Department of Palliative Medicine

“Why waste your time doing blogs? You should be taking a statistics course or working on a research article or writing a grant.” As this senior and established leader in the field took a “should” all over me, I remember thinking to myself… if they are not interested in why I wrote these blogs, then they clearly don’t know me at all. And if they are not invested in knowing who I am and why I am using my voice in this way, then how reliable is this advice?

I think about this moment a lot because there is always the internal tug of war between the professional action plan that is strategic in nature – bogged down by deadlines and goals… and my personal obligation to authenticity, advocacy, and the integrity of my own voice.

Before I became a nurse I had been a professional New York City trained dancer and performer. I had a sweet little career before a hip fracture took me in a completely different direction. But that need for self-expression and artistic vision has never subsided. It took me a few years of being a nurse before I learned how to redirect that creative energy into something productive: writing.

To date, I’ve written articles for peer-reviewed journals and magazines, newspaper columns and organizational newsletters, chapters and books. And, yes, blogs. In fact, it has been writing for blogs and other social media platforms that have taught me most about how it important it is to trust in my vision and be clear about my intention for writing.

A few years ago I was living and working in Rwanda, East Africa as a part of a major healthcare workforce capacity building initiative. I started to realize that most of my Rwandan and international colleagues were very focused on practice recommendations from the United Nations (UN) and World Health Organization, with little interest in what the American healthcare system was doing.

I became interested in learning more about the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)- the broadest and boldest humanitarian agenda of our time focused on inclusion, safety, and good health for all people everywhere. I realized that many of my colleagues in the Untied States had never heard of the SDGs. I started writing a blog for Springer Publishing Company – 20 blogs over 20 weeks educating nurses about the SDGs. That blog later became the award-winning and definitive text on nursing’s unique role in achieving the SDGs. That book has led to keynote invitations and consultation roles.

Those speaking and collaborative opportunities have led to my serving as Guest Editor for a special issue of Nursing Outlook on the SDGs and to recurring feature columns for two journals to raise awareness on the SDGs: American Journal of Nursing and Public Health Nursing. These columns have landed me a chance to serve as lead researcher on a major international policy report focused on health equity currently underway. That advocacy has initiated dialogue with the American Association of Colleges of Nursing to commit to integrating the SDGs throughout the next iteration of the Essentials documents for all levels of nursing education and to an American Nurses Association board of directors statement of commitment to the SDGs.

And to think…. it all started with a blog… a blog that many might have deemed a misappropriation of my energy . But I believed in it. I still do. I suppose when I reflect on the advice of that well-intentioned and seasoned leader who told me what I “should” be doing with my time, I am grateful for her time and honesty. She was right in some ways. I do need to continue to develop my grant writing skills and record of funding.

To my dismay – there will be future statistical courses in my midst. But that blog was also expressive, creative, and authentic to my voice as a nurse. It has led to open and transparent dialogue with interdisciplinary leaders nationally and globally about how we need to partner with multi-sector stakeholders to create the world we want. That blog was a starting point for me understanding the power of my advocacy and what is possible when I follow my gut feeling about a project or writing opportunity.

So – no – a blog will never quite be celebrated by academic colleagues in the same way the randomized double-blind clinical trial findings published in JAMA might be… but it is a contribution. It is dissemination. It is still leadership and advocacy. It is a forum; a stage to use my voice for the betterment of others. And – most importantly – if it can make a positive difference to the health and wellbeing of someone, somewhere, in some way – then it is a part of my ethical obligation as a nurse.

Always listen to the advice of others. But trust your gut. Follow your joy. Make your contribution. Write out loud. And never doubt for a moment the impact you can have by being authentically you.”

– Billy Rosa, PhD (c), APRN-BC, FCCM, FAANP, FAAN
University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing