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Doctoral alumni impact Idaho with nursing leadership

The School of Nursing’s Doctor of Nursing Practice in Leadership program has been equipping nurses with the highest level of leadership and practice education since 2013.

Both Jennifer Palagi and Kevin McEwan are alumni of Boise State’s bachelor’s of science in nursing program. After earning their master’s, returning to Boise State for their doctorate was a no-brainer when the school announced the program’s launch.

Now, both of these Doctors in Nursing Practice impact healthcare across Idaho.

Leadership opens the door to a global perspective

McEwan is the chief nursing officer of Madison Health in Rexburg, Idaho. He is responsible for the day-to-day quality of clinical practices, structures and policies for most of the clinical areas of the hospital.

He is also the president of Nurse Leaders of Idaho, a statewide professional organization which supports practice, quality and safety for nurses.

Headshot of Kevin McEwan
Kevin McEwan

“Both my leadership opportunities and the DNP program at Boise State really helped me see nursing much bigger than I had honestly seen before,” McEwan said. “The program gave me an opportunity to look at leading from beyond my hospital walls and community to more of a national and even a global perspective.”

McEwan has been known to offer help to other chief nurses across Idaho when he knows they’re dealing with a challenge. “And they’re a little baffled sometimes why the chief nurse in Rexburg is reaching out,” he said.

“But I think that’s because of that broader perspective of what nursing leadership is. It’s not just caring for your staff or your direct reports. It’s beyond that, if we’re truly going to lead nursing.”

Bringing credibility and compassion as nurse leaders

“I don’t know if there are a lot of nurses who come out of school imagining being in this type of role, but I think more do [now] than ever before,” Palagi said.

Headshot of Jennifer Palagi
Jennifer Palagi

Palagi is one of three deputy directors in Idaho’s Department of Health and Welfare. She oversees the division of public health and the division of self-reliance (what is traditionally known as welfare).

“My whole job is to make sure that people who need access to Idaho resources get that access,” Palagi said. “I absolutely love that I can help lives across Idaho flourish.”

Palagi says it’s her years of public health experience and educational background that allow her to “bring some finesse” to her work expanding programs.

When it comes to engaging multiple stakeholder groups that hold differing viewpoints, it’s her position as a doctoral-prepared nurse that brings credibility as she approaches these conversations with “science and humanity.”

“Nurses are the most trusted profession in the United States and have been for probably 20 plus years running,” she said. “That helps me break down barriers with people because I can bring that caring science into the conversation. And it tends to be a ‘synergizer’ rather than a divider.”

Mutually enriching: Broadening the nursing impact

Nurses are uniquely trained to care for patients as whole people; they bring that same holistic perspective when leading or considering a community. Because of that, McEwan hopes “to have nurses engaged and involved on boards – community boards, school boards, I don’t care if it’s their HOA board,” he laughed, “That global pride is seeing nurses have a voice in their organizations, in their jobs and in their communities.”

Palagi also challenges individuals at the highest levels of nursing professions to “make sure that we’re connecting back with our alma mater so that they know that we can keep impacting lives.”

“We need to continue having nurses aspire to jobs and roles and positions that influence care for hundreds, thousands, hundreds of thousands, millions of people,” she said. “It’s mutually enriching to be a part of the learning cycle of nurses who are continuing to build their credentials from their bachelor’s to their master’s to their doctorate.”

As McEwan’s children were growing up, they questioned why he told people he works as a nurse but didn’t identify his more prestigious roles or titles, like professor or chief officer.

“Being a nurse is the part of my title I’m most proud of,” McEwan said. “I’m not necessarily proud of being a chief or a hospital executive officer. I’m extremely proud of being a nurse.”

Learn more about the DNP program