Dean’s Letter | Fall 2022

Dean Linda Scott


Recognizing that health care is a means of making a positive impact on the lives of others, talented individuals with strong leadership attributes are drawn to begin or advance in nursing education at the UW–Madison School of Nursing (SoN). Once here, students discover there are even more avenues than they knew for improving, promoting, and protecting health and well-being as nurses.

Didactic curricula, clinical learning experiences, simulation, co-curricular programming, and immersion opportunities teach what it means to provide excellent patient-centered care. These same experiences also create a recognition of the social determinants and environmental factors that negatively impact health, undermine prevention, and create barriers to care. For many students, this unlocks a deeper appreciation for the complexity of health needs that exist. Importantly, it also broadens their vision of where, how, and on what scale nurses can intervene. Whether they become clinicians, scientists, educators, administrators, or entrepreneurs; or whether they step into the myriad of other roles where their skill set and insight is needed, Badger nurses lead.

It is our mission to develop leaders for the profession and society. This is in support of our vision to be a world leader in nursing innovation that advances health for all. As our students prepare to contribute to a nursing workforce with an aim to build health equity, they must be aware of and willing to disrupt sources of disparities. To do so, they must be encouraged to recognize, embrace, and trust their capacity to lead and create change. Cultivating a leadership mindset and identity is integral to nursing education. I can proudly say that it is a point of distinction at the SoN.

Our faculty and staff consistently model leadership and advocacy. Further, they involve and empower students to develop their voice, refine their judgement, and act decisively as leaders. We are grateful that our clinical partners, alumni, board members, and others in professional and community settings purposefully do the same as preceptors, mentors, role models, and sounding boards for our students and new graduates.

This issue of ForwardNursing highlights leadership as an aspect of nursing that is critical to maximizing the impact on health, society, and systems that provide care. The cover artwork asks the question, “How do nurses lead?” Not surprisingly, the pages that follow are filled with examples that demonstrate what we know is true: Nurses lead in all ways, circumstances, and places. Nurse leaders in the profession build and guide teams.

They are also present and engaged in communities, working in partnership to better understand the needs—while drawing on the strengths–of underserved populations. Nurses challenge the status quo and then advance knowledge, initiatives, and policies to change it.

The SoN encourages and supports our students in developing their unique style of leadership. We aim to cultivate individuals’ strengths and traits, preparing them to step into action with confidence, humility, passion, and authenticity when and where concerns arise. I am proud that a breadth of approaches are valued and demonstrated throughout the School and in our graduates. The future of nursing will require leadership that takes many shapes, surfaces in a variety of ways, and which can meet a diversity of needs.

Our alumni, friends, and partners—YOU—also have valuable perspectives on leadership to offer. I hope that as you read what is shared by others in this issue of ForwardNursing, you will be moved to offer your own thoughts on leadership. It is truly an honor to gather and share stories that reflect the legacy of leadership in our past, demonstrate our present aspirations, and inspire us for a future that transforms health through nursing.

Linda D. Scott