Robyn Begley, DNP, RN, NEA-BC, is the Chief Executive Officer of the American Organization for Nursing Leadership (AONL) and Senior VP / Chief Nursing Officer of the American Hospital Association (AHA). Prior to starting in this dual role 18 months ago, she spent more than 35 years working in various nursing leadership positions within the hospital setting, most recently as vice president of nursing and chief nursing officer at AtlantiCare in Atlantic City, N.J.

Through her knowledge and experience leading in hospitals and health systems, she brings a unique perspective to the association leadership team. “My colleagues look to me to bring the clinical perspective to the discussion table. They want to know the reality of what is really happening on the front line of patient care.”

Since assuming her role as a nurse leader in the association world, Begley has been invited to many tables to which she never expected to be included. She recently met with President Donald Trump, Vice President Mike Pence and the COVID-19 Taskforce as the White House to discuss nursing’s response to the novel coronavirus pandemic. Leadership from the American Nurses Association, American Association of Colleges of Nursing, National Council of State Boards of Nursing and several other major nursing organizations also attended the meeting. “We delivered a unified message but from our own vantage points.” During her allotted 90 seconds, Begley advocated for immediate access to increased supplies of PPE and supplies, the need to increase staffing and capacity, and the importance of providing support to nurses in terms of family care, mental health and resilience.

AONL continues to work with these nursing organizations to advocate for solutions. “In this time of crisis, our organizations’ members share many of the issues. We need to work collectively to create innovative solutions. So far, we have seen some of the advanced practice restrictions lifted as well as licensing barriers removed to allow out-of-state nurses to work in hot spots around the country. We are working to increase the nursing workforce by utilizing senior nursing students as graduate nurses and reopening a limited number of testing centers to allow nurses to join the workforce.

Nurse leaders from the east and west coasts have had conversations about how they are leveraging innovative team models in handling this pandemic. “The interprofessional team model is what is getting hospitals through this crisis, similar to the nursing team-based model from the past. Since there may not be enough critical-care nurses, we are seeing new teams —for example, a CCRN with a CRNA complementing the care of a respiratory therapist, two nurses from Med-Surg helping with the support of one or two techs, etc. When assessing: do we have enough nurses, if we are considering COVID patients requiring a 1:1 ratio, then no we may not have enough. But if we are looking from a team-based model perspective, then we do have enough critical care nurses.” In the team model, deployed nurses with just-in-time training, feel supported to provide care to these critical patients because they know they have the support of a highly experienced critical-care nurse. We see new teams being utilized: the intubation team, the ‘turning team’, the communication team. These models hold promise how health care will delivered in the future.”

Telehealth is another area in which nurses are excelling. Begley hopes this success will remove some of the parochial and territorial schools of thought around licensure compacts, practice barriers and limitations. However, it will take a critical look, through scientific evidence and lessons learned to expand the potential for nursing practice.

Begley was disappointed the COVID-19 Taskforce did not include a nurse leader. “Nurses just do- they just jump in and do. The work of nurse leaders really needs to be highlighted. Nurse leaders know how to get things done, understand the science, and how to operationalize. A nurse leader understands the nuances to adapt and activate plans to become reality. As we celebrate the International Year of the Nurse and Midwife, we have the opportunity to highlight the role of the nurse in patient care but also at the decision-making table.” Begley feels that a lot of young people will see and recognize these nurse heroes and it will hopefully attract them to the profession.