Here is Clara Barton, posing with a new class of graduate nurses who received their nursing education through a correspondence course offered by the Chautauqua School of Nursing. Did you know that some of Clara Barton’s contemporaries did not view her as a legitimate nursing leader because she supported alternative ways of getting a nursing education? It’s kind of ironic that many nursing leaders back then didn’t view the founder of the American Red Cross as an equal. Some things never change.

It’s an old discussion. Are nurses with an advance degree better nurses? Do they make better leaders and does getting a degree elevate the profession? My blog mother, Kim McAllister, from Emergiblog brought my attention to an article that appears at HealthLeadersMedia.com. The article contains a quote made by Kim Sharkey, BSN, RN, MBA, NE-A, BC who is CNO/vice president of medicine at Saint Joseph’s Hospital in Atlanta. Ms. Sharkey said:

“I ask my nurses: ‘When you’re sitting around the table with care managers, physicians, physical therapy, etc, do you really want to be the least-educated person at the table?’” Ms. Sharkey’s answer of course was no because she believes that an advance degree puts nurses at a more equal place at the decision making table.

I rolled my eyes when I read the quote. In all of my years of experience, I’ve never seen a nurse get dissed by a physician, a care manager, or a physical therapist because they didn’t have a long line of letters behind their name. Members of other healthcare disciplines judge nurses on their ability to deliver quality patient care, and on their ideas that they bring to the healthcare policy table. Frankly, I’ve only observed nurses, many of who serve in leadership roles, disrespect other nurses. Nurses not only eat their young, they eat each other. Nurses who attempt to create an elitist system undermine our potential within the healthcare arena, and ruin our credibility with others outside of the nursing profession.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not anti-education. Having a nursing degree will give you a competitive edge if you want to go into certain fields, but it won’t automatically endow you with super powers, or give you leadership skills. Leaders have vision, clarity, and stubborn perseverance. I find it humorous, in a sad way, that so-called nursing leaders just don’t get it. Here’s a little FYI for the ANA. Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Michael Dell, Mark Zuckerberg, and Steven Spielberg are just a few famous industry leaders who don’t have a college degree. And by the way, Clara Barton never earned her college degree either. She dropped out of school after her first year at Clinton Liberal Institute, in Clinton, New York.

Any nurse with intelligence, drive, and passionate can be a great leader. Please step forward if that’s you. Are you smarter than a nursing leader?