Betsy B. Kennedy, PhD, RN, CNE
Betsy B. Kennedy is Professor and Assistant Dean for Non-Tenure Faculty Affairs & Advancement at Vanderbilt University School of Nursing in Nashville, Tennessee. A nurse for 29 years with a master’s in critical care obstetrics, she has practiced in both clinical and educational settings. Currently, she is responsible for supporting academic faculty excellence and achievement of professional goals, and has received multiple awards for teaching and mentoring.
She has authored numerous perinatal publications, is co-editor of Intrapartum Management Modules, an editorial board member of JPNN, and presents nationally on obstetric and professional nursing topics. A dedicated AWHONN member, Betsy has contributed to the POEP modules and is a manuscript reviewer for Nursing for Women’s Health. She has been active at the section level and member of the national Nominating, Finance, Development, and Public Policy committees, Convention Host Committee chair (2010), Convention Program chair (2015), and the Board of Directors (2013-2015).
Please describe significant contributions you have made to AWHONN and/or in another professional leadership role. Include any examples where you have advanced the strategic agenda of AWHONN and/or other professional organizations.
To advance the AWHONN strategic agenda I have been an active member, holding multiple national roles, creating resources and opportunities to support nurses in the provision of optimal care. I have contributed my clinical practice expertise with high risk and critically-ill, pregnant women in teaching and empowering nurses caring for critically ill pregnant women. I have also committed my administrative and educational expertise, working with small and large groups on issues related to mentoring for excellence, creating an inclusive environment, preparing a diverse nursing workforce, teaching for social justice and social determinants of health, and advocating for humanistic care through authentic presence. I think my greatest contribution thus far has been supporting and advocating for AWHONN members in the diverse roles and I will continue to find opportunities to do so.
Please describe your expertise or contributions related to promoting improved care for women and babies. Discuss this in terms of your position on Maternal Mortality and Morbidity, Workforce Diversity and other racial and ethnic disparities in reproductive healthcare.
In a recent editorial for JPNN, my co-author and I called for readers to consider “Who is missing? Who is underserved? Who is unheard?” and seek them out in an active, intentional effort to eliminate disparities contributing to maternal mortality. Inequities and cannot be solved immediately, but lives are transformed in everyday inclusive practices and small changes such as listening generously for the social influences that can adversely affect outcomes. I believe AWHONN nurses must be present everywhere conversations about women’s health are taking place: in research, in policy-making, in health professions education, in advocacy. I also recently co-edited a journal edition on caring for pregnant women for our nursing colleagues in the critical care setting. We must leverage partnerships with diverse groups and allies to innovate and lead bold prevention strategies that impact all women of reproductive age, while also being prepared to react during an unexpected pregnancy crisis.
Please describe a significant leadership challenge that you have experienced; how you addressed it and relevant outcomes.
In my current position, I lead various projects to coordinate professional development, evaluation, and advancement for a large number of faculty. The role is rewarding, filled with daily leadership challenges and successes. The challenges usually involve people or process changes (usually, both!), with multiple individuals, groups, contexts, and power dynamics. To address these, it is essential to integrate tradition with innovation/intuition with best evidence, communicate effectively, and manage conflict using a combination of collaboration, accommodation, cooperation, and compromise. The most important tool I use in leadership challenges is a generous listening approach to find common ground and facilitate a plan forward based on mutual goals. Positive and rewarding outcomes include individuals reaching goals and exceeding their personal and professional goals, enriching the nursing profession through their teaching, scholarship, and service.
Provide your reasons as to why you want to serve on AWHONN’s Board of Directors.
I have dedicated my clinical practice and scholarly work to the care of critically ill pregnant women, my professional work to preparing nurses of the future to provide the best care in every healthcare delivery setting, and my service to AWHONN in a number of roles to advance the mission and members. Throughout my career, AWHONN has given me resources for practice, opportunities for professional growth, like-minded and committed colleagues, and dear friends, but most of all the foundation from which I can make meaningful impact. AWHONN is my professional home and now is the time for me to give back, to work with and for members, leading to improve the health and well-being of all women, newborns, and families. It would be a great privilege to serve as president, representing the organization at a pivotal time in women’s health.