Secondary Logo

Journal Logo

Every Trauma Nurse Is a Leader

Blank-Reid, Cynthia MSN, RN, CEN

doi: 10.1097/JTN.0000000000000321

Correspondence: Cynthia Blank-Reid, MSN, RN, CEN, Temple University Hospital, Philadelphia, PA 19140 (;

The author declares no conflicts of interest.



“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader,” President John Quincy Adams (Kaplan, 2015).

I first heard this quote from Mr John Goudy, one of my high school history teachers in 1978. We were having a discussion about various world leaders, their characteristics, and what made them successful as well as how they as leaders had changed over time. I have remembered this quote for over 35 years. Hopefully, my leadership skills and style have evolved over the years as I worked in various positions such as weekend charge nurse, night shift assistant nurse manger, and trauma program manager (TPM). I know I am not the same individual who joined the Society of Trauma Nurses' (STN) Board of Directors in Savannah, GA, in 2012. Both the STN and I have grown and changed in the past 5 years. More importantly, I hope that I have helped others along my journey as others have done for me during my career.

I was a trauma program manager for over 13 years, and during that time my health care system bought another Level I trauma center just a few miles down the road. At one point, I ended up managing both urban Level I trauma centers. The leadership style and system, which worked at one institution, did not work at the other one—the people, facilities, and systems were very different. This situation occurred over 15 years ago, and there were limited resources to turn to for help. The Society of Trauma Nurses was still a young organization and, although literature reviews addressed how to be an effective nurse manager or chief nursing officer, there was little or no information about the uniqueness of being a trauma nurse leader.

At times I felt lost, as if in a dark forest with no compass, flashlight, or supplies. My main source of trauma nurse leadership and support at that time came from my husband, Paul. As a civilian trauma nurse, I learned a lot from this career Army officer. He was an experienced military nurse having served on three different continents, including being deployed as a chief nurse of a Mobile Army Surgical Hospital (MASH) unit. The breadth and depth of his knowledge on the topic amazed me. The U.S. Army had invested heavily into the trauma leadership development during and after the first Gulf War, and I took full advantage of it.

It is because of my experiences that I am so excited to be writing this presidential message. This edition of the Journal of Trauma Nursing (JTN) is dedicated to trauma nursing leadership. Leadership is an important topic to STN members. The editorial board of the JTN and the STN Leadership Committee have worked together to provide an exciting array of articles.

The STN believes that all of its members are leaders. Trauma nurses display leadership every day along the entire continuum of care. Every time trauma nurses care for a patient, interact with other health care providers, teach an injury prevention program, etc.—they are displaying leadership. Over the years, the STN has recognized that guiding nurses into leadership positions and assisting them in their career development were very important. The founding members of our organization who had the courage and vision to create the STN displayed incredible leadership. Those who have followed and developed the JTN, Advanced Trauma Care for Nurses (ATCN), the e-library, envisioned and financed the annual conference, designed trauma registries, dared to disagree with surgeons, hospital administrators, also government officials, etc.—all had leadership skills. They also mentored and taught up-and-coming trauma nurses so as to ensure the survival and continued success of it all. Recognizing that succession planning and mentorship are key components in being a successful leader and for the continuation of the organization, a variety of exciting opportunities have been created over the past few years to guarantee that there are well-trained individuals to continue to carry on the mission of the STN.

Back to Top | Article Outline


“The growth and development of people is the highest calling of leadership,” Harvey S. Firestone (Firestone & Crowther, 1926).

The STN has established the Leadership Institute (LI) to offer opportunities for aspiring leaders in trauma care to learn and grow in their profession. The LI directly supports and enhances the mission, vision, and strategic plan of the STN by addressing the specialized needs of a trauma leader.

The LI is designed to equip trauma leaders with the tools needed to effectively lead from the bedside to the boardroom and beyond. This is a web-based course, utilizing experienced speakers, PowerPoint presentations, creative toolbox items, and blogs, occurring over a 12-week period.

The LI curriculum discusses leadership topics that will assist the trauma leaders to grow both personally and professionally in their leadership role, including communication and relationship management; leadership; professionalism; and knowledge of the health care environment and related business skills.

In the fall of 2014, the first LI course was held. It was a labor of love for those who designed and implemented it. Courses have been held twice a year since then and over 60 individuals have successfully completed the program. In keeping with the STN's goal of providing the highest quality products, the LI was updated and revised this past spring and summer to keep pace with the ever-changing health care environment. This fall the second edition of the Leadership Institute was launched.

