May 19, 2020

Foster leadership and make room for 'disruptive innovators,' says RN and master's student

2020 Year of the Nurse and Midwife: Bryce Boynton, MN’20

In January 2019, the executive board of the World Health Organization (WHO) designated 2020 as the first-ever Year of the Nurse and the Midwife, in honour of the 200th birth anniversary of Florence Nightingale, the founder of modern nursing.

UCalgary Nursing will be celebrating the year with a variety of activities including a monthly series of reflections on the past and future of nursing and health care from our nursing community.

For Bryce Boynton, a nurse is never confined to one role.

An RN in public health, health policy and systems leadership, Boynton, MN’20, is not interested in conforming to the status quo, or encouraging a predicted path for new nurses.

“We need to break down the limitations we set by continuing to define nursing to a single setting,” he says. “We need to lift each other up. Too often, we expect nurses to follow a certain tradition or story line instead of considering new innovations.”

Boynton considers the Year of the Nurse designation an honour and opportunity to highlight the roles nurses play in their communities; a chance to innovate and expand beyond those roles to serve society with more impact.

“Nurses do amazing work in a variety of settings and I see an opportunity for us to carry this knowledge forward in other settings and sectors. What a year to do it — while the world is watching.”

Bryce Boynton, MN'2020 UCalgary Nursing alumnus

Bryce Boynton, RN

What is the legacy of Florence Nightingale to the next generation of nurses?
Florence has served as the mother of modern nursing, expressing a picture of unique knowledge and skills, and is known as a leader and innovator. I feel it is important to recognize those qualities that we are so fond of in her and begin to recognize them in nursing and nursing student leaders we come across today. Recognizing those who are creating change and moving our society forward today and into the future: our disruptive innovators.

What’s one thing you’d like to see happen in 2020 to advance the profile of nursing?
I would like to utilize this opportunity to expand on the idea of what nursing is. Nursing knowledge has a place in hospitals, communities, at the policy table, and in governments. I feel that we should take the time to highlight this. By doing so, we can advance our presence across multiple sectors of society in favour of population health.

Lastly, I believe we need to pay special attention to novice nurses and the leadership and knowledge they bring to the profession. It is important to utilize that knowledge and foster that leadership in order to advance our profession and society.

Boosting leadership and influence is one key message from the WHO. What leadership qualities do you think you bring to the profession?
I have been privileged to participate in a variety of leadership roles with different national organizations, such as the Canadian Nursing Students' Association (CNSA) and the Canadian Nurses Association. I would highly suggest students become involved in their profession early on through the CNSA, as it has made me the nurse I am today. These experiences, combined with the knowledge gained through my undergraduate and graduate education, have positioned me to be a leader in our profession.

I believe I bring a unique style of leadership to our profession in that I am considered to be a disruptive innovator. I feel this style of leadership is necessary to question the status quo and advance our profession and society.

Our profession, and the efforts taken to advance health and health care, is in need of innovation and I know that there are many other disruptive innovators who are eager to participate in this transformation.

What is nursing’s next big idea?
Nursing's unique knowledge of health and the population positions us to be experts in policy and politics, to take upstream actions to achieve population health and well-being. I feel that nursing's next big idea is going to be the positioning of our expertise in the policy development process — taking on more roles in policy development across a variety of policy sectors and becoming more involved in politics."

Policy can be an uncomfortable word for many, but we [nurses] are exceptionally positioned to be leaders in this area and we need to begin to recognize this. I am not saying that you must become the Prime Minister of Canada (please do), but begin to recognize your role in policy as a consumer, informer, researcher, and advocate.

Highlight one challenging condition nurses face.
I feel that nursing's greatest challenge comes from within. Moving forward we must do a better job recognizing our leadership ability and the amazing nurses exuding these abilities. We must highlight and foster leadership in student and novice nurses, recognizing what they bring to our profession.

We are our greatest challenge, but also our greatest opportunity.

What’s one thing most people don’t know about nurses or one stereotype you’re often correcting?
Not all nurses wear scrubs or work in the hospital. People tend to be confused when I show up in a collared shirt or share that I am near the end of my master’s degree and intend to follow a certain career path: 'So you're not a real nurse?'

To combat this, we need to share a picture of nursing's knowledge and not a picture of a specific work setting. This will allow us to expand our presence across a variety of fields.

Describe a career highlight.
A career highlight of mine occurred in my undergraduate education when I was elected president of the CNSA. In this position, I had the opportunity to work with other amazing students and nursing leaders from across Canada. This re-ignited my passion for nursing, seeing that nursing was so much more than what is portrayed to society.

In this role I had the opportunity to meet with multiple Members of Parliament on Parliament Hill and advocate for the needs of Canadians, and to inform the upcoming health accord. To see that nursing had this kind of influence and opportunity was a highlight that I will never forget.

What would a world without nurses look like, in a few words?

Set one goal, right now, for 2020.
My personal goal for 2020 is to complete my master’s degree and obtain a role in a non-traditional setting, showing that nursing knowledge belongs anywhere.

Is there something else you'd like to add?
My mission statement: Through disruptive innovation, I contribute to efforts that reduce health and social inequities through a public health approach to the development of healthy public policy, such that bad health is not a result of bad policy.