Pamela Jane Nye of Operation Scrubs: “Leadership is guidance, listening, acting on behalf of the greater good”

Leadership is guidance, listening, acting on behalf of the greater good. A really good nurse leader is visible and approachable. A manager isn’t always a leader. Being good with budget, pointing out deficiencies, attending organizational meetings are necessary; leadership is uplifting and promoting the work of others. Leadership is learning — learning from those you are leading. […]

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Leadership is guidance, listening, acting on behalf of the greater good. A really good nurse leader is visible and approachable. A manager isn’t always a leader. Being good with budget, pointing out deficiencies, attending organizational meetings are necessary; leadership is uplifting and promoting the work of others. Leadership is learning — learning from those you are leading. Good leaders are mentors.

As part of my series about “individuals and organizations making an important social impact”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Pamela Jane Nye, RN, MS, CNS-BC.

As CEO/Owner of Neuroscience Nursing, Ltd., Founder/CEO and Executive Director of Operation Scrubs, Inc., a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, Pamela strives to elevate the knowledge of nurses in the area of brain disorders, diseases, and injury; and to provide hospital leadership with consultation and guidance to obtain and maintain stroke certifications at all levels. Considered an expert in her nursing field, Pamela is also a legal consultant for attorneys, hospitals and routinely volunteer.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

As a child growing up, I found myself being a “helper” from an early age. Did I think I would be a nurse one day? No. It wasn’t until I was college age that I encountered nurses at work — and I was enthralled! I fell in love with the profession, thought nurses were some of the finest people I had ever met. As a high achiever in high school, I thought these nurses were very intelligent, and they modeled what I wanted to be someday.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company or organization?

I believe my company made a huge change in the world of stroke management in Southern California. I was working with a world renown neurologist at the time, as his research nurse. His dismay included the fact that the Los Angeles area had only one Primary Stroke center compared to the rest of the country. I thought, “I can do this…” so I quit my job and struck out as a nurse entrepreneur consulting with 16–18 hospitals and medical centers in Los Angeles County assisting them to receive their Joint Commission accredited Primary Stroke certification. As a result, I became the ‘go to’ expert to hospitals along the West coast.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

One of my funniest moments happened when I was teaching a new nurse how to catheterize a male patient. The new nurse had never done this before, and I was an ‘old hand’ at it. So, we chose an unconscious man to do this, for the comfort of both the patient and the nurse. I assembled all my equipment, held up a special drape with a hole in the center, and placed it across the “important parts.” Next, I gently lifted the important part through the opening in the drape, to which the new nurse said, “Isn’t that cute!” to which this supposedly unconscious man responded, “It’s been called a lot of things, but never cute!” I don’t know who was most amused, me, the new nurse or the patient…it’s hard to suppress laughter in a situation like this. My mistake? Presuming a level of consciousness in this patient that was hardly correct. Anyone hurt? Maybe just some feelings.

Can you describe how you or your organization is making a significant social impact?

As mentioned, I was responsible for guiding corporate level executives in obtaining Stroke Center accreditation. As a result, the standard of care provided to people suffering strokes in their homes, schools, and offices was greatly improved and met a standard set forth by research done by neurological experts in medicine. If someone suffers a stroke in Los Angeles County, they can be assured ambulances will transport them to accredited stroke proficient hospitals, by-passing non-accredited hospitals, thus improving the standard of care for everyone. I’m proud to have been a pioneer for this movement in Southern California.

My nonprofit organization, Operation Scrubs, is focused on knowing and supporting the unsung nurse heroes. 2020 was proclaimed the “Year of the Nurse” by the World Health Organization. That was because May 12, 2020 was the 200th birthday of the iconic nurse, Florence Nightingale. When COVID-19 hijacked 2020, it effectively stole the “Year of the Nurse.” Operation Scrubs intends to reclaim the year by continuing its “Thank A Nurse Challenge” and tribute to Florence Nightingale and all of the 27 million nurses worldwide throughout 2021. Operation Scrubs launched a permanent virtual “Nurses Wall of Gratitude” at the start of National Nurses Week, May 6, with the goal of having one billion people leave their “thank you” to nurses at by midnight on December 31, 2021. It is that easy. There’s no cost to participate. And it takes very little time or effort. Please join them. Leave your “thank you.” As a nurse, I know how meaningful this will be to nurses everywhere. There is nothing more powerful than being appreciated. We’re troopers, we get dirty, we get hurt…and I want America to know we aren’t Hot Lips or Nurse Betty…we have brains and a heart (in that order).