In the spring of 2018, the Leadership Institute course application process will be opening up, and I encourage you all to consider submitting an application. It does not matter what your position is in the trauma world, there will be something there to learn for everyone.

Back to Top | Article Outline


“Be brave. Take risks. Nothing can substitute experience.” Seth Godin (Godin, 2008).

The STN Board of Directors and the Leadership Committee have established a Nurse Leadership Externship (NLE) to offer opportunities for aspiring leaders in trauma care to learn and grow in their profession.

The NLE is designed to equip and assist the upcoming leader with making relationships with key trauma professionals in the STN, Eastern Association for the Surgery of Trauma (EAST), and Trauma Center Association of America (TCAA) while further developing leadership skills through exposure to different organization activates (i.e., committee/SIG meetings, Board of Director meetings, STN headquarters operations, and STN annual conference).

During the externship, the new leader will gain a better understanding of the STN and how to get involved with the organization. I have had the privilege of spending a lot of time with our first extern, Jill Volgraf. Jill was a new TPM from a fully accredited urban Level I trauma center in Philadelphia. In discussions with her, she has shared that she has had the opportunity to meet individuals she would never have met before who have acted as mentors and resources to her.

At the 2017 STN Annual Meeting, I had the opportunity to meet with our second NLE recipient, Shawn Patton. Shawn was a new TPM from a newly formed Level II trauma center near Dallas, which was going through their first site survey. He was so appreciative of the people he met and how much time they spent talking to him and sharing their experiences. Shawn told me that being the Nurse Leadership Extern was a career-changing experience for him. I told him, “This is just the beginning—you still have 11 more months of things to do.”

Back to Top | Article Outline


“The function of leadership is to produce more leaders, not more followers,” Ralph Nader (Nader, 2016).

For the past few years at the annual meeting, there has been a leadership workshop offered by the Leadership Committee. This workshop is designed for trauma professionals who are interested in gaining knowledge in leadership principles, effective communication strategies, and identification of new tools to advance their careers. The leadership workshop is always facilitated by experienced and knowledgeable leaders who have served in various roles within the trauma community. The leadership workshop should be attended by both novice and experienced leaders who are seeking opportunities to excel in their careers. Please look for this workshop in the 2018 TraumaCon brochure, which will be out shortly, and plan on coming to Portland, OR, for the conference occurring March 21–23, 2018.

Back to Top | Article Outline


Men make history and not the other way around. In periods where there is no leadership, society stands still. Progress occurs when courageous, skillful leaders seize the opportunity to change things for the better.” President Harry S. Truman (Axelrod, 2004).

The Leadership Committee (LC) is a group of individuals who are the driving force with the leadership opportunities that occur within the STN. As the aforementioned quote infers, things were standing still and these individuals seized the moment and filled the void of not having opportunities for trauma nurse leaders. This group envisioned the LI and the NLE program as well as developed the Leadership Pre-Conference sessions that so many attends at our annual meeting. They are an amazing and dynamic group of individuals.

The LC is like all STN committees—it is made of STN members. Through succession planning and recruiting new members, there are always individuals rotating on and off committees. The STN is always looking for new individuals who would like to use and develop their talents. There will be a call soon for the LC as well as other STN committees and leadership spots—think about what you would like to do and sign up. I always say that the STN has something to offer everyone and everyone has something to offer the STN.

In closing, I ask that you think for a few minutes about which STN leadership opportunity might be right for you or someone that you know. Perhaps there is a friend or coworker who might need a little encouragement to take that next step in his or her career. Perhaps you can take that next step together. Think about where you envision yourself to be 1–3 years from now and where you want to be in your career. Think about how the leadership opportunities from the STN can help you. Should you consider making a move now to show your superiors that you are a well-trained trauma nurse leader who is ready for the challenges of tomorrow? Which opportunity is right for you to explore? Please consider applying for, or participating in, one of the leadership opportunities that I have discussed—both you and the STN have so much to offer. I look forward to seeing your name on one of the future applications.

Back to Top | Article Outline


Axelrod A. (2004). When the buck stops with you: Harry S. Truman on leadership. London, England: Penguin Publishing Group.
Godin S. (2008). Tribes: We need you to lead us. Loughton, England: Pilatus Publishing.
Firestone H. S., Crowther S. (1926). Men and rubber: The story of business. London, England: William Heinemann & Co.
Kaplan F. (2015). John Quincy Adams: American visionary. New York: HarperCollins Publishing.
Nader R. (2016). Breaking through power: It's easier than we think. San Francisco, CA: City Lights Books.
Copyright © 2017 by the Society of Trauma Nurses.