Virtual gathering provides social connection for nurse scientists

Zoom room image on computer screen.When the coronavirus pandemic shut down in-person events nationwide, the National Office for the Betty Irene Moore Fellowships for Nurse Leaders and Innovators transitioned its inaugural in-person convocation to an online gathering that fostered social connections and launched the inaugural cohort. On a larger scale at the same time, the social impact of the coronavirus pandemic, as well as the recognition of structural racism and inequality, played out on the global stage.

Convocation is a cornerstone event of the fellowship, funded by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, as it helps build community and fosters connection among fellows, faculty and the Fellowship National Advisory Council. As part of the one-week event, which took place July 27-31, fellows participated in leadership development activities led by the national program office, UC Davis Graduate School of Management and national thought leaders in the area of health care innovation.

The inaugural cohort joined convocation from their own homes, meeting with program leaders, faculty and each other via Zoom. The online event kicked-off with an introduction to the Fellowship National Advisory Council and the opportunity for everyone to share how both the pandemic and structural racism have affected their lives and communities. The discussion included opportunities to sustain and accelerate positive changes in policy, practice and the integration of technology in response to demands of the pandemic and social change. Conversations highlighted the importance of engaging in anti-racist work. During convocation sessions, Zoom breakout rooms allowed fellows to connect on a more personal level, helping foster community in a time of social distancing and to continue to talk about the important topics raised early in the week.  

Heather M. Young, national program director for the Betty Irene Moore Fellowships for Nurse Leaders and Innovators, said having an online space for the fellows to talk about their passion for nursing, leadership and research, as well as develop new relationships, energized the group.

“Our fellows made valuable new social connections in a time when that is extremely difficult to do because of the public health crisis and the need for social distancing,” Young said. “They now have a new group of supporters cheering them on and encouraging them in all aspects of their lives. Those are the types of peer-mentorships and friendships that last a lifetime.”

After a week filled with sessions focused on leadership skills, developmental networks and technological innovation, the fellows ended their convocation experience with a virtual dinner party. The opportunity to break bread and engage in conversation helped solidify the relationships built throughout the week.

Young said she hopes next year’s convocation can take place in-person at the Betty Irene Moore Hall on the Sacramento UC Davis campus, but that connecting online has proven to be a positive experience.

“I’ve been so impressed by our fellows’ willingness to be open and vulnerable with the entire group despite having never physically met,” Young said.