Tuesday, October 17, 2017

‘Make sure people have what they need’

QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS | ERIC J. WILLIAMS

The first man to serve as president of the National Black Nurses Association opens up about the impact of his profession.

Eric J. Williams

Nearly a half-century after its founding, the National Black Nurses Association has the first male president in its history. Eric J. Williams is the leader of the 150,000-member group organized in 1971 under the leadership of Dr. Lauranne Sams, former dean of the School of Nursing at Tuskegee University.

Members of the non-profit organization will convene at Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino on July 30-August 4 for the NBNA’s 45th Annual Institute and Conference, themed “Nursing Innovations: Building a Healthy Community.” Williams, who holds a doctorate in nursing, sat down with Las Vegas Black Image to talk about the conference and the state of his profession.

What inspired you to join the NBNA, and how does it feel to be the first male president?

I joined the organization in 1984 as a student at William Carey University in Hattiesburg, Mississippi — and became more aggressively involved in 1992. I have served on the board of directors on two different occasions, I’ve been 2nd Vice President for four years and 1st Vice President for the organization for three years. I have also worked as local president of the New Orleans Black Nurses Association and the Council of Black Nurses in Los Angeles. It has been very rewarding to be president of the NBNA. Under my tenure, we have created new programs, and my role as a trailblazer in the organization illustrates that men can lead an organization that is perceived as gender-specific. Men in nursing are making a difference, and I’m showing that we can lead an organization like NBNA and inform health care policies. Under my leadership, we have worked on violence reduction and mentoring programs to create the next generation of leaders.

Do you see more of an interest in nursing by young African American males?

We need to work more in that area, to educate them that nursing is a viable career. There are over 300 roles that one can do as a registered nurse — whether as a registered nurse, entrepreneur, anesthetist, educator, or administrator. I entered nursing school right after high school and received my bachelor’s degree.

What is the NBNA agenda on health care for black people?

We are still working to assure access to health care, to make sure that people have what they need for preventive care — and making sure that people experiencing socioeconomic challenges, such as poor housing, are able to receive the health care they need. We need to make our legislators accountable when it comes to health care and any changes proposed by the new administration in the White House.

What are you excited about with the upcoming NBNA conference in Las Vegas?

All of the scheduled workshops are very important. There will be an opening session free to the public, and there will also be a day that our exhibit hall will be free and open to the general public.

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