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New Program Supports Growth of Diverse Nursing Leaders

Nurses play an important role in shaping the patient experience — from shared cultural knowledge to empathetic communication to collaboration on effective care — which is why nursing leaders at Penn Medicine know it is critical to have a workforce that is as diverse as the populations who come to Penn for care. With that in mind, the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania (HUP) and the Abramson Family Center for Nursing Excellence recently announced the inaugural cohort for the new Diversity Nurse Leader Fellowship (DNLF) Program.

“I grew up in a rough part of Philadelphia, but I was lucky enough to be afforded opportunities that helped me get to where I am now,” said Allona Briggs, BSN, RN, a Women’s Health nurse at HUP who was selected as an inaugural member of the DNLF Program. “However, that’s not the case for many inner-city minority youths,” she continued. Briggs said she hopes to grow as a leader through the program so she can help diversify the nursing field further through “dedicated efforts to help guide those who are interested in nursing, and who come from areas that don’t have many resources.”

The DNLF program will provide nurses like Briggs who are committed to promoting diversity — either as a member of a group that is underrepresented in nursing or as an ally — with the skills to take on leadership roles.

“The DNLF Program is all about investing in our incredible nurses, growing leadership capacity, and fostering a continuous learning journey in a program that aligns with HUP’s commitment to diversity and inclusion,” said Barbara A. Todd, DNP, CRNP, director of practice and education – advanced practice at HUP. Todd, along with Colleen Mattioni, DNP, MBA, RN, chief nursing executive at HUP, and Rebecca Trotta, PhD, RN, executive director for the Abramson Family Center for Nursing Excellence, brought the program to life.

“Nationwide, minority nurses are underrepresented in leadership positions,” said Todd. “The DNLF Program was developed in response not only to that concern, but also in response to feedback from our clinical nurses who are passionate about increasing diversity within HUP’s nursing leadership.”

Several programs, including HUP’s Clinical Nurse Mentorship Program, Gateway to the OR, and the Clinical Advancement Recognition of Excellence Program are in place to support nurses in their career growth. The DNLF program, however, is the first of its kind at Penn Medicine. In addition to supporting the growth, development, and advancement of historically underrepresented nurses and their allies, the DNLF Program aligns with the goals outlined within the Action for Cultural Transformation (ACT), Penn Medicine’s system-wide effort to eliminate structural injustice.  

“Ultimately, our hope is that this program will help bring us closer to our ACT goal of uniting Penn Medicine as an equitable, diverse, and inclusive organization,” Todd said. “With any new program, you have to start slow, and we look forward to growing this program in the future. Our focus is on increasing our nurses’ confidence, knowledge, and ability to lead, which will make a significant difference in our patient outcomes, particularly when we have leaders who reflect the patients we serve.”

The Inaugural Cohort

Employees from a diverse background who are full-time Clinical Nurse IIs or above with at least five years of experience were invited to apply for the DNLF Program in May 2022.  After an extensive application review process, the following nurses were selected from a pool of qualified candidates:

  • Allona Briggs, BSN, RN – Women’s Health
  • Takeria Ford, BSN, RN – HUP Cedar Emergency Room
  • Makady Harris, BSN, RN – Women’s Health
  • Nyree Lyons-Long, MSN, RN, CMSRN – Rhoads 4
  • Madonna Ramzey, BSN, RN– Staffing for All Seasons
  • Natalie Rivera, BSN, RN, OCN – Outpatient Infusion

In January 2023, the cohort will begin the 12-month DNLF Program, designed to enhance leadership competencies and skills critical to leading in the health care environment. The curriculum includes didactic content, reflective practice, project work, and monthly sessions.

“We’re excited to develop leadership competencies in our diversity nurse leader fellows, so they have increased potential opportunities to advance,” Todd said.

“I am most interested in a leadership path that is heavily focused on supporting professional development,” Briggs said. “My favorite thing about the nursing field is that there are so many different paths to take and so many career opportunities available. I would love to help nurses, especially those who are feeling burnt out or stagnant, figure out what nursing opportunities they may be interested in. It took me a while to find my own niche, so I understand the struggle and hope to use that experience to help guide other nurses.”


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