Captain Jason Straw USAF, NC (Retired), BSN
Disability Party Medical Adviser, Hoosier Veterans for Medical Cannabis District 5 Leader, Higher Fellowship Medical Adviser, The National Chronic Pancreatitis Support Network Medical Adviser
Tell us about your journey to the boardroom. What inspired you to seek a leadership position?
As a critical care nurse who deployed twice to Afghanistan, I have a solid foundation in leadership training from the Army and Air Force. During my first deployment, as a charge nurse in the ICU, I was responsible for the lives of up to 15 critical care patients with a staff of four critical care nurses, two respiratory therapists, and three critical care med techs.
The second deployment, as a critical care air transport nurse, I saw a lot of pain and suffering in the most severely wounded patients. You want to do everything you can to help them. When I retired out of the United States Air Force, I looked for ways to help others which led me to advocate for pain and disability rights through several organizations.
What impact have you had serving on a board? Example?
I have been able to assist in helping several organizations work together to get Indiana HB 1148 passed, which allows children with treatment -resistant epilepsy to try therapeutic cannabidiol (CBD).
I know I was a small part of the whole process, but keeping people open and talking to each other was key. Many people were ready to throw in their hat. Kind compassionate words of reassurance and listening to their concerns helped calm the waters.
Hoosier Veterans for Medical Cannabis was able to educate The Indiana American Legion about medical cannabis, which resulted in the passing of a resolution supporting medical cannabis (marijuana/hemp) for research and treatment.
I have made contact with the Indiana State Nurse Association, which has posted several of our Indiana Higher Fellowship Educational Town Halls on medical cannabis and opioid addiction treatment options. We have nearly 1 million views on our website, which aims to help educate the public on medical cannabis.
What advice would you give someone going into a board leadership position for the first time?
Keep an open mind, be honest, listen, and remember to be compassionate towards others. If you start from that point and work from there, usually you can achieve your goal. Listening is the most important skill you can develop. Not listening to debate, but listening to hear what they are truly saying.
What are a few resources you would recommend to someone looking to gain insight into becoming a better leader and eventually obtaining a board position?
I would find a mentor in the area you are looking to develop expertise in. I have had several throughout my life. The Bible also gives me great strength, focus, and compassion in the worst of times.
Why do you feel it is important for nurses to serve on boards?
Nurses are the heart and soul of health care. Compassion is what nurses are all about. Without compassion, a board is incomplete.
What do you think is the most significant barrier to nurses serving on boards?
Many people still discriminate against nurses, and consider us less educated or experienced, which is far from the truth. Nurses develop a keen sense of moral compassion for their patients. We care and show it, but others see that as a weakness.
This article is part of our ongoing partnership with the Nurses on Boards Coalition (NOBC), formed to improve the nation’s health through the service of nurses on boards, commissions, and other decision-making entities. NOBC wants to see nurses occupy at least 10,000 board seats in 2020. Scrubs Magazine is committed to helping NOBC reach this goal by informing, educating, and inspiring nurses and nursing students to take on leadership roles at all levels. Find out more at NursesOnBoardsCoalition.org.