Program Data

HomeProgram ImpactProgram Data

"I am different - I think differently: bigger, broader. I am braver. I see possibility all the time."

"I am a much better mentor to other colleagues - networking and reaching out to others is now a normal part of my leadership style, which has a wonderful ripple effect for those who work with me."

"I applied for, was offered and took a position as President & CEO. I am certain I would not have done so had I not gone through the program and I am equally certain I would not be as effective a leader."

"I moved from a highly effective, but internally focused organizational leader to a highly effective but radically more externally focused leader (without losing my organizational base)."

"I developed far more courage and confidence about what I was capable of doing to really make a difference as a leader."

"I changed as a person and as a nurse leader as a result of the retooling of the skills I possessed when I joined the program. "

"I became better able and more willing to actively pursue professional and personal goals. In essence, I began to "write the script" for my future."

"The ENF fellowship created a national network of colleagues for me that have greatly impacted my career and success. It is invaluable. The linkage to RWJ is also invaluable!"

"I've learned to be courageous re: innovation & creativity and to be comfortable with ambiguity."

"I began to view myself as an executive for the first time ever. It was a very profound experience for me."

"I absolutely broke through a key factor in self awareness that was sabotaging my effectiveness and progress. Have been promoted two times since and increased area of accountability."

"It gave me the confidence to stretch to new areas/fields/positions as a nurse. I had 2 excellent mentors who have continued to be part of my life."

"I changed positions; undertook projects that I would not have taken on had it not been for the RWJ ENFP. Became much more involved in nursing at the national level."

"I took huge risks in some positions I have accepted due to confidence and a feeling of support from the program. I carry myself from an internal sense of leadership. I had new skills. I have a national network of peers from all sectors of nursing. It immediately opened new doors for me. "

"I developed the confidence to take on a major organizational change that is continuing to impact a university. The association with RWJ opened doors and I knocked on them shamelessly."

"I developed the skills to recognize the need for changes in my leadership solutions as situations changed. Being able to move from a "safe" way of dealing with challenges to knowing I am able to call on new strategies and skills made a stunning difference in my leadership effectiveness."

"I gained a much broader perspective on leadership in general and worked on my strengths and weaknesses. Most importantly, I became a health care policy fanatic and pursue influencing health care quality and patient safety every day as well as mentoring the same to my masters' and doctoral students. I also gained a much better ability to be politically savvy in complex situations at all levels."

"The entire program was a blessing to me – awesome rewarding experience."


"I now have so much insight into my blind spots. I know who drives me nuts and what I need to do to prepare for to interact with these people that have different styles than me. I know how to take care of myself, such as how to block my calendar to give me time to think."


"These people (alumni) are my personal support – we share life events, and when I have specific questions. I email people in my cohort and others that I know. It is nice to have this 'library of personal consultants'." 


"ENF changed my perspective on what I wanted to do and how I wanted to contribute. After participating in ENF, (in 2005) I became the head of the leadership and management program at a large School of Nursing. I directly relate my ENF experience to this work. I would not have even considered running a leadership program.  I never would have known that developing others interested me."


"When I first got into the RWJF program, I never imagined that I would be in a dean position (current job) I didn't have the confidence or the skills. The program made me believe in myself and build the skills needed. I could finally see 'Yes, it is possible to go to the next level.' "


"I was accomplished on my own but ENF helped me hone the skills I had and take them to a higher level.  This training put us (nurses) on par with other executives (outside of the health field) such as those in business. The value to us was that it took nursing leaders and made us Executives. Most nurses haven't had this kind of executive training opportunity."


"Overall, the expanded professional network was very important. Being able to contact people for support and resources is helpful."

The first of two evaluations—commissioned in early 2000 as RWJF prepared to decide whether to fund three more classes of fellows—assessed the program's design. The evaluator, John R. O'Neil, reported "unanimous agreement about the general efficacy of the program" and concluded it was superior in many respects to other leadership programs he had observed.

His recommendations included strengthening the mentoring program—which he said was "working unevenly"—and using veteran fellows to help coach new fellows.

In 2001, RWJF authorized a second and more extensive evaluation in preparation for a decision on funding a third series of fellowship classes. The evaluator, the Lewin Group, reported in October 2002 that the program "has established a solid foundation and strong reputation." However, the report also made a number of recommendations to improve operations, including consideration of increased funding to pay for additional program staff. In 2005, the Lewin Group conducted another evaluation that concluded that the program "occupies a unique niche, providing rich opportunities to translate enhanced leadership skills into heightened effectiveness across service, education and public health sectors. It also increasingly serves as a model and catalyst in seeding new leadership development programs."

Report prepared by: Michael H. Brown
Reviewed by: Richard Camer and Molly McKaughan
Program Officers: Terrance Keenan, Susan B. Hassmiller and Maryjoan D. Ladden
Evaluation Officer: Nancy Fishman

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) Executive Nurse Fellows (ENF) is a leadership development program designed to prepare a select cadre of registered nurses (R.N.s) who are in senior executive positions for influential roles in shaping the U.S. health care system of the future. At RWJF, General Robert Wood Johnson was the original champion for nursing. But Terry Keenan was a close second. In 1996 when he was developing ENF, Terry Keenan was ahead of his time. He knew changes in healthcare were needed and recognized that nurses had the skills required to make a big contribution in 3 areas: service, education, and improving the health of the public. Terry was one of RWJF's first employees and this program's most persistent champion at the Foundation. In early discussions about the ENF program, Terry was adamant that the program be about leadership – not management. He defined leadership as providing vision and direction and management as doing all the activities that lead to outcomes. This was a radical shift in perspective at the time as nurses often achieved leadership positions by mastering basic management skills. Terry set out to give nurses a new set of tools we could use to realize our strong leadership potential. Terry and the Foundation selected the UCSF Center for the Health Professions as the first national program office. In April 2010, RWJF moved the National Program Office to the Center for Creative Leadership in Greensboro, N.C. The first RWJF authorization for the program was to develop a core of 45 senior nurse leaders and have their leadership spread across the US. This was 15 per year x 3 cohorts – beginning in 1998. Terry championed the program within RWJF and got the program re-authorized and the number of fellows increased from 15 to 20 per cohort. The first cohort was in 1998.  Today over 200 nurses have graduated from the program.