Sep 07, 2012

Virginia’s “40 Under 40” Initiative Recognizes Young Nursing Leaders

The Virginia Nurses Association (VNA) had a vision for seeking and developing young leaders. Former VNA CEO Susan Motley (now executive director of the Virginia Medical Society Foundation) felt that the idea of the younger generation not being involved or not wanting to be involved was not true.  She had seen recognition of young leaders at other venues and decided it should be the “centerpiece” of the VNA’s foundation annual Excellence in Nursing gala in fall 2011. The VNA leadership had recently help launch the Virginia Action Coalition as a co-lead, and the focus was on the future of nursing. It seemed to be the right time to recognize future leaders. VNA’s leadership quickly embraced the idea. Thus, the start of what VA now refers to as “40 Under 40.

The VNA soon developed a nominations workgroup, which developed a selection and approval process. Logos and collateral material were designed and developed. This award is designed to recognize nurses in Virginia in the following areas:

  • Visionary Transformational Leadership
  • Innovation/New Knowledge/Research
  • Exemplary Professional Practice
  • Professional Development
  • Policy Development
  • Community Engagement

The VNA pushed the nomination applications out to all Virginia health care organizations and received a large number of nominations through the VNA website. Nominations had to be supported by the nurse leader’s employer. The chosen 40 young leaders were invited and recognized (along with their supervisors) at the annual VNA Gala. These identified leaders are a diverse group, working in a variety of settings and with a variety of interests.

The Virginia (VA) Action Coalition (AC) leadership workgroup continues to engage the 40 Under 40.  In May 2012, they held a luncheon on nursing leadership, inviting all of the recognized 40 Under 40 nurse leaders and their supervisors.  This half-day event included:

  • An introduction to the work of VNA and VONEL
  • An update on AC leadership work and invitation to get involved by VA AC Leadership Team
  • A continuing education session entitled “Cultivating Nurse Leaders”, presented by Terri Gaffney from ANA

The VA AC Leadership Workgroup plans to continue to engage this group of young leaders in the Action Coalition’s leadership work and considers them a think tank to help brainstorm ideas on how to promote nurses to serve as board leaders. They also are assessing who of the 40 would like to serve as mentors and who would like to be mentored and hope to set up an online profiles of the young leaders to make these connections (similar to idea). The process has been a win-win for the VNA and the Virginia Action Coalition, as it has increased participation in both.

Lessons Learned:

  • The beauty of this group is that it has been an organic, evolving process.  It began with honoring them and now they are working to determine the best way for them to be involved in this work.
  • The process helped organizations throughout the state recognize who their emerging leaders are.
  • Plan prior to the selection of the 40 leaders on how you will engage them quickly in the Action Coalition’s work.
  • Adequate time to judge and score the nominations is needed.  You may get more than you think!
  • Never underestimate how overwhelmingly meaningful this recognition is to nominees.

Visit this website for more information on the program.

Contact the Virginia Action Coalition Leadership Workgroup Co-Lead, Loressa Cole, at