Adrianna Nava made a very wise observation that while your path may not always be clearly defined, opportunities can come when you least expect them. This is certainly true of her career. Adrianna is currently the Chief Nurse of Quality and Systems Improvement (QSI) at the Edward Hines Jr. VA Medical Center and the President-Elect of the National Association of Hispanic Nurses (NAHN). In both roles, she has been a dedicated leader and is working hard to make a positive impact.

Adrianna unknowingly began on her path as an advocate for marginalized populations in 2009 when she was a health policy fellow in Washington, D.C. for former Congressman Xavier Becerra—who is now California’s attorney general and has just been nominated to serve as the Secretary of Health and Human Services by President-Elect Joe Biden. This experience changed the course of her career, and she recognized that both nurses and Latinos were not commonly represented in the halls of Congress—a fact she sought out to change by ensuring that both groups had their voices heard.

As a fellow, Adrianna’s interest in health policy was also sparked—giving her the opportunity to interact with lobbyists who wanted to meet with the former Congressman to discuss legislations, including the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act . This led Adrianna to work toward forging her nursing career with health policy and leadership focus.

“I realized how important it was for front line providers to have a voice in health care decision-making. Many decision-makers don’t hear our voices or know first-hand the challenges that exist in delivering high quality patient care to diverse populations.” 

In 2009 Adrianna joined the Illinois Chapter of The National Association of Hispanic Nurses (NAHN) after being introduced to the professional group through her Aunt Deena, a fellow nurse. A personal experience inspired her decision to run for President of the Illinois chapter in 2011. After losing a patient in the intensive care unit for the first time, Adrianna felt disappointed and concluded that our health care system was insufficient and not set up to deliver optimal patient outcomes. After she was elected as chapter President, she focused on initiating health and prevention programs, empowering nurses to become leaders in their communities, and promoting health and wellness to underserved communities outside of the traditional hospital setting. In less than two years, the Illinois chapter became the fifth largest chapter in the country. Since then, she has served as Vice-President of the NAHN Boston Chapter and is currently on NAHN’s national board of directors as their National President-Elect. She is the first millennial nurse to serve the membership in this national leadership capacity.

Adrianna is setting out to create change, especially in today’s health care landscape. The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the stark health inequities that Latinos continue to encounter—this community has suffered one of the worst COVID-related health outcomes. In addition, Latinos continue to experience lower rates of insurance coverage and health care access when compared to non-Hispanic white and Black Americans. This realization has set Adrianna on a mission, and she plans to utilize her leadership position as NAHN’s National President in 2022 to begin the process of developing national nursing leaders to improve Latino health outcomes. She also plans to develop a leadership program for members through their Latino Leadership Institute, establish a coalition with other Latino-serving organizations, and hopes to have at least one chapter in each state (NAHN currently has a network of 47 local chapters).

Adrianna has leveraged her nursing background to help create change in health care, but how did her nursing journey begin? Initially, Adrianna envisioned herself as a pediatrician because she enjoyed working with children. After exploring both the medical and nursing educational tracks, she pursued and fell in love with the nursing field. Adrianna decided to advance her nursing career in health policy and leadership, which led her to Penn Nursing’s MSN program. For Adrianna, knowledge in health policy is key to greater influence in decision-making at local, state, and national levels. Penn Nursing faculty members Dr. Susan Keim and Lisa Fidyk helped guide Adrianna and broadened her nursing experience to focus more on leadership and health policy. She received her Penn Nursing MSN degree in 2012 which set the stage for her continued education in nursing. Shortly after, Adrianna pursued a PhD at the University of Massachusetts Boston in Health Policy and a MPA in Public Administration at Harvard University.

In addition to dedicating much of her career to the Latino community, Adrianna has also been extremely committed to the VA Healthcare System since 2009, serving Veterans in various nursing roles that include: ICU nurse, Cardiology Research Nurse, and Quality Management. She is honored to serve Veterans and ensures that high quality care is delivered to these heroes every day. She has just accepted a new position as the Chief of QSI at the VA Hines Medical Center and hopes to empower other Latinas to overcome barriers and work toward leadership roles. She looks forward to growing her capabilities within the domain of health care quality and developing her team to lead improvement efforts within their facility. Adrianna shared,

“Sometimes your path is not clearly defined, and opportunities seem to come when you least expect them. I look forward to riding the leadership wave in the upcoming years.”

Random fact: While in the MSN program at Penn Nursing, she was a member of Onda Latina, the salsa performing dance team.