Nurse of the Month: Jalil Johnson – National Director of Show Me Your Stethoscope

JalilWe are thrilled to announce that May’s Nurse of the Month is Jalil Johnson: National Director of Show Me Your Stethoscope! Jalil has an amazing story of how he became a nurse and is about to receive his PhD in Nursing – in addition to being the National Director Show Me Your Stethoscope.   His story is inspiring from being laid off as a dishwasher that started him on his journey to completing his Phd – and the work that he is doing in the field of nursing is changing the future of the nursing profession.  Congratulations Jalil – we are thrilled to have you recognized as May Nurse of the Month!

I am the National Director for the Show Me Your Stethoscope Foundation (SMYS) a non profit professional organization based out of Missouri. My role at SMYS is to help nurses achieve professional unity, unlock their own potential for self advocacy, and help enthusiastic nursing professionals make meaningful contributions to their communities and profession. I am a proud dad of 3 children, a clinician (NP), a researcher (PhDc), and educator (Adjunct Professor).

Years working as a nurse: 2000-present.


Current Position: Adult Nurse Practitioner


What brought you into the nursing profession?

My introduction to healthcare and nursing was unintentional. In 1998, while working at as a dishwasher at a chain restaurant, I was asked not to return to work for no other reason than that I was an expendable and quite frankly an unskilled worker. This the feeling of being treated as a dispensable “item” instead of a person resonated with me in a profound way. After a day or so of sulking, I decided to search for opportunities to gain skills and add value to my work ethic. I told my story to a kind gentle man at a technical school who directed me to the certified nurse aid (CNA) program, where I enrolled, completed the course and began working in healthcare in 1998. Working as a CNA was the first time in my adult life that an employer placed greater valued on my work and presence at work, than I placed on earning a living. To be appreciated and valued is truly very powerful. Being appreciated for my skill and knowledge has not only empowered me, but is the basis for why much of my work is dedicated to empowering nurses, healthcare providers and patients.


Where did you get your nursing degree?

First RN/LPN position (and how you got it… we’ve all been there!):

My first formal nursing training was as a CNA at Tennessee Technology Center in Nashville (TTCN). I returned to TTCN to complete my LPN training in 1999 and graduated 2000. I earned my first college degree (associated degree in nursing) was from Columbia State Community College in Columbia Tennessee in 2006. Believe it or not, I was the first African American male to graduate from the Columbia State Community College Nursing program. I earned my BSN at Middle Tennessee State University (2008) and MS (NP training) at the University of Massachusetts Worcester (2010). My doctoral work (PhD) is being completed at The University of Massachusetts Amherst (expected 2016).


Random fact /hobby: I love to ski. Actually, I love to ski really fast down huge mountains. When I’m skiing I have to focus on what I’m doing and my mind is clear from all of my life and professional obligations. It’s truly like my therapy and my church. For this reason, I love winter.


Biggest career challenge and how you’ve overcome it (or how you are currently working to overcome!): My biggest academic challenge was my LPN program as I entered without any of the prerequisite course work that nurses traditionally complete prior to beginning nurse training. The learning curve was quite steep. However, I applied the age old technique—work/study harder, and was able to complete the training. I believe that “working hard” is my talent.

This “talent” was helpful until I completed my doctoral course work and moved into writing my dissertation to complete my PhD. My dissertation work is difficult in a different way as it required various skills and perspectives that were unfamiliar. My new strategy involves mentorship and lots of it. I’ve surrounded myself with incredibly talented, driven, creative and successful people. Creating an environment of mentorship is truly one of the most important steps a person can take to advance their career. For even if we are walking in the shadows of great nurse champions, we are walking with champions nonetheless. There is the saying “you are only as good as the company you keep”. I say, walk with champions and BE a champion. We should all be guided by mentors and as well as mentor others.


Any projects on your desk right now?

There are several projects in the works right now.

  1. My dissertation study is scheduled to begin this spring (2016) and commence over the fall (2016).
  2. Safe Staffing rally #NursesTakeDC safe staffing rally 5/12/16.
  3. Statehouse Staffing Rallies to commence around the USA 5/12/16.
  4. Nurse Hackathon Boston 6/17/2016 – 6/19/2016
  5. SMYS/Hirenurses Medical Mission to Haiti (9/13/16).
  6. SMYS/Hirenurses Medical Mission Bangladesh (10/8/2016).


Do you have a blog or website you would like us to feature?

More information for Show Me Your Stethoscope Foundation can be found at


What item is most useful to you as a nurse? (What piece of equipment or clothing could you NOT do your job without?)

My stethoscope is probably my most handy tool. Aside from auscultating during physical exam, I also use is as a reflex hammer (because no one wants to carry a reflex hammer). The next tool would be websites (UptoDate USPTF) which I visit often to ensure my clinical practice is inline with the most current recommendations for diagnostics, treatments and patient education.


Do you have a fondest memory or favorite nursing experience?

I have two experiences that come to mind. The first is my very first patient interaction. The patient was a middle age quadriplegic gentleman who required total care. This included bathing, feeding, applying a texas catheter and dressing him in a full suit and tie. As a student this was daunting to say the least. I asked my professor for a detailed list of how do approach this job. She gave me some general instructions and informed me that the patient would teach me everything I needed to know. I took care of this patient for several months and he did in fact teach me much of what I now know about give patient care. It has been 15 years since I met that patient and he still holds a special place in my heart. I visit him when I go home to Tennessee and consider him a friend.


The other memory was more recent and involves the safe staffing advocacy work at Show Me Your Stethoscope. I was privileged to meet and speak with executives at the American Nurses Association about the future of the nursing profession and how to unify professional nursing organizations together behind the grassroots safe staffing movement. I come from humble beginnings. To have high level conversations that extend beyond nursing practice and into the sphere of the nursing profession as a whole, that was truly amazing. I am grateful and honored to work for nurses from all around the United States who are advocating for them selves.


What one piece of advice would you pass on to a new nurse? (first year working)

Regardless of your degree or level of practice, you can not go wrong with humility and an inquisitive mind. Experienced professionals appreciate the inquisitive novice. There are no dumb questions. Ask meaningful questions and never assume that your level of educations equates to experience or general knowledge.

Do not emulate negative attitudes. If your colleagues are not welcoming, use it as your fuel to be better. One day you will have to welcome a new nurse. As the next generation of nurses, it is our responsibility to change the culture of nursing for the better by creating environments that welcome, empower and encourage new nurses.

Nurse of the Month: Jalil Johnson National Director of Show Me Your Stethoscope

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