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A Tribute to Nursing Leadership: Dr. Joyce Clifford

As we start the new year, ANS features an article honoring one of our historically significant leaders who paved the way for the future of nursing – Dr. Joyce Clifford (pictured above).  The article is authored by Terry Fulmer, PhD, RN, FAAN and M. Patricia Gibbons, DNSc, RN, and is titled “Joyce Clifford the Scholar In Her Own Words.” Dr. Fulmer shared the message below about their experience in preparing this article, and pays tribute to Dr. Gibbons, who died on January 15, 2015.  Following the narrative is a slide presentation by Dr. Fulmer that provides an overview of the significance of Dr. Clifford’s work in shaping the future of nursing.

Writing about Joyce Clifford is bittersweet. The sweet part is remembering her extraordinary leadership capability in her effusive belief in the profession and the ways that she advanced practice. Of course the bitter part of bittersweet is missing her and no longer

Dr. Terry Fulmer

Dr. Terry Fulmer

having her voice with us. But maybe we still do have her voice through her incredible writing! In our paper, Trish and I tried to capture the way Joyce thought, the way she led, and the way she evolved as a leader. She was inspirational in all of us knew that she was a force and that she would use her force for good. We followed her, knowing she would be there for us in the difficult times. As young primary nurses, especially in a Harvard teaching hospital, we were in a system that expected the highest intellect, the highest motivation, and the best outcomes. Joyce reminded us that this made us all better. Better nurses, better leaders, better negotiators.

I remember one Saturday morning when a very unhappy patient signed out AMA because he felt he was not getting the attention he needed. The gentleman had chickenpox and was in isolation. We knew he was safe, we feared transmitting the chickenpox to others, and in fact he was right. He was not getting the attention he might have otherwise. Nonetheless, we felt distraught and as if we had failed Joyce by having this gentleman signout. As it turns out, Joyce was in her office on the first floor, came to our floor and comforted us as well as help this process. How would we improve next time? What might we have done differently? She was way ahead of the quality and safety movement and let us know she understood the trade-offs in day-to-day practice.

Dr. Trish Gibbons is no longer with us as she died last spring after several years of cancer. All the more bittersweet to see this narrative and to hear Trish’s voice as she reflected on Joyce. Anyone who knew Trish knew her impish sense of humor, that Boston accent, and the twinkle in her eye always accompanied by a smile. We loved Trish and loved the way she supported Joyce as they created a national movement that defined nursing practice for that era. Trish inspired us in entirely different ways and always complementary to the vision Joyce held for all of us. How I miss them. It’s a daunting responsibility to keep their voices alive as we move into the era of the Affordable Care Act and help initiate accountable care organizations. Joyce would expect us to be knowledgeable, to lead, and to be brave.





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