NEWS | January 10, 2013

School of Nursing hosts leadership event with award-winning journalist Suzanne Gordon


Suzanne Gordon, an award-winning journalist and author and a visiting professor at the University of Maryland School of Nursing, spoke to more than 100 students, faculty and community members Wednesday evening at a leadership event at the Betty Irene Moore School of Nursing at UC Davis.

Gordon, a writer whose professional work examines issues surrounding communication, teamwork and safety in health care, was the keynote speaker at an event organized by the Zeta Eta Chapter of Sigma Theta Tau International, the Honor Society of Nursing. Her keynote address centered on the concept of “team intelligence,” a term Gordon coined related to the skills individuals need to work together effectively as part of teams and within organizations.

Photo of Suzanne Gordon, copyright UC Regents
Suzanne Gordon

“Teamwork doesn’t come naturally,” Gordon said. “Teamwork is a skill set. These are skills that can be taught.”

In Gordon’s view, skills related to team intelligence are a key component of effective leadership in health care, and should be taught to nurses and other health-care professionals in order to maximize health-care safety. Gordon referenced the changes the aviation industry made to the training, communication and culture of teams in the wake of several major airline crashes as an example of needed reforms within health care.

“There is very little teamwork in health care today,” Gordon said. “You can help people develop skills they can put into practice that can make patients safer and the workplace safer.”

Gordon is the author or editor of 12 books and conducts workshops with nurses around the world. She has been published in The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times and the Journal of the American Medical Association. She co-edits the Culture and Politics of Health Care Work collection at Cornell University Press.

After Gordon’s presentation, attendees—nursing students and faculty from California State University, Sacramento and the Betty Irene Moore School of Nursing at UC Davis, as well as community members— participated in breakout sessions to discuss teamwork and communication problems in health care and concrete steps to address these challenges. The event concluded with a facilitated discussion led by Gordon about the issues and solutions identified in the breakout sessions.

“Twenty years ago when I was first in nursing school, we learned on mannequins—patient simulators. We didn’t learn to communicate and collaborate among ourselves,” said Kristen Connor, a master’s-degree student at the Betty Irene Moore School of Nursing. “I think it’s really great that now we’re learning this new skill set.”

Sigma Theta Tau International, one of the largest international nursing organizations, works to foster, develop and connect nurse scholars and leaders worldwide to improve health care. The honor society promotes nursing excellence through its initiatives in research, leadership, an electronic library, programming and publications and develops and distributes nursing knowledge for use in practice. Membership is by invitation to baccalaureate and graduate nursing students who demonstrate excellence in scholarship and to nurse leaders who demonstrate exceptional achievement in nursing. The organization has chapters in more than 85 countries around the world.

The Zeta Eta Chapter is a joint, regional chapter of Sigma Theta Tau International, made up of members from the School of Nursing at California State University, Sacramento, the Betty Irene Moore School of Nursing at UC Davis and nurse leaders from the community.

About the Betty Irene Moore School of Nursing at UC Davis
The Betty Irene Moore School of Nursing at UC Davis was established in March 2009 through a $100 million commitment from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, the nation's largest grant for nursing education. The vision of the Betty Irene Moore School of Nursing is to transform health care through nursing education and research. Through nursing leadership, the school discovers knowledge to advance health, improve quality of care and health outcomes, and inform health policy. The school's first programs, a doctoral and a master's degree program, opened in fall 2010. Additional students and programs will be phased in over the next decade. For more information, visit