Can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted or helped by your cause?

I remember vividly a man who suffered a frontal lobe brain infarction (clot in the frontal part of the brain where behavior is affected). When the Code Stroke was called, my pager went off, and I arrived in the Emergency Room. This man was wildly swinging his arm, hitting and spitting at the ED staff. They were trying to hold him down and he was fighting them like a wild cat! Knowing that approaching him differently would most likely be effective, I gently approached him in a soft, gentle voice, and with a smile, said, “John, what’s the matter?” By this point, the four security guards who had been wrestling with him, stood back in amazement, as John turned into a pussy cat and smiled back. Frontal lobe…it’s all in the approach! This was most definitely a teaching moment for our hospital security staff, who considered me somewhat of a magician after this incident. After that, I met with them monthly at their staff meeting for occasional updates and teaching communication skills. To this day, when I walk in the hospital, the security staff greet me with a smile and a “good morning.”

Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do to help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?

The world needs to know nurses need adequate staffing and managerial support. Sometimes doing more with less just doesn’t apply to nurses. Their days are full of duties, procedures, plicating physicians, and documenting even the smallest occurrences for legal reasons. Where is the time for the little things, like sitting down with the patient and family and fulfilling the psychological and emotional needs of the frightened and confused? Nurses want to do this and feel guilty when they can’t or don’t. California has mandated staffing levels, which helps immensely.

How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?

Leadership is guidance, listening, acting on behalf of the greater good. A really good nurse leader is visible and approachable. A manager isn’t always a leader. Being good with budget, pointing out deficiencies, attending organizational meetings are necessary; leadership is uplifting and promoting the work of others. Leadership is learning — learning from those you are leading. Good leaders are mentors.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

As a young nurse, I wish someone had told me I couldn’t save everyone. Some of my patients were not going to do well no matter what I did that day. Some would die and I couldn’t change that.

As a young neuroscience nurse, I wish someone had told me how devastating brain disorders would be to the lives of my patients and their families.

As a young professor, I wish someone would have told me how my words would affect the practice of graduate students I encountered. A friend of mine who knew me well, once said, “Does it bother you that your mistakes are now multiplied times 30?” Yikes. It certainly helped me to be careful with my lectures!

As a young nurse entrepreneur, I wish someone had told me not to leave my day job, that in the beginning, there were going to be lean years.

As a newly retired nurse, I wish someone would have told me I would continue to nurse, teach and influence well into my post hospital days.

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

If I could do it, I would figure out how to reduce the cost of healthcare. Nurses and hospitals spend an enormous amount of time and money avoiding litigation. I would cap litigation expense and costs. This one thing would reduce the excessive amount of time doctors and nurses spend on documentation of nonsense. There needs to be a way of identifying frivolous lawsuits before they reach the court system. That said, I believe people are sometimes harmed and need to have compensation; hospitals must lose the image of “deep pockets” in the eyes of the American public. We need to get back to the days of benevolence in patient care in the eyes of patients and families.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“Living well is the best revenge.” In my business, I’ve been promised things that influenced my work, and through lack of fulfilling that promise, caused pain, distrust, and financial loss. It’s my belief, through carrying on, taking the high road through my own ethical practice — I come out as the winner in the end. Thankfully, I seldom feel the need for revenge. I can soothe the hurt by standing tall, setting myself apart from those who would damage my reputation or impact me financially. Nurses are seen as the most trusted professionals for the last 19 years in a row, per the Gallup poll. I’m proud to be in this category.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

Yes! I would like to have lunch with Michelle Obama. I admire her as an influencer, wife, mother, role model to American women. I would ask her to accept the Thank A Nurse Team Challenge at, to post her thank you on the Nurses Wall of Gratitude, and to start Team Michelle.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

I’m most active on LinkedIn and Facebook. My preference is LinkedIn, as I’m kind of tired of looking at last night’s dinner on Facebook.

This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!

Thank you for the opportunity to answer your thoughtful questions! It was my pleasure.

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