Applying CRNA Leadership Skills to Public Office

CRNAs are widely known as leaders in the operating room, but Jerrod Weems of Morristown, Tennessee, has plans to use the leadership skills he has developed as a CRNA to get elected to and serve on the Hamblen County Board of Education.

“As CRNAs, it is our job to devise individual care plans, listen to our patients, and answer their questions,” said Jerrod, who works for Hamblen Anesthesia at Morristown-Hamblen Healthcare System. “These experiences mold us into critical thinkers and leaders. We would be doing a disservice to not utilize these learned abilities to advocate for our profession and serve as elected officials.”

Jerrod has been on an ambitious career track. He earned his AAS at Walters State Community College, BSN at the University of Tennessee, and MSN from Lincoln Memorial University. Now, just 28 years old, he is already a vital part of an all-CRNA group that ensures patients access to surgical, labor and delivery, and emergency healthcare services. He had often considered running for public office, but always convinced himself not to try. Finally, after several conversations with friends and family, he decided to give it a go.  His aim: To shake up a board of education whose members average more than twice his age and bring needed change to Hamblen County schools.

“The average age of school board members in our community is 64 years old,” said Jerrod. “The next generation of leaders needs to start playing a greater role in government affairs. If COVID-19 has taught us anything, it is that we need more healthcare professionals representing us in government. I hope that together, as CRNAs, we can build a strong cadre of candidates who support each other to get elected. There has never been a better time.”

Jerrod is aware of the large commitment of time entailed with both campaigning for and serving in public office, but he’s determined to put in the work necessary to be successful. His campaign slogan is “A Fresh Vision for a Brighter Future.”

“I always say that you campaign the way you will represent,” he said. “I’ve made it a priority to focus my time on understanding the concerns of educators, parents and students through surveys and direct conversations. I feel like I have a greater sense of understanding about the priorities our community is looking at — and that’s what campaigning is all about.”

Jerrod believes that his understanding of the issues, combined with the leadership skills he’s learned as a CRNA, will prove vital to serving on the board.

“As CRNAs, we must maintain a calm temperament, no matter the situation. This quality is extremely helpful when running for public office,” he said. “Critical thinking skills are imperative in our line of work. They allow us to come up with new ideas and solutions from different perspectives. CRNAs must also be adaptable. In public office, this is important when the demographics of your community vary so much. Having the ability to be adaptable makes you relatable to a larger population.”

In Jerrod’s view, just as important to his campaign to get elected is that fact that CRNAs are, at their core, registered nurses. “Year in and year out RNs are the #1 most trusted profession,” he observed. “And now, more than ever, we need elected officials we can really trust.”

The board of education primary is May 3. Jerrod is running as a Republican against another Republican candidate. There is no Democratic primary. If he wins the primary and nobody petitions to enter the election and run as a Democrat in the August election, Jerrod will be seated on the board of education.

But no matter the end result, Jerrod’s mission of advocating for and educating people about his profession will continue. “I have had the opportunity to speak about nurse anesthesia at all levels of education, from elementary to high school, through career days and fairs,” he said. “I will keep speaking about nurse anesthesia in our schools regardless of the election outcome.”

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