The U.S. faces a critical shortage of nurses — especially Black nurses — and the past two years of the pandemic have proven particularly trying for the field, with tensions and burnout running high. Rallying to nurses’ defense has been Malone, who both champions nurses and challenges them. Her latest cause: increasing the nurse’s role in promoting health equity.
Malone has been described as charismatic, witty, even radical. At the National League for Nursing, an education organization for the field, she has prioritized training a diverse workforce that can provide inclusive and equitable care. In one of her bolder moves, she challenged nursing educators to find ways to incorporate social determinants of health — the conditions in which people are born, work, and live — into their curricula to help ensure patients receive appropriate care. In March 2021, Malone announced a partnership between the NLN and Walden University to launch the Institute for Social Determinants of Health and Social Change, a yearlong leadership academy focused on addressing health inequities and disparities, offered by the NLN Center for Transformational Leadership in Washington, D.C.
Growing up in rural, segregated Kentucky, Malone went on to earn a nursing degree, a master’s in psychiatric nursing, and a doctorate in clinical psychology, and has worked in clinical practice, administration, education, policy advising, and leadership roles. She served for four years as president of the American Nurses Association, and was the first foreigner named general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing, the United Kingdom’s largest professional union of nurses, with some 400,000 members. In 2020, Modern Healthcare named her one of the top five most influential people in health care.
A nurse’s job, Malone has said, “is to accompany the patient and family and community on the journey. That’s who we are. We are with you from cradle to grave.”