New Jersey Nurse Leader Offers Guiding Hand
Veronica Onwunaka, 50, is a native of Imo State in Nigeria. She migrated to the United States in 1990 in search of the American dream. Prior to coming to the United States, she studied nursing in her native Nigeria, training at Lagos University Teaching Hospital. A divorced mother of four children, she earned her bachelor’s degree in nursing in 2009 from Jacksonville University in Florida.
With four teenagers, life can often be a juggling act. “I enjoy spending time with my children,” says Onwunaka, “but as a single parent I have to be both mom and dad and so I am demanding because I know their lives depend on it. I know they need a strong, steady, guiding hand.”
A good nurse leader also needs a strong, steady, guiding hand, and as director of nursing at the New Community Extended Care Center, a 180-bed skilled nursing facility owned and operated by New Community Corporation in Newark, N.J., she provides a constant source of guidance and direction.
“I believe that nurses have the ability to affect change in nursing practice,” she said. “I also know that in order for nurses to take a lead in advancing healthcare, they have to possess the educational qualifications needed to do so. For this reason, supporting nurses to continue their education is a priority in my leadership role at New Community.”
Currently, the 11 nursing assistants working under Onwunaka are enrolled in different nursing schools; some are becoming licensed practical nurses while others are entering registered nurse programs. Six of her licensed practical nurses are in different nursing schools aspiring to become registered nurses, while three of her registered nurses are in school pursuing bachelor’s degrees. All have expressed their intention to remain employed with New Community Extended Care Center. Between 2004 to present, six nursing assistants who worked with Onwunaka have become licensed practical nurses, all sponsored by New Community. Two Catholic nuns passed their state boards as registered nurses while remaining on her staff, and one of her nursing supervisors is also in school at Kean University studying for her master’s degree.
Leading by example, Onwunaka is currently pursuing a Master’s in Healthcare Administration. Onwunaka’s leadership skills extend beyond the workplace as she continues to engage outside organizations to address healthcare issues. She is a member of the New Jersey Association Directors of Nursing Administration and the Nigerian Nurses Association. She is also vice president of five of the seven Nigerian cultural organizations to which she belongs. She serves as a mentor to the Nigerian Nurses Association and has been an advocate of bringing domestic violence awareness to Nigerians in the diaspora following the death of seven Nigerian nurses in 2007. Another association of which she is a member purchased medical supplies and over-the-counter medications for a small health center in her native village to help monitor, treat and maintain the health of people there.
“Being a nurse has been very rewarding and fulfilling,” she said. “Being the Director of Nursing in a facility for over 20 years that serves the inner-city poor has given me the opportunity to mentor many nurses, including those just starting out in the profession. It is a good feeling to know that I have played a role in helping nurse colleagues prepare for the future.”
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|by New Jersey Action Coalition | April 10, 2014|