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Professional Profile: Josie Veal

One of the great rewards of being a nurse educator is celebrating the successes of those one has had the privilege of knowing as students.    Such is the case for me with Dr. Josie Veal, subject of WCN’s latest Professional Profiles in Diversity.

I first met Josie when she was a student in the Carroll College Columbia College of Nursing Intercollegiate Nursing Program, where she earned her BSN in 1995.  Perhaps it is no small coincidence that I taught the leadership course to seniors, and I remember Josie well.  But her story did not end there – and, in fact, it started much earlier.  When Josie and I sat down recently to talk about her life and nursing leadership, she shared with me her varied and interesting background.

Though her baccalaureate degree in nursing was the springboard to her professional future, Josie points to her initial experience in the military as an operating room (OR) tech right after high school as the impetus for seeking an OR nursing position as an RN.  Her first professional role after college was in mental health and alcohol and other drug abuse (AODA).  She emphasized that what she learned there has transcended into everything else she has done.  She cites her diverse work history as a crucial part of her leadership journey.

Along the way, through the Milwaukee Chapter of the National Black Nurses Association (MCNBNA), she met nurses who influenced her to consider pursuing an advanced nursing degree.  She did just that.  She earned an MSN from Concordia University in 2003 as a Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP), and included coursework in nursing education in her plan of study.  Finding she enjoyed the transition from the hospital to a community-based setting, she says this work afforded her “a more direct link to the pulse of the African American community and the issues they face.”

It was attending a conference of the National Coalition of Ethnic Minority Nursing Associations that opened her eyes to the amazing spectrum of nursing research, health policy, and education – and the seeds of seeking a PhD were planted.

At Marquette, Josie thrived under the mentorship of Dr. Janet Krejci.  Together they worked with young nurses to develop their leadership potential.  During that time, Josie was also closely involved with the minority students at MATC in the Future Black Nurses Club and at Marquette University in Project BEYOND.  “Every leader has the obligation to grow future nurses AND their peers.”   She cited other influential individuals who helped shape her leadership trajectory: Drs. Marilyn Frenn, Margaret Bull, Dessie Levy, Sandra Underwood and Brenda Dockery.  She believes mentors provide encouragement and support but also serve as a reality check, the voice of reason.  Josie urges us to use our mentors as resources.   For her doctoral dissertation, Josie investigated associate degree nursing students, their level of acculturation to the English language (those students who are not native English speakers), and predictors of success in the nursing program.  She was awarded her PhD in Nursing in December, 2012.

Josie has held notable leadership positions.  Examples include serving as an MCNBNA board secretary and board member, Walnut Way board member, MATC Level One coordinator and previous nursing supervisor roles.  But her influence is not limited to local arenas.  She recently received the prestigious honor of being named one of the 2014 Breakthrough Leaders in Nursing by the Future of Nursing TM Campaign for Action at the Center to Champion Nurses in America, sponsored by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and AARP.  She reflects that this experience allowed her to self-assess her leadership strengths and weaknesses.  “That was priceless.”  To learn more about Breakthrough Leaders in Nursing and hear from Josie herself, see an informational video at http://campaignforaction.org/news/video-transforming-health-care-through-nurse-leadership.            

Josie Veal has advice for all of us. To students, she implores you to be purposeful about our career and the options available to you.  Find mentors.  To others, she says do not be afraid to take risks.  Try to understand why you are uncomfortable and what to do to alleviate your fears.  Be willing to explore.  Many times, she suggests, the biggest barrier to success is yourself.  It’s that fear of the unknown that prevents us from moving forward.  Here is where your networks come in and “avoid listening to the inner voice that says you can’t.”  Use those mentors, rely on family, and seek a supportive work environment.

To summarize her leadership philosophy, Josie Veal says it best.   “As a minority nurse, I need to be the voice to advocate.  One of my purposes in life is to be a voice to speak about health needs, health disparities.”  Thank you, Josie – nurse, leader, and advocate for those whose voices go unheard.

Josie L. Veal, PhD, RN, APNP, FNP-BC is a member of the Wisconsin Center for Nursing Board of Directors and an Associate Dean at MATC.  She is a single mother of a 19 year old daughter and lives in Milwaukee.

Submitted by
Ann Cook, RN, PhD
Clinical Professor, retired
UWM College of Nursing


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