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Professional Profiles in Diversity:  Teri Vega Stromberg

Meet our next outstanding Wisconsin nurse leader and subject of this installment in Professional Profiles in Diversity:  Teri Vega Stromberg, MSN, RN, ACHPN, AOCN.  A member of the WCN board from 2007 to 2013, Teri was the original contributor to the Stellar Student series.  She also chaired the planning committee for the annual WCN conference in 2013 and 2014.  Teri holds a BSN from Marian University (1978) and an MSN from Marquette University (1985), prepared as a Clinical Nurse Specialist and educator.

Teri’s leadership journey began while she was still a nursing student working with a dying patient.  She says, “I knew I had to do a better job.”  As a self-described “bulletin board reader,” she saw a notice for a summer patient care assistant/work study opportunity at Roswell Park Cancer Institute in New York and applied.  She was chosen from among over 400 applicants for one of only 40 positions, and the rest, as they say, is history.  “After that, I was sold.  I knew that was what I wanted to do.”  She described excellent and varied experiences during that summer – and lots of learning.  But mostly she remembers the people.  Since then, Teri has always worked in cancer care or palliative care, in multiple settings including inpatient and home health facilities throughout southeast and central Wisconsin.  She currently works for Wheaton Franciscan Healthcare in Milwaukee.

She continued her leadership journey knowing we all need to know more to do our job better.  She believes she has an innate sense of what is needed, which has contributed to her success as a unit educator.  Having been there herself, she knows what it feels like.  Believing she had more to offer, she returned to graduate school for a master’s degree.  She asserts that she was there to learn more than how to start an IV better.  Instead, it was about forming and growing relationships to people, helping, and caring.  In the educator role, she sees her strength as helping staff nurses “get their arms around a complex topic and make it relatable” as well as improve patient education.
When asked about the keys to her success as a leader, Teri points out that she was born with listening skills.  She has also cultivated excellent relationship building and collaboration skills, so much so that people seek her out knowing she will listen to other perspectives.  She characterizes herself as level-headed.  Always adopting a big-picture perspective, she says definitely falls in the Steadiness domain of the DiSC model.  DiSC is a personal assessment tool used to improve work productivity, teamwork and communication and was developed by William Moulton Marston.  It is perhaps no coincidence that besides being a lawyer, psychologist, and an inventor, Marston created the Wonder Woman comic book character.  According to the DiSC website, “People with the S [steadiness] style place an emphasis on cooperating with others within existing circumstances to carry out the task (retrieved from 

A significant concept in Teri’s personal and professional profile is diversity.  The second of seven children, and the daughter of a nurse, she grew up in an environment where family is very important.  She identifies the struggle that is often inherent in the Hispanic culture, the dissonance created in an atmosphere where there is no “me”, only “us.”  Consequently, one is socialized to be humble and wait to be asked.  “You don’t sell yourself in the leadership arena.”  Teri further explains that “in the Hispanic culture you don’t succeed unless everyone succeeds.  It’s not a deterrent – it just is.” 

Teri believes she gained confidence because others lifted her up.  They gave her good feedback, told her she could do something.  “If you tell me once I’ve done a good job at something, not only will I accept your praise but I will want to do 10 more things for you.”  Now she has parlayed that experience into a successful mentorship role to communicate opportunities for Hispanic students at all levels through her work with the local chapter of the National Association of Hispanic Nurses (NAHN) and with Project Beyond at Marquette University.

Teri has this advice for others:  “know thyself.”  She says there is a place for all of us in leadership.  If you enjoy your work, it forces you to do a good job and be proud of it; “your integrity steps forward.”  She also recommends having a good “elevator speech.”

When Teri was a student, her dean told her, “It’s okay to be a soft leader.”  The DiSC website suggests that the leadership styles of the individual with Steadiness characteristics are Inclusive, Humble, Affirming.  Teri Vega Stromberg softly personifies these attributes to the letter.  How fortunate we are to have a nursing leader like her in Wisconsin.

Submitted by:
Ann Cook, RN, PhD
Clinical Associate Professor
Director, Master of Nursing (MN) Program
UWM College of Nursing

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