Personal experience can do a lot to shape our career trajectory. Elaine Foster, Ph.D., and Vice President of Nursing for Fortis Colleges and Institutes, was bullied and ignored at her first nursing job. That hostile work environment inspired her to pursue nurse education to help guide the next generation of nurses to a more open-minded and collaborative environment.
Forty years later, Foster has worked at every level to help nurses find great educational opportunities and the support they need to allow their skills to blossom. Although she’s out of the classroom now, she oversees the Fortis nursing programs at 16 campus locations across the country as well St. Paul’s School of Nursing in New York City and the Denver College of Nursing.
“I had amazing mentors in my professional journey, from my high school counselor that told me to go to the University of Michigan when I would never have applied otherwise to the faculty members that pulled me along when I never thought I would make it through class,” Foster recalls.
After decades of helping students, Foster finds herself removed from the classroom and more able to help cultivate the next cohort of leaders. She works with the deans of the schools to become better leaders and educators. She says that working with the deans and faculty of these institutions allows her to exercise servant leadership and be an integral part of a team.
“You always respect the people on your team, whether they are a nurse’s assistant or an LPN. You’re all part of the team,” Foster says. “The bottom line is that the patient and the family receive the healthcare they need, no matter who gives it to them. Some of the best caregivers I ever saw were nurses’ assistants because they truly care about their patients.”
This commitment to care is a testament to Foster’s background–from her first days wearing nursing whites and caps to today’s high-tech environment, she’s seen nursing evolve in many ways. But in her mind, the heart of the profession is the same.
“They’re not going to remember the pills you gave them, but they’re going to remember the person that held their hand,” Foster says.
As she continues to lead from the top, Foster is working to ensure there will be nurses that care for years to come.
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