Linda Burnes Bolton, Influential in Modern Healthcare

Profiles in Nursing

Linda Burnes Bolton, Influential in Modern Healthcare

In the service of others

By Elizabeth Hanink, RN, BSN, PHN
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It is easy to see how Linda Burnes Bolton would be named to the list of the 25 most influential women in healthcare by Modern Healthcare Magazine. The list of her accomplishments is extensive and includes her co-development of the Community Collaboration Model, which is now used in over 100 communities to promote healing through collective knowledge, skills and commitment.         

She holds appointments at UCLA, UC San Francisco, and Cal State Los Angeles. She is a Fellow of the American Academy of Nurses, of which she is a past president. She is also vice president and chief nursing officer at Cedars-Sinai Health System and Research Institute, where she directs nursing research.

Sounds almost frenetic! Yet in speaking with Dr. Bolton, what comes across is a very thoughtful and reflective person who has spent her nursing career consciously trying to make patient care better. She has spent over 30 years in the same institutional environment, a real rarity in a profession that seems to thrive on constant flux.

Childhood Illness

Her commitment to nursing has been lifelong, ever since she endured frequent hospitalizations with childhood asthma. These trying times fostered in her a love of nurses and nursing, which she pursued through a BSN from Arizona State University, an MA in nursing and public health, and a Ph.D. in public health from UCLA.

A career focus on the social determinants of health and well-being began then with a study of pre-term labor and its prevention by increasing the support and mentoring an expectant mother receives. Dr. Bolton has also been influential in the areas of diversity in nursing, the study of nursing outcomes, and more locally, the study of staffing ratios.

Minding the Gap

In 2002 she was appointed to the National Advisory Council on Nursing Education and Practice. Later she became chair of the National Advisory Committee for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation initiative to Transform Care at the Bedside. In 2007 she received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Organization of Nurse Executives.

More recently Dr. Bolton also has been involved in National Black Nurses Foundation effort “Minding the Gap: Improving Mental Health Access-Eliminating Stigma” that deals with depression in the black community. Currently she is co-investigator for the Collaborative Alliance for Nursing Outcomes research team.

Coming Together

How does Dr. Bolton see all these accomplishments? Through the prism of “servant leadership,” or the giving of one’s self to make change whether with an individual patient or as a formulator of policy. This idea also involves optimizing one’s own talents to put in the service of others.

Equally important is the recognition that no one person can make a society healthy. The process involves the efforts of everyone and requires working not only to help the particular patient, but at the same time the entire community through collaboration, proper allocation of resources, and increased knowledge.

Her contributions to nursing and community health make a strong argument for participation in professional organizations both at the local and national level. “No one alone can make it happen.”

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