As a member of the United States Navy Reserve, Randy “Joey” Ryan brings a unique perspective to nursing. Joey, who is currently a senior at the Stony Brook School of Nursing, in Stony Brook, N.Y., is vice president of the National Student Nurses’ Association (NSNA), president of the Stony Brook Student Nurses’ Association (SBSNA), and was recently named a 2017 Johnson & Johnson Global Citizen Young Health Leader. Despite his accomplishments as a nursing leader, Joey says his ultimate goal is to make a positive impact in patients’ lives as their nurse. Read on to learn more about how his past has impacted his current trajectory as an emerging health leader.
Nursing Notes (NN): Can you share a little bit about your experience in the Navy?
Joey: I graduated high school and didn’t have the funds or the discipline to attend college. I didn’t really have the structure to make the best out of college then. I decided to go into the Navy because I wanted to give back to those who served before me, and also because I knew going into the military would give me the structure I needed. After I went through boot camp, I worked on the flight deck, and I was stationed on the U.S.S. Bataan. While I was stationed there, we had two, nine-month deployments for "Operation Iraqi Freedom" and a relief mission to Haiti.
NN: Can you share a little bit about what inspired you to become a nurse?
Joey: My grandfather had a tumor on his spine that left one side of his body paralyzed, and he developed a pressure ulcer down to his bone while I was on deployment. I received an email to come home, and when I got there, my grandfather was still holding on in the hospital. When I saw him, I really broke down. It was extremely hard for me to see him like that because I was so close to him. He ended up passing away about an hour after I arrived due to sepsis caused by the pressure ulcer. After I went back to work, I thought about my grandfather and how the outcome could have been different if some preventative measures were taken. I thought about what I could do to be someone who helps others and make myself happy. Nursing was really the ideal option. I want to be that advocate for patients.
NN: How did you become involved with NSNA?
Joey: I moved to New York specially to attend Stony Brook University. I applied, came up for an interview, and told myself that if I got into nursing school, I had to be as involved as possible to really make the most out of my education. I am so grateful for the opportunity to attend college, so I want to make sure I leave an impact not only at my nursing school, but in the community as well. At orientation, we were told about the Stony Brook Student Nurses Association (SBSNA) Chapter, and after I joined, several past members became my mentors. From there, I became SBSNA treasurer and decided to run for a position on the NSNA Board of Directors. Prior to arriving for the annual convention in Texas, I had decided that I wasn't going to run; however, I changed my mind that evening at the national convention. I decided I really had to go for it, and I applied to become the NSNA vice president.
NN: How has your involvement with NSNA and SBSNA impacted your nursing career moving forward?
Joey: When I came to Stony Brook and became part of SBSNA, the door really opened for me. It has molded me into the leader that I am today, in addition to my time in the Navy. I have really had to acclimate myself to a lot of different situations. I have had good leaders and bad leaders, and learned from them all. I think as a nursing student, it is so important to be involved in a professional organization so you can be immersed in nursing while also developing as a well-rounded individual.
NN: What plans do you have for your term as SBSNA president?
Joey: At the end of the day, I am trying to push people out of their comfort zones. There is no SBSNA without the Board of Directors and organization members. If I can put my board of directors outside their comfort zone and help them through challenges – then I am happy. Ultimately, I try to have our organization make an impact in our community, and help nursing students transition into their professional roles as nurses.
NN: Do you have any goals for your term as NSNA Board of Directors Vice President?
Joey: Having nearly 60,000 members is a lot – and makes me so excited for the future and for global healthcare! The members are so diverse and empowered, it is truly amazing. I hope to increase membership, but also ensure that all our members know they are not just a number— they are the foundation of NSNA and they keep the organization moving forward.
NN: How will you use your experience as a Johnson & Johnson Global Citizen Young Health Leader to achieve your nursing goals?
Joey: Just to be nominated as a Johnson & Johnson Young Health Leader is truly an honor. Being abroad and on mission trips, I have seen a lot of people who do not have access to healthcare. It was truly heart wrenching to see, and I think we need to remember that when we are trying to make an impact abroad. Solutions don’t just happen overnight. To achieve our goals domestically and globally, we have to remember to slowly chip away at the problems. People around the world are counting on us. Our projects and ideas may not always be successful, but collaboration with other Young Health Leaders will be a great step to brainstorming ways to achieve global health goals.
NN: This past week, you attended the Global Citizen Festival. What did you learn that will impact how you move forward in your career path?
Joey: Having the opportunity to be around such motivational and inspirational people who want to make a change in this world was truly heartwarming. I learned there are many issues going on around this world that must be addressed and, as a Young Health Leader, I feel the desire to bring these issues to the forefront. I think that it is imperative that I talk to my colleagues and express to them that we should take a stance and figure out how we can help eradicate poverty and the struggles people are dealing with worldwide. I will take what I learned at the Global Citizen Festival and incorporate it into my everyday lifestyle.
NN: For those who weren't able to attend the festival, what should we know about Global Citizen?
Joey: To make an impact, it takes one person; to make a change and successfully accomplish our goal of eradicating poverty by 2030, it takes a team. I challenge the Young Health Leaders and Ambassadors to go out in the community and share their experience with one person or a group of people. Global Citizen is about coming together to make a change and challenge our colleagues and peers to do the same. I encourage everyone to take that leap of faith and educate themselves on what is going on around the world.
To learn more about the recent 2017 Global Citizen Festival and the work Johnson & Johnson is doing in partnership with many organizations to improve the health of people around the world, visit jnj.com/progress.