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In the Year of the Nurse and Midwife, one of the underlying themes is that of nurse leadership—and the nurse leaders of today and tomorrow have a wide range of inspiring role models! Below are profiles of six outstanding nurse leaders as described by Marion E. Broome and Elaine Sorensen Marshall in their new text Transformational Leadership in Nursing, 3rd Edition.

The story of modern Western nursing began with little-noted but great leaders, and it traditionally starts with Florence Nightingale, but the 20th century has also provided us with a wealth of transformational nurse leaders. Six trailblazers include…

Isabel Hampton Robb

Isabel Hampton led nurse training at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore and was the first president of what became the American Nurses Association. “Her vision of nursing … required a transformation of … accepted norms. [Her work] demonstrated her ability to effectively lead change and inspire others toward her cause” (Keeling et al., 2018).

Mary Adelaide Nutting

Mary Adelaide Nutting was Hampton’s student at Johns Hopkins and was among the first visionaries to foresee academic nursing education, rather than apprentice nurse training solely in hospitals. She led efforts to develop the first university nursing programs at the Teachers College of Columbia University and to secure funding for such programs (Gosline, 2004).

Lavinia Lloyd Dock

Lavinia Lloyd Dock was a strong woman who was involved in many “firsts” that influenced the profession for years. She firmly believed in self-governance for nurses and called for them to unite and stand together to achieve professional status. She was among the founders of the Society for Superintendents of Training Schools for Nurses, which later became the National League for Nursing (2019), and an author of one of the first textbooks for nurses and history of nursing. She encouraged nurses and all women to become educated, to engage in social issues, and to expand their views internationally (Lewenson, 1996). She was known as a “militant suffragist” and champion for a broad range of social reforms, always fighting valiantly for nurses’ right to self-governance and for women’s right to vote.

Lillian Wald

Lillian Wald, who modeled the notion of independent practice a century before it became a regulatory issue, founded the first independent public health nursing practice at Henry Street in New York. She not only devoted her life to caring for the poor people of the Henry Street tenements but also was the first to offer clinical experience in public health to nursing students. She worked for the rights of immigrants, for women’s right to vote, for ethnic minorities, and for the establishment of the federal Children’s Bureau (Brown, 2014).

Mary Elizabeth Carnegie

Mary Elizabeth Carnegie established one of the first baccalaureate programs in nursing in 1943 at Virginia’s Hampton University (American Association for the History of Nursing, 2018). She became the first African American nurse to be elected to a board of directors of a state nurses association (Florida). She was on the editorial staff of the American Journal of Nursing, was senior editor of Nursing Outlook, and the first editor of Nursing Research. Carnegie was a president of the American Academy of Nursing and was awarded eight honorary doctorates over the course of her career. Her legacy of leadership included making the contributions of African American nurses visible in the professional literature.

Ildaura Murillo-Rohde

Ildaura Murillo-Rohde was a Panamanian American nurse, academic, and organizational administrator. She came to the United States in 1945 and studied at Columbia University. She was the first Hispanic nurse awarded a PhD from New York University. Her specialty was psychiatric–mental health nursing, and she was an outstanding advocate for mental health needs of Hispanics. Murillo-Rohde was an associate dean at the University of Washington and the first Hispanic dean at New York University. She founded the National Association of Spanish-Speaking Spanish-Surnamed Nurses in 1975 and served as its first president. She was named a living legend in the American Academy of Nursing (National Association of Hispanic Nurses, 2019).

Today’s healthcare leaders inherit courage, vision, and grit that must not be disregarded. We stand on the shoulders of valiant nursing leaders of the past who left a foundation that cries for study of its meaning and legacy for leadership today. They were visionary champions for causes that were only dreams in their time but today are essential. They dared to think beyond the habits and traditions of the time. These leaders were truly transformational. You are among the pioneer leaders to move healthcare forward to better serve society.


American Association for the History of Nursing. (2018). Mary Elizabeth Carnegie DPA, RN, FAAN (1916–2008). Mullica Hill, NJ: Author. Retrieved from

Brown, A. (2014). Brief history of the Federal Children’s Bureau (1912–1935). The Social Welfare History Project. Retrieved from

Gosline, M. B. (2004). Leadership in nursing education: Voices from the past. Nursing Leadership Forum, 9(2), 51–59.

Keeling, A., Hehman, M. C., & Kirchgessner, J. C. (2018). History of professional nursing in the United States: Toward a culture of health. New York, NY: Springer Publishing Company.

Lewenson, S. (1996). Taking charge: Nursing, suffrage and feminism in America, 1873–1920. New York, NY: National League for Nursing Press.

National Association of Hispanic Nurses. (2019). Dr. Ildaura Murillo-Rohde, PhD, RN, FAAN. Author. Retrieved from


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