Ask Hunter College professor Donna Nickitas, RN, PhD, NEA-BC, CNE, FNAP, to describe herself and youre likely to get this response: I am a global citizen who tries daily to lead a life that is socially responsible by actively addressing advancing our nations health through educating a highly skilled and competent nursing workforce.
In addition to a teaching professorship at the City University of New Yorks Hunter-Bellevue School of Nursing, her joint appointment as the executive officer for the Doctor of Nursing Science/PhD program of its Graduate Center allows her to pursue those efforts.
Nickitas said she realized early in her academic career the influence she could have as a teacher, coach, mentor and nurse. She said her 29 years as a nurse educator is where her she has had the greatest impact.
At times, this responsibility was overwhelming, but always exhilarating, she said. In the classroom, the content wasnt always about theory, principles or even nursing concepts, but more on the reality of caring for human beings.
Nickitas said her interest in social justice and health politics began when she joined Manhattans Bellevue Hospital as an assistant director of maternal child health. This is where I was first exposed to the health disparities of underrepresented populations of NYC, she said. The experience marked the beginning of her work toward social justice, health policy and politics. Nursing and nurses have a social contract with the public, she said.
Nickitas is also the editor of Nursing Economic$: The Journal for Health Care Leaders, another tool she utilizes to inspire. As editor, I use my words to inform and influence nursing and nurses so that they can continue to invoke the social contract that nursing maintains with society to promote greater access to care and address the health disparities that still exist within the United States and worldwide, she said.
Nickitas said her 16 years as an active duty nurse and reservist for the U.S. Air Force helped her hone her leadership skills. Everything I learned about leadership, command and control, authority and accountability, I learned in military nursing, she said. It was an opportunity to learn how to manage two careers simultaneously, one as an officer and the other as a professional registered nurse.
After almost 30 years in academia, Nickitas believes her current positions are the perfect fit for her.
I am so grateful that I have been given so much and recognize my obligation to share, serve and support others, she said. I am fulfilling my dream of preparing the future nurse leaders and the scientists of tomorrow.
Tracey Boyd is a regional reporter.
Editors note: In recognition of the 25th anniversary of Nurse.com, the magazine will celebrate 25 key members of the New York/New Jersey nursing community in 2013.