Jo Burdick, Alumni Leading Our Community

Jo Burdick, MSN, RN

Director of Clinical Excellence, Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Dakota
Nursing, 1984

“Open communication is the most effective way to keep a team functioning well.”

What experience or what person at MSUM had the greatest influence in impacting your career path?

Jo Eklund was one of my nursing professors, my advisor, and my touchstone as I went through the two-plus-two program (associate degree to bachelor’s degree in nursing) at MSUM. She pushed me to think about nursing from a different perspective and opened my eyes to new aspects of nursing I might not have considered exploring. She once said, “there is more to life than acute care nursing.” That really made me think outside the box and started me on a trajectory in my nursing career that opened many doors and became the focus of my nursing profession.

What professional experience has had the greatest influence in shaping you as a leader?

I was fortunate to be chosen as a Robert Wood Johnson Executive Nurse Fellow for the time-period 2006-2009. This three-year leadership experience changed my professional and personal life in many ways.

What are the most important characteristics of a great leader?

The most important characteristics of a great leader are resilience, fairness, good listening, transparency, inclusiveness, empathy.

There’s a lot of talking about leaders being vulnerable and/or transparent. Do you think it’s important?  

It’s important to communicate all the information you are able so that people are not surprised by future events or plans that may impact them. Providing people with the information you can will make them more at ease and prepared for events and changes to come. I am a firm believer that open communication is the most effective way to keep a team functioning well.

I believe in working hard on the operational aspect of things but also feel that the relationship a person has with the people they work with is equally as important. When you have trust within your team and know and care about each other as people, you are not afraid to show your feelings and that you are human, too.

What is the biggest challenge facing leaders today?

Changes in technology and discovery within the scientific world happen so rapidly today. It is important to stay informed and have good sources to rely on to stay up to date. Finding time to read and research is difficult but with the right resources a person can stay informed.

We must continue to learn something new every day. Even if you have been in the same role for many years, there are always changes occurring in every field of work and learning what those are is important to the work we do.

The lack of an adequate workforce in the service and healthcare industry is also very concerning as the looming shortages for nurses and other healthcare providers is something that is beginning to be realized today in almost all communities.

What’s one mistake you see leaders making frequently?

Lack of communication and not listening to the ideas of the people they manage. Lincoln was successful because he surrounded himself with others who would offer differing opinions. I believe that is very important.

What do you enjoy most about being a leader in our community?

I have been fortunate to have worked in this community for many years and established relationships with various organizations that have provided me with education, learning, and enjoyment. I enjoy giving my time to these organizations because, in some small way, I may be helping others. It also makes me feel good to give back. In a way it is what President Kennedy said, “Ask not what your Country can do for you, but what you can do for your Country.” It feels right to give back to others who have provided so much to me.

As a leader, what is the most important thing you do every day?

Work with and support the people around me. I would never ask them to do something I would not be willing to do myself. I want to know what might be happening in their lives that makes work harder that day (if they want to tell me). I listen to their concerns and work together with them to solve the day’s issues. I provide a positive but realistic attitude so they know I understand their difficulty, but also help them to understand we will get through it together.

What advice would you give someone striving to advance to a leadership role within their organization?

Look for leadership opportunities. Have managerial courage to put yourself out there. Don’t be afraid. Learn as much as you can about the organization you work for. Believe in what the company stands for and enjoy the culture. Find what fits you. You may be asked to do something you don’t think you can do, but once you try, you will succeed.

Look to opportunities outside your place of work. Apply for leadership courses, grants. Volunteer for boards in your community and within your professional organizations. These things will all build leadership skills that you can carry into a variety of settings.

Final thoughts?

I had the opportunity to serve on the MSUM Alumni Board for several years and learned so much about the University. I knew how important the nursing program at MSUM was to me and how it helped shape the rest of my nursing career. That experience provided me with so many learning opportunities that I continue to use in my work today. Thank you for the opportunity to participate in the MSUM Leaders Campaign.