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YON 2020 Day 153: Zeina Kassem, DNP, RN

A May 2020 DNP graduate from the Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing at Case Western Reserve University, Zenia Kassem, DNP, RN, shares how she is using that degree to lead during the COVID-19 pandemic. Dr. Kassem is the Nursing Director for the Medical and Oncology Service Line at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi.

The highpoint of my nursing career so far was being part of the first DNP Cohort from Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi. This cohort of highly ambitious achievers made the journey worthwhile—and so much fun. We were all full time nurse leaders who were simply driven by passion. We studied together, travelled together several times all the way from Abu Dhabi to Cleveland to attend classes. We didn’t let the heat or the cold weather bother us and never forgot to have fun along the way, making every month of those years a memorable one. We even celebrated our virtual commencement in style sharing some pictures to mark the occasion.


Not only will 2020 be recalled as the year of my DNP graduation, it will always be a year to remember. The World Health Assembly, the governing body of the World Health Organization, declared 2020 the International Year of the Nurse and Midwife, in honor of the 200th anniversary of Florence Nightingale’s birth. Little did we know at that time what the future held. Today, more than ever, nurses are imperative to the world of health care advocacy.


Through the darkest times, nurses are there--to heal the sick, comfort the weak, and mend the broken. As the world grapples with COVID-19 pandemic, we show up and fight for the welfare and health of our communities and patients around the globe. Be proud you are a nurse.


As a nurse leader during this pandemic, the knowledge I gained in my DNP has enabled me to lead through this crisis more effectively, implement evidence-based management practices, strategically plan, align with multidisciplinary teams, and better utilize resources within my organization. It has strengthened my nursing leadership role through creating innovative care programs that are sustainable. A few examples include PPE stewardship, nurses’ redeployments, and up-skilling to meet the demands of patients within different levels of care. However, nurturing a positive environment despite the crisis so that nurses can thrive, stay safe, and take care of each other is also important. The emotional and physical wellbeing of my nurses remains a focus of mine. I employed intentional leadership, rounding, and listening to the voices of nurses, and then channeled their voices and needs through the right platforms within the wider organization. This driving influence on organizational decisions allowed me to create a positive work environment despite the odds.


Graduating from Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing on May 17, 2020, was one of the proudest moments of my life. I will cherish and forever be grateful to the faculty, advisors, mentors, colleagues, and friends I met along the way who touched my life, challenged me to think, and left a positive impact in my personal and professional life. Today, I am an empowered nurse leader who will make every effort to create a better future for the nursing profession. Consider continuing your education, which can propel you into new roles and unlock your full potential.

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