My beginnings: Raja Issa, DNP '18

This story was originally published in Panacea, Summer 2018.

Raja Issa is a certified professional in healthcare quality, patient safety and accreditation. He is working as a Staff Specialist Healthcare at Michigan Medicine, leading Regulatory Readiness for Michigan Medicine’s nurses. He earned his BSN and MSN from the American University of Beirut and earned his Doctor of Nursing Practice degree at the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor. This is the story of his journey in his own words.

I was raised in a family that valued being a good person, caring about other people and doing the right thing. In my search for career options during my junior year of high school, I found that many careers allow one to affect the lives of others positively, though few strive to serve all people, regardless of age, religion, social class, ethnicity, gender identity and past life circumstances. Nursing made perfect sense as my first career choice; however, nursing was not considered a common profession for men in Lebanon. Despite my family’s reservations, I entered the BSN program at the American University of Beirut in 2004.

My experience earning my BSN was extensive. I was challenged every day by situations that allowed me to grow and made me more resilient. I became a better son, brother, friend and man because of nursing.

After graduation, I decided to work in the pediatric intensive care unit. I was the first pediatric male nurse in the hospital. During my first year in nursing practice, I had the chance to journey with a lot of patients and families through the most critical moments of their lives. I had the opportunity to smile, laugh, love, teach, comfort, encourage, cry or simply be with another person in a personal and meaningful way. Nursing has enabled me to recognize who I am as an individual. Just by being who I am, I can send the message that anyone is capable of caring and that service to others is an honorable pursuit regardless of gender.

Being able to flourish as a male pediatric nurse brought strength to other male nurses to join the pediatric team. In the following years, my passion for nursing grew. I wanted to make a change—not only to the lives around me but also to the practices, standards and treatments within the health care system. I went back to school to earn my master’s degree in nursing administration while working full-time as a nurse. During my graduate studies, I learned that nurses are not just caregivers; they are so much more than that. They are advocates, teachers, planners, evaluators, managers and researchers. No career other than nursing allows someone to specialize and fulfill so many roles. In 2010, I had the opportunity to perform my practicum in advanced practice in nursing administration at the Johns Hopkins Hospital and the Johns Hopkins School of Nursing in Maryland. During this experience, I explored new models of care and learned more about the impact of nursing on excellence in health care quality and patient safety.

After moving to Michigan in 2011, I worked in multiple health systems in southeast Michigan. I noticed that excellence in quality is highly personal for everyone working in the industry, but our healthcare system is vastly complex. I recognized that collaboration between disciplines tends to be the exception rather than the rule. I also witnessed the implementation of many clinical and non-clinical interventions but without appropriate ways to measure and evaluate outcomes.