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Leading Care: Dr. Tamara Kear and the American Nephrology Nurses Association

In this interview, Tamara M. Kear ’09 PhD, RN, CNS, CNN reflects on her leadership in advancing nursing through service in a professional organization.

She is associate professor, Fitzpatrick College of Nursing; and National President, American Nephrology Nurses Association (ANNA), 2019-2020.  

Dr. Tamara Kear

How did you rise to this leadership position?     The American Nephrology Nurses Association members elected me.

Who influenced you?    I have long received great support from my ANNA colleagues. As a member of this association for nearly 30 years, I have a strong base of support due to my many volunteer activities on the ANNA Board of Directors, Editorial Board for the Nephrology Nursing Journal: The Official Journal of the American Nephrology Nurses Association, and other appointed committee and chair roles. Dr. Beth Ulrich, a Past National President of ANNA was my greatest supporter, mentor, and research partner.

Why is it important to you? Why are you enthusiastic about your work in this role?     ANNA, an association of nurses caring for patients with kidney disease has afforded me many personal, professional, and scholarly opportunities. I have been appointed to several committees over the last 30 years, received local and national awards, received grant funding for several research studies, and networked with other professional nurses nationally and internationally. There is no doubt I would not be positioned in my current tenured role without the many opportunities afforded by ANNA. Most recently I collaborated with ANNA Past President, Dr. Ulrich to conduct 2 national studies investigating nurse and patient safety on behalf of ANNA. This body of research has received national attention. The opportunity to serve as the ANNA National President will allow me give back to an association that has afforded me important and career advancing opportunities.

What are the issues you deal with and what’s the biggest challenge in your area?      The greatest challenge facing nephrology nursing is a shortage of nurses. My platform is to use my recent research to build a pipeline of nephrology nurses. I have recently started collaborating with the leadership of the 2 largest dialysis providers employing over 40,000 nurses in total, as they are facing severe nurse shortages. I have shared my research, and the need to create externship and residency programs to attract novice nurses early in their career development process. I also worked with one of these dialysis providers to secure $10,000 for ANNA to create a film that showcases Nephrology Nursing A Career of a Lifetime. A professional videographer was hire and the filming will take place in 2 weeks in Salt Lake City, telling the story of a dynamic nephrology nurse who has held many roles in nephrology nursing. Additional filming will take place at our ANNA 50th National Symposium in April. Two films will result. A marketing plan will be developed for film distribution and use, including at the SNAP convention.

How are you effective in your role? What’s critical to your success in the role?    My success will be measured by my ability to be available and accessible to our members, board, national office, industry leaders, and interprofessional associations. My focus during my President-Elect year has been on learning about my upcoming role as President. This has occurred through attending many conferences, collaborating with the national office staff, building a strong organizational chart, and empowering the board. Many members of our 8,500-member association have reached out to me as well as industry leaders. I have answered each call or email personally. Association best practices have shown a personal touch is the best way to motivate and connect members of a volunteer association. This personal touch has and will be my ongoing focus.

How does innovation fit into your role as leader?      I will be using social media (Facebook live) to broadcast short sessions from the upcoming ANNA 50th  National Symposium and through the year as I attend various events on behalf of ANNA. It is at this symposium when I will take my presidential office. I have also been working with our ANNA communication manager on ideas to promote the strong work of our ANNA members. Each poster presenter at our upcoming conference is going to be afforded 2-3 minutes to provide a quick description of his or her project/study. These clips will be elevated online for member viewing. We are also using a new program to generate generation specific emails to connect to our new members.

Is there anything you wish you’d done differently on your rise to this position or while in it?      As a board member for the last 3 years, I did not fully appreciate the roles and responsibilities of board membership. I learned about these roles and processes as I moved through my board role. I am taking an active approach to on-board my board. I am working with the new board members before their first board meeting to educate each person on the role of board members. This has included providing a book written by a nurse about professional association board participation. I have called each board member several times and will welcome them onto the board with an orientation session. I am working to build a team.

What’s your advice to someone who wants to be a leader in their area of interest?     I suggest the individual take the first by joining a committee. This may lead to chairing the committee and future board opportunities.

What is your leadership philosophy?     I am a transformational leader. I listen to the information provided by other leaders and stakeholders before I develop an opinion or plan. Communication is important to me, as it provides information to inform my decision. I also strive to empower the board and nephrology nurses in general through this approach.

What’s your hope for our profession?     Empowerment!