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Leading Care: Cindy Blank-Reid and Trauma Nursing

In this interview, Cindy Blank-Reid ’83 BSN, MSN, RN,TCRN, CEN reflects on her leadership in advancing nursing through service in a professional organization.

She is Trauma Clinical Nurse Specialist, Temple University Hospita, Philadelphia and Immediate Past President, Society of Trauma Nurses (STN).

Cindy Blank-Reid

How did you rise to this leadership position?  I started out working on programming for the education committee.  I became the Chair of that committee and began to work on larger and more complex projects and ideas on how to make the organization succeed.  I have made it a point to always make everything I do about the organization and patient care – it is not about me.  People very quickly figure out which individuals are only involved in something when they can make it about themselves.  People recognize who gets the job done, who is open to new ideas and who builds a team of people who work together.    

Who influenced you? In the fall of 1979, I had Fr. Jan Busch, OSA, as my chemistry teacher. He was a kind and wise man who saw something in me.  He took the time to know me and encourage me.  After I graduated, I would send him Christmas cards. 

He would write a quote from a famous theologian on the chalk board every day we had class. One quote was from St. Augustine which I remember to this day - “Since you cannot do good to all, you are to pay special attention to those who, by the accidents of time, or place or circumstances, are brought into a closer connection with you.”

I have thought about this quote over the years and applied it to numerous situations in my life, realizing that sometimes we are in the right place at the right time, people reach out to us, and we can either reach back or turn away.  Just as I try to help others, there are others trying to help me. Every connection happens for a reason. Learning how to provide clinical education programs that touch thousands, participating in nursing research or writing about clinical best practices are ways of “paying special attention … to those brought into a closer connection.”

What are the issues you deal with and what’s the biggest challenge in your area?  The issues are sometime so simple and others very complex.  To me what seems like a simple challenge now was not so simple a few years ago.  Challenges to me a few years ago such as a yearly conference for thousands of nurses is an organized function machine now.  Funding for a committee to do a revision of the Advance Trauma Nurse Course (ATCN) was solved by writing a grant to the Department of Homeland Security.  Putting together an International Council with individuals from 6 different continents, languages and time zones that now meets monthly was a challenge and one that I am still working on.  The global need for trauma care is immeasurable and connecting the continents requires an amazing amount of time, patience, flexibility and constantly rebooting things. The Society of Trauma Nurses has greatly expanded their global footprint and I have traveled to different continents.  There is such a need for education and technology to advance trauma care and to educate the nurses in the various countries.  We are partnering with the World Health Organization, the UN and other international teams but nothing goes smoothly or quickly.  

How are you effective in your role? What’s critical to your success in the role?   I would like to think that I am effective but time will tell.  If the initiatives I started continue to grow and flourish then I successfully launched projects.  If the people I encouraged to take leadership positions and develop into good leaders then I have mentored people and kept succession planning in the organization going.

What I found to be critical to my success with STN is I feel most good leaders spend more time listening to those around them and developing consensus.  Everyone needs to feel that they have a stake in what is at play and how their role is important in the project/mission.  I also know when to say with new ideas and data that I need to change course or admit I am wrong.  Keep your sense of humor and laugh at yourself because it will show the team that you can roll with the punches and take whatever comes at you.   

How does innovation fit into your role as leader?  STN is working with the World Health Organization on a global basic trauma nurse course.  It will be available to nurses around the world and it will be available from a cell phone.  Many nurses do not have computers but they have a cell phone and with that – they can access almost anything anywhere in the world.  I have also found that with google translator I can communicate with people who do not speak English and we can accomplish a lot for very little money.

If you can inspire people to take a leadership role in their hospital, community, region or country then you are helping make a difference.  Sending people ideas for projects or educational information that can be translated or a picture sent through a phone is amazing and life changing.  

Is there anything you wish you’d done differently on your rise to this position or while in it?   I would have written more grants.  I partnered with various physician organizations around the globe but there is such a need for funding that is independent and that nursing is in charge of.   

What’s your advice to someone who wants to be a leader in their area of interest?  Join a professional organization and then get on a committee.  When there is a call for a project, a worker – sign up.  Do whatever the task is they give you and do it with a smile on your face and do it on time.  You will earn the reputation of being committed, organized and a “go to person”.  You will meet people like your and not like you from all over the country and perhaps the world.  You will learn different ways of doing things and people will learn from you.  I read once we find comfort amongst those who agree with us and growth amongst those who disagree with us.

What is your leadership philosophy?   Everyone has gifts, talents and something to offer.  Some people recognize they have talents and others need help in finding them or encouragement to use them.  The challenge is to get everyone to work together or come to see that there is a different way of doing things.  

What’s your hope for our profession?   That nurses practicing today will mentor individuals into the nursing profession both in the United States and abroad.  The growth and development of nursing as a profession is important. The advances in healthcare and nursing today occur at unbelievable speed.   The speed of change is so much faster than it was a decade ago.  Nursing needs to keep pace with the change as well as maintain the caring, compassion and advocacy that has been the hallmark of our profession since Florence Nightingale and Clara Barton.  We must continue to demonstrate that those who practice at the bedside are the backbone of patient care and are just as important to nursing as those who lead us.  We mustn’t lose touch with those who we will need to care for us when we are ill or sick.