In 1973, Angela Barron McBride, PhD, RN, FAAN, published The Growth and Development of Mothers, a revolutionary tome that decoded the needs of mothers at a time when children were the subject of most parenting literature.
The book was a critical success—it was named one of the best books of the year by the New York Times—and set McBride, then a young nurse educator and a new mother, on a trailblazing path to nurse leadership. Ever since, McBride has built a reputation as a powerful advocate for women’s health and has received many honors for her contributions to both women's health and nursing.
Four decades later, McBride—chair of the National Advisory Committee for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) Nurse Faculty Scholars program—drew on her experience as a nurse leader to do for nurses what she did for mothers all those years ago: help them understand their roles and reach their full potential. In 2011, she published The Growth and Development of Nurse Leaders, a book with a title that very consciously spins off of her earlier work.
“Really, the tasks of mothers and nurses are not that different,” she says. “Nurses and mothers both have jobs that can be scary at times, and they are often held to impossibly high standards. They’re both often talked about by people who spout pious drivel about what they should be doing and how they should be doing it.” And much of that talk, she says, isn’t realistic.
McBride speaks with the authority of a leader who has climbed from the bottom rung up. The daughter of an immigrant family in working-class Baltimore where few people—including her father—finished high school, she won a scholarship to Georgetown University’s School of Nursing and went on to earn a master’s degree in nursing from Yale University and a doctorate in developmental psychology from Purdue University.
She has since held several prominent leadership posts, including dean of the eight-campus School of Nursing at Indiana University and president of Sigma Theta Tau International and the American Academy of Nursing. She currently serves on the board of Indiana University Health, an 18-network hospital, and chairs its committee on quality and patient safety, and directs the annual leadership conference for the National Hartford Center of Gerontological Nursing Excellence. And she has served on advisory boards for the National Institute of Mental Health and the National Institutes of Health’s Office of Research on Women’s Health.
“It took a long time for me to realize I was capable of being a leader,” she says. “I hope this book helps other nurses realize that they too can become leaders—and to reach that conclusion more quickly.”
The publication of her book came shortly after the release of the landmark report by the Institute of Medicine, The Future of Nursing: Leading Change, Advancing Health. It called on nurses to become full partners in—and leaders of—the development, design and the delivery of health care. More nurse leaders will improve the delivery of care and patient outcomes, the report said.
“When you get on a hospital board, you ask questions from the background you have,” McBride says. “The banker on the hospital board asks about business plans. The physician may ask about the number of MRI machines. And the nurse may ask about discharge planning. It’s critical to have diverse leadership so that all bases are covered.”