The Public Health Nursing Series is a 20-blog collection, written by William (Billy) Rosa, author of the recently released title, Nurses as Leaders: Evolutionary Visions of Leadership (June 2016), that sparks a dialogue about each and every nurse's role in advancing and creating the future of global health. With a focus on cultural considerations and the current status of healthcare in nations worldwide, nurses will learn how they are called to contribute to each of the United Nations' 17 Sustainable Development Goals, an international initiative that seeks to end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure prosperity for all over the next 15 years.This series makes the case that every nurse, regardless of title, position, or credential, is a public health leader.

Reflections on the Sustainable Development Goals

The 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) create an opportunity for global collaboration such as the world has never witnessed. Their multifaceted call to improve the health and well-being for all people worldwide, end poverty and hunger, and eradicate barriers to equality and environmental sustainability may be a herculean task, but it is not impossible. Although several theoretical perspectives continue to debate whether healthcare is a human right (Almgren, 2013), the SDGs invoke a global commitment to the improvement of the quality of life for all human beings on the planet. And, as has been discussed over the past several weeks, public health nurses are at the forefront of transforming the global village toward this cross-cultural paradigm of partnership and progress.

With an enhanced knowledge of SDG targets and a broadened public health perspective, it may be helpful to reflect on some key points:

  • Which of the SDGs resonates most powerfully with my individual vision and passion?
  • What are my strengths and unique skill sets that I can bring to these initiatives?
  • In what areas can I continue to build my capacities for leadership and advocacy?
  • Specifically, how will I take action based on my currently available resources and my ability to commit?
  • What is the first step I can take toward realizing the SDG most important to me? Who can I partner with? When will I do this? How will I evaluate myself?

With strategic planning, we are capable of delivering the promise of public health to the individuals and communities we serve: the belief that “everyone is entitled to the conditions that can maintain health” (Goldsteen, Goldsteen, & Dwelle, 2015, p. 36). These reflections on how to be purposeful in our influence, intentional in our behaviors, and active in our participation with others have been key characteristics and practices of nursing’s greatest leaders (Forrester, 2016).

The SDGs are an evolutionary call to action and they require an evolutionary shift in how we define and embody leadership. In my recent book, Nurses as Leaders: Evolutionary Visions of Leadership, over thirty of the professions change agents, advocates, and disciplinary role models share their beliefs on what elements constitute effective leadership across a broad spectrum of settings. While editing and compiling the writings of these inspirational luminaries, several themes emerged. I call these the assumptions of evolutionary leadership. They suggest that evolutionary leadership embraces vulnerability; calls for a state of openness and self-awareness; requires self-renewal and self-reflection; implies a willingness to mature in ways of being, doing, thinking, seeing, and knowing; acknowledges the difference between striving and perfectionism; is “both/and” and not “either/or”; respects all voices in the room; and that evolutionary leaders rehumanize work environments to promote ethical engagement and meaningful partnerships; work to unveil and promote the truth; and allow for the transformation of self and systems (Rosa, 2016). Evolutionary leadership starts with a strong moral/ethical foundation for practice and supports a vision for the future that is committed to human betterment

As we engage with interdisciplinary and cross-cultural partners, and co-create the futures that will make the SDGs possible by 2030, public health nurses must remember that we are no less than evolutionary leaders. We are called to serve on a global scale so that all men, women, and children will feel seen, heard, and acknowledged as they strive for improved health and well-being. Throughout this process, it is important to remember that a nursing sensibility entails not only the science of knowledge and clinical applications, but also the art of caring and healing. As we remain true to our nursing roots and intraprofessional identity, we will continue to identify opportunities to make our unique contributions toward the realization of all 17 SDGs.

I wish you well throughout your public health nursing journey. When in doubt: Start small. Plan well. Commit to change. Act with intention. Open to the possibilities. And remember that, “In a gentle way, you can shake the world” (Gandhi, n.d.).


Almgren, G. (2013). A primer on theories of social justice and defining the problem of health care. In G. Almgren (Ed.), Health care politics, policy, and services: A social justice analysis (2nd ed.) (pp. 1-47). New York, NY: Springer.

Forrester, D.A. (ed.). (2016). Nursing’s greatest leaders: A history of activism. New York, NY:   Springer.

Gandhi, M. (n.d.). Goodreads. Retrieved from

Goldsteen, R.L., Goldsteen, K., & Dwelle, T.L. (2015). Introduction and overview. In R.L. Goldsteen, K. Goldsteen, & T.L. Dwelle (Eds.), Introduction to public health: Promises and practices (2nd ed.) (pp. 1-41). New York, NY: Springer.

Rosa, W. (2016). Introduction. Nurse as leader: A journey of privilege. In W. Rosa (Ed.), Nurses as leaders: Evolutionary visions of leadership (pp. 1-14). New York, NY: Springer.

More About the Author

William (Billy) Rosa, MS, RN, LMT, AHN-BC, AGPCNP-BC, CCRN-CMC, is currently Visiting Faculty, University of Rwanda and ICU Clinical Educator, Rwanda Military Hospital, Human Resources for Health Program in partnership with the New York University Rory Meyers College of Nursing. He currently has over 65 publications for refereed and non-refereed journals, newspapers, magazines, and national platform blogs and his book, Nurses as Leaders: Evolutionary Visions of Leadership, was recently published by Springer Publishing in June 2016. Billy currently sits on the US Advisory Board for the Nightingale Initiative for Global Health, and most recently received the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses' 2015 National Circle of Excellence Award and the Association for Nursing Professional Development's 2015 National Change Agent/Team Member Award.

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Part 1 -  Understanding the Nurse as a Public Health Leader