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AANP Member Spotlight: The Next Generation of Nurse Practitioner (NP) Leaders

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Hear from Kerrie Lasell, MSN, FNP-C, and Rochelle Carlson, MSN, RN, GNP-BC, CRRN, on their experience completing the American Association of Nurse Practitioners® (AANP) Executive Leadership Program.

The inaugural AANP Executive Leadership Program kicked off on April 12, 2021, bringing together a cohort of nurse practitioners (NPs) who sought to develop and expand upon the personal qualities, relationship-building skills and problem-solving tactics necessary for effective health care leadership. Held over two weeks, with a webinar in between, the program curriculum was developed by The George Washington University (GWU) School of Nursing and was designed to prepare participants to lead the next generation of NP professionals.

Today, two AANP members who participated in this program are sharing more about their experience and why they encourage all NPs to set themselves up for success by applying for the next AANP Executive Leadership Program cohort.

Q: How did you first hear about the AANP Executive Leadership Program, and why did you want to apply?

Rochelle Carlson: I’ve been a member of AANP for a few years, and I saw this opportunity on social media about a week before the application period ended. Even though I have been an NP for about 25 years and have had opportunities in the past to be the first NP in an area and create new NP positions, I recently accepted a leadership position as the Chief of Primary Care at the William S. Middleton Memorial Veterans Hospital and Clinics with the U. S. Department of Veterans Affairs. This position entails a broader span of responsibility and an expectation that I would interact with different leaders throughout the organization. My personal goal for the program was to further develop my executive presence so that I would be prepared for these new interactions.

Kerrie Lasell: I visit the AANP website often to see my different member benefits or new continuing education (CE) activities. I saw this offering available, and it really piqued my interest. As senior practice manager for CVS MinuteClinic, I work with a large cohort of NPs and oversee 16 MinuteClinic locations with 40 advanced practice providers in the Northeast. I wanted to be better at my job and help more people because that’s where I get my fulfillment out of my practice. I take care of the people who are seeing patients — if I can be better in that regard, then they can be better at taking care of our patients and our communities.

Q: The AANP Introductory Certificate on Leadership is a prerequisite to the AANP Executive Leadership Program. With that in mind, what was your biggest takeaway from that certificate course?

Lasell: The certificate course did outline what we were going to be learning in the leadership program and made me think about gaps I had in my own leadership journey. Nurses are dedicated to their patients but are not always at the table where decisions are made. This shifted my mindset and made me think, “That’s where I need to be.” It opened my eyes to the different leadership levels available for nurses and particularly NPs.

Carlson: I had been able to complete other leadership training through my workplace, so the certificate content was a good opportunity to review. It’s a great opportunity to grow as a professional and learn about leadership roles and strategies.

Q: What topics or projects did you find particularly valuable during your AANP Executive Leadership Program experience?

Lasell: I enjoyed learning how to be an advocate for the NP role and for our patients. When it came to policy issues, I wasn’t sure where to start or who to reach out to, but the program really highlighted that AANP’s advocacy resources are a great place to start. I sometimes feel like some of the items for which I would like to advocate are too small, but starting small is how we get those items to snowball and get rolling. We also discussed policy issues for NP leaders, and we had two great speakers who spoke about how they got involved with policy and broke it down for us.

Carlson: We had to read three books, beginning with “Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action.” This was helpful in that the book challenged us to think about why we are leaders, why we are NPs and why it matters. “Dare to Lead: Brave Work. Tough Conversations. Whole Hearts.” by Brené Brown was very interesting in its exploration of brave leadership. Finally, “Fierce Conversations: Achieving Success at Work and in Life, One Conversation at a Time” provided really good information, so much so that I have it on my list to go back and review. Our cohort actually started a list of books we read or books people brought up in conversation and saved it for future reading!

Lasell: As much as you can read a book on your own, it was wonderful to have that kind of book club atmosphere to discuss the content, share our takeaways and apply what we’ve learned to our current work. We could take those books and apply them to what we’re currently seeing or facing in our daily lives. I also enjoyed the opportunity to craft health care policy language, and we actually wrote these policies within an hour to send off to our teams. I think that kind of thinking — the on-the-go, on-the-fly thinking — that’s what leaders often have to do. You don’t always have the time to research every small detail. Sometimes you have to make a choice and then live that choice. This quick thinking helped us fine tune our values, our thinking and how to bring forward our ideas most effectively.

Carlson: Due to COVID-19, the program took place virtually. I was unsure how it’d be over Zoom, but it worked out really well because everyone was so engaged. One of our first discussions at the beginning was about different generations in health care. We had a few generations in the cohort, and this helped me to see that some of the interactions I had with my coworkers in the past were related to generational differences. We had access to a tool that helped us think about our leadership style, our strengths and our areas for growth. In addition, our ethics discussions were very much aligned with real life situations. We were able to share personal ethical issues we’ve encountered and gain valuable insight from our ethics leader.

Q: What are a few ways you feel that the AANP Executive Leadership Program will help you in your career — now or in the future?

Carlson: Overall, the program helped me think about where I am in my career and where I should now be directing my energy. We talked about what’s happening in the NP workforce and the health care workforce overall, and several members of this cohort mentioned different mentoring programs in their organizations. This made me start thinking about how I could do something similar in my organization, particularly as new NPs and other providers join the team. It encouraged me to ask, “What is my role as someone who has been in this profession a long time? What can I do to help?” I recently led a retreat at my workplace, and I was able to use “Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action” to guide our conversation. I used insights gained from our discussions to speak about relating to others, identifying different personalities and using different tactics to engage with others.

Since the program ended, our cohort has continued our robust conversations over chat and in Zoom calls. Having access to a group of people who are facing similar challenges and being able to continue to work together to identify solutions has been very valuable.

Lasell: I think this program has really helped me with communication, particularly how to take a communication style that’s not working and make it more effective. It’s all about understanding different styles and adapting your approach as needed. The program has also made me hungry to learn more, do more and become more active through AANP.

I’m currently working on a brief to help with violence against nurses. I’m gathering statistics before submitting a final draft. Especially due to the COVID-19 pandemic, violence against nurses and health care providers has been on the rise even more than usual. It’s very important to me to dig in, explore what can I do to fix this and help bring this issue to light.

Q: Finally, what advice do you have for future applicants or for anyone interested in the AANP Executive Leadership Program?

Carlson: Often, people think leadership is something that you are born with, but it’s something you can learn. This is a great opportunity to grow as a professional, develop your NP leadership skills, gain support from your peers and develop new ideas. I’m looking forward to being even more involved with AANP in the future.

Lasell: If you aspire to be an NP leader, it is truly worthwhile to set yourself up for success. Learn these skills, and with a cohort learning with you, you’ll have built-in mentorship and the ability to relate to others who are learning alongside you every step of the way. For me, this program has opened my eyes and widened the scope of things that are possible for NPs.

Now Accepting Applications: 2022 AANP Executive Leadership Program

Are you ready to take your leadership skills to the next level? Apply to the AANP Executive Leadership Program today for your chance to experience two weeks of content and coaching by top experts at The George Washington University (GWU) School of Nursing.

The AANP Executive Leadership Program is the perfect way to build your leadership skills, earn approximately 50 contact hours of continuing education (CE) credit, learn to advocate for the NP role and plan systematic change to improve your patient and business outcomes.

The online application portal is open now and closes November 10 at 6 p.m. ET (5 p.m. CT). Eligibility requirements apply.

Apply to the Executive Leadership Program