It’s widely understood that nurses play a critical role in improving health care and advancing health. But what may be a secret to many is the support provided by the Sigma Theta Tau International Honor Society of Nursing to help nurses accomplish all that by supporting their development as leaders, researchers and scholars.
Founded in 1922 by six nurses at the Indiana University Training School for Nurses, Sigma has continually worked toward completing its mission of “developing nurse leaders anywhere to improve health care everywhere.”
On April 7, the LSU Health New Orleans School of Nursing and its partners in the Epsilon Nu at-Large Chapter, University Medical Center New Orleans and the School of Nursing at LSU-Alexandria, celebrated three significant Sigma milestones: the 100-year anniversary of Sigma Theta Tau International, the 40th anniversary of the School of Nursing’s Epsilon Nu Chapter and the one-year anniversary of the formation of the Epsilon Nu at-Large Chapter.
“Being part of Sigma recognizes nurses’ achievements beyond their daily tasks and helps us move nursing science and evidence-based practice forward,” says Chapter President Benita Chatmon, PhD, MSN, RN, CNE, Assistant Dean for Clinical Nursing Education and Assistant Professor of Clinical Nursing. “The theme of the anniversary and the keynote address by Patricia Yoder-Wise was celebrating what Sigma can do for its members. She used the acronym CELEBRATE to stand for Character, Engagement, Learning, Energy, Beneficiary, Research, Access, Thinking and Excellence.”
Dr. Yoder-Wise, EdD, RN, NEA-BC, ANEF, FANOL, FAAN, is President of the Wise Group, Vice President of the Nurses Legacy Institute, Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Continuing Education in Nursing and Nursing Forum, and Professor and Dean Emerita of the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center School of Nursing.
Perhaps one of the organization’s most enduring contributions has been its support of nursing research. In 1936, it became the first organization in the United States to fund nursing research.
“Sigma was an early supporter of nursing research, and that’s really important,” says Paula Kensler, DNP, MBA, RN, Program Director for the Clinical Nurse Leader and Executive Nurse Leader programs and Instructor of Clinical Nursing at the LSU Health New Orleans School of Nursing. “Our Doctor of Nursing Science program recently transitioned into a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Nursing program, which emphasizes intellectual inquiry, scholarship and research. As the profession of nursing evolves, we need nurse researchers to push us forward. Sigma supports that forward momentum and promotes a stronger appreciation for what nursing research can do to help improve the health and well-being of individuals, communities, the nation and the world.”
Welcoming New Members and Sharing Our Vision
The celebratory week launched with the Epsilon Nu at-Large Chapter Spring Induction Ceremony on April 2, where 87 new members joined the chapter. The underlying principle for student membership in Sigma Theta Tau International is to honor high academic achievers in undergraduate and graduate nursing programs who have demonstrated leadership potential.
“The purpose of the induction ceremony is not only to honor new members and celebrate their successes, but it serves as Sigma’s pledge to support inductees throughout their nursing career and to be a lifelong resource for them,” Dr. Chatmon says. “Their induction is not the end or the culmination of their scholarly or professional achievements; instead, their induction signifies the beginning of their membership journey – the start of their involvement within a global network of peers and mentors who are here to guide and support them wherever their nursing career takes them.”
The April 7 anniversary celebration was followed by the Dr. Linda Corson Jones Scholarship Day on April 8. The event included poster and podium presentations, a panel discussion on the Recommendations from the Future of Nursing Report and a keynote address by Jean Watson, PhD, RN, AHN-BC, FAAN, LL (AAN), Founder of the Watson Caring Science Institute and Distinguished Professor and Dean Emerita of the University of Colorado Denver, College of Nursing. Dr. Watson’s address was titled “Caring Science Nursing: Bridging the Gap from Present to Future.”
“It was a huge honor to have both Dr. Watson and Dr. Yoder-Wise speak at these events,” Dr. Chatmon says. “They are both nursing icons, so it made the celebration extra special.”
“It was also the first time since the pandemic began that the School of Nursing – as well as representatives from UMC New Orleans and LSU-Alexandria – were able to get together in a social setting, which was nice,” Dr. Kensler says.
An Integral Support System for Nursing Scholarship
“Each Sigma chapter gives and receives support from its individual school. Our chapter supports our school by providing scholarships and by sponsoring that annual Dr. Linda Corson Jones Scholarship Day, where faculty and students can disseminate their research and evidence-based practice projects,” Dr. Chatmon says.
Once nurses are inducted, they are members for life, as long as they pay annual dues. Members have opportunities to participate in Sigma’s communities of interest, mentoring programs and academies. They also have access to benefits such as nursing continuing professional development courses, the Journal of Nursing Scholarship, the online journal Worldviews on Evidence-Based Nursing, and Nursing Centered, Sigma’s online resource center.
In addition, adds Dr. Chatmon, the Leadership Mentoring Program selects chapter members who show leadership potential or interest to work closely with officers to develop their leadership skills and character and build professional relationships and network with leaders in nursing. After they complete the program, mentees are strongly encouraged to maintain their engagement in Sigma Theta Tau International by becoming Chapter Leaders for the Epsilon Nu at-Large Chapter.
“Sigma is an organization with a global reach. As the School of Nursing looks toward the future and includes global health care in our strategic plan, Sigma provides an opportunity for our students and faculty to be part of an organization dedicated to a vision of connected, empowered nurse leaders transforming global health care,” says Demetrius Porche, DNS, PhD, ANEF, FACHE, FAANP, FAAN, Dean of the School of Nursing.