurses to feel professionally unsafe, or unable to give the highest and safest level of care possible according to their license. That is not good for nurses, patients, or hospitals. Nursing professional development practitioners are well positioned to help with this issue. We can make sure that nurses have the information they need exactly when they need it, and we can develop nurses to know how to retrieve that information and integrate it into their clinical decision-making.


DD: What advice do you have for NPD practitioners in the context of today's health care and learning environments?


HG: I have been a nurse for 20 years, and this is probably the most difficult time for our profession that I have seen. I see it in the classroom when I teach undergraduate nurses, and I see it in the units where even long-time nurses are feeling the strain. My best advice is to give yourself and the nurses around you the grace to heal from the pandemic we have all been through and to continue to grow as individuals and as a profession.


DD: What advice do you have for someone who is just starting out in the NPD?


HG: New NPD practitioners always get the same advice from me. Many roles in the hospital can be broken down to a series of tasks. There may be too many tasks to complete in a day or a week, but people in those roles can check the boxes as they complete them. Professional development is never done. You can never check a box saying that the nurses know enough about this topic or this machine or this disease process. I tell new NPD practitioners, "Trying to do everything that is needed is like trying to empty the ocean." It is just not possible. Fortunately, there are quite a few skills that you have learned from being a nurse that you can apply. First, use your critical thinking skills to prioritize! Second, think about bundling care and apply that to learning. If you can teach two things at once, you increase your impact and efficiency. Third, be an advocate! If more resources are needed to get nurses the information they need, you can escalate that to your leadership.