Leaders do not live forever

It has been a few days since the passing of a tremendous Leader in the Community of Nursing: Denise Thornby.  You may not know her but there is a good chance you are working with someone who does.  Denise touched the lives of so many with her wonderful presence.  In her local reach at VCU in Virginia, she had personal impact in the lives of the staff she worked with to develop skills in communication, healthy work environments, and leadership.  She excited nurses to seek ongoing professional development and to be on the constant quest for new experiences.  Beyond her local touch, she certainly impacted the lives of many who attended her presentations and those who knew her through her national involvement with the American Association of Critical Care Nurses AACN. She served on the board of directors and as President of the association.

My exposure to Denise came from AACN.  I first met her during her term as President when she attended a regional meeting in Bethlehem, PA.  I still remember hearing her talk about “making waves”, her theme and a very strong message that found a comfortable place in my soul.  From there our friendship grew as we would often run into each other at conferences where we spoke about nursing leadership, healthy work enviornments, skilled communication and conflict.  We shared many of the same passions and were both determined to create skilled and authentic leaders so staff nurses would have mentors and feel supported.  We shared so many stories around sad conversations staff brought to us around poor leadership and unhealthy work environments.  We were both sure we could change this if we could just get the nursing leaders to hear our message.

I miss Denise, although I do believe her message and spirit lives in so many of us.  I am a better leader because I had the opportunity to spend time with her in deep thoughtful conversations as well as laugh until I cried.  She had such a wonderful way of helping you to feel comfortable with who you are because she was so gifted at getting you to realize you are very special at the same time.  I love you Denise Thornby.  You will forever be one of the most influential people in my life.  I will live fully in your physical absence, caring forth your message we both believed in so dearly.