Leadership Development for Executive Nurses: 10 Years of Impact

Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
CLIENT:Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
LOCATION:Princeton, NJ
SIZE:270 employees

Program & Study Description

Our partnership with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation on the Executive Nurse Fellows program began in 2008. From 1998-2008 the program was led by the University of California, San Francisco and Berkeley. This program focused on strengthening the leadership capacity of nurses who aspire to transform health and health care at the local, state, and national level. The 3-year cohort-based experience is designed to enhance nurse leaders’ effectiveness and build the capacity of senior nurses in health services, scientific and academic organizations, public health and community-based organizations or systems, and national governmental and policy organizations.

To date, we have collaborated with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to provide this program to hundreds of senior nurse leaders. This document serves as a summary of our survey findings from ten years of Executive Nurse Fellows participants.

Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Executive Nurse Fellows Program with the Center for Creative Leadership

Program Impact Extends Across Context

We saw consistent reports of outcomes across three separate evaluation efforts. An external evaluation report in 2007 concluded that the Executive Nurse Fellows program occupies a unique niche in a field facing enormous leadership challenges and inadequate leadership development offerings. Effective executive nurse leadership has a positive impact at both organization and broader health systems levels. What results do we see from our own Executive Nurse Fellows?

The ENF impact extends outside of the individual and immediate organization in the following ways:

  • Increased presence as leaders of professional associations and as presenters at meetings and conferences;
  • Heightened involvement in testifying before local, state, and national legislative committees and health care commissions;
  • Greater involvement in internal and external governance, regulatory, and other oversight bodies; and
  • Increased involvement in media activities, including press conferences, and TV and radio interviews.
of session ratings indicated that program content was highly relevant to their work
of fellows remain active in the program’s alumni network


We collected data from participants in addition to those who worked with them to understand what behavior changes they could see. The following improvements were reported:

  • 92% of participants and 79% of raters feel the Fellow had increased ability to use feedback to make changes;
  • 90% of participants and 71% of raters feel the Fellow had increased awareness of the impact of their behaviors on others;
  • 88% of participants and 82% of raters feel the Fellow had increased ability to deal with complex challenges; and
  • 63% of participants and 69% of raters feel the Fellow had increased employee engagement.

Participants Say

“This Fellow has demonstrated increased confidence in her leadership and managerial skills … There is no question that she has improved her ability to engage and collaborate with executives and leaders outside of nursing.”

Rater (Boss) 

from Reflections Assessment

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