Volunteer Profile: Steven Tyler (MEYERS ’15)
Despite the demands of being a nursing leader during an unprecedented healthcare crisis, the events of the past year and a half have redoubled Steven’s commitments as an alumni volunteer.
Steven Tyler (MEYERS ’15) [he/him/his] recently won Volunteer of the Year at this year’s Alumni Volunteer Recognition and Service Awards during NYU Alumni and Parents Weekend. It was a high moment capping off an eventful year for Steven, who, in 2020, earned his Doctorate of Nursing Practice from Yale University. Following on the heels of this achievement, he led an NYC emergency department through the early days of the Covid-19 pandemic and recently began a new role as Patient Care Director at New York Presbyterian Hospital, Weill Cornell Medical Center.
According to Steven, the demands of being a nursing leader during an unprecedented healthcare crisis in many ways redoubled his commitments as an alumni volunteer. “I stay involved to encourage other nurses that aspire to be nurse leaders that this program will prepare them,” he says. “I would encourage other alumni to get involved because nursing is in a very pivotal place right now post-pandemic, and we need strong nursing leaders to shape the future of nursing. We need our alumni to promote this program to ensure that the next generation of nurse leaders are prepared.”
You’re a member of the NYU Nursing Administration Alumni Advisory Council and recently won Volunteer of the Year at this year’s Alumni Volunteer Recognition and Service Awards (Congratulations!). How did you first become involved/what inspired you to become involved as an alumni volunteer with NYU?
Upon graduation, the Program Director, Eloise Cathcart, selected me to receive the award as the “distinguished student” for my cohort (Class of 2015). Professor Cathcart would always encourage us all to come to class prepared to reflect on our day-to-day work experiences and challenges. I was promoted to my first Nurse Manager role in the final semester of the Nursing Administration program, and this would make the stories that I shared particularly intriguing for Professor Cathcart. Professor Cathcart would listen attentively and then impart her leadership knowledge and wisdom, walking me through identifying how I could have more skillfully handled situations. In the process of doing so, she would encourage us all that we would be prepared to perform the work of the Nurse Manager. I knew that she believed in me and saw a bright light in me and my future nursing leadership practice, even when at times for me that light seemed a little dim or flickering.
NYU’s organizational culture of support and mentorship for its students was a main driver for my decision and vocation to stay connected to NYU and the nursing administration program in any way that I could. I kept in close contact with Professor Cathcart. She was a mentor to me from day one, and I really valued her feedback and her emphasis on “reflection;” Our classroom reflection was something that I really missed and it left a sort of “void” upon graduation.
Professor Cathcart invited me as a guest speaker to her class a few times. It was a great opportunity to meet and speak with current students of the program, share with them where I was in my career post-graduation, and offer advice and wisdom, including how the program prepared me for the road ahead. I felt honored to have this opportunity and I really enjoyed it. It was eye-opening to now be on the other side of the classroom, and it felt like “home” to be back at NYU. It made me realize that I would one day love to teach a nurse leadership course at NYU. Nonetheless, this sense of a “void” lingered in my mind and became more apparent with each visit back to the classroom. There were many different professional organizations for nurse leaders to participate and engage in, but there was still this missing link with staying connected to NYU, and specifically, staying connected with fellow nursing administration alumni.
In staying in close contact with Professor Cathcart, one day she reached out to me. She also knew something was missing for alumni of the program, but she couldn’t fill that missing piece on her own. She pitched the idea of formulating some sort of alumni group to bring us all back together. When Professor Cathcart “taps” you for something, you don’t say no! I was honored to be asked to help, and I immediately said “yes!” It was such an important decision, and I have had so much fulfillment from meeting and collaborating with many other alumni (such as chair of the Nurse Administration Alumni Council, Renee Sanchez). Prior to Professor Cathcart connecting us, I had no idea of where to even begin with bringing this group of alumni together. I’ve since met so many alumni and nursing leaders in the tri-state area through our events. I’ve learned so much from so many inspiring and experienced nurse leaders through these networking opportunities.
Why do you stay involved with NYU? Why would you encourage other alumni to get involved?
I stay involved because it is fulfilling and satisfies my “why” as a leader. I am very proud of graduating from NYU and the Nurse Administration program, and I think this program is really unique in preparing one to lead. The program is rigorous and students partake in leadership clinicals with distinguished, well experienced nurse leaders where they can understand and witness real-life leadership triumphs and challenges. This isn’t an all-virtual program. You do not choose who you do your clinical hours with to just check off that the hours are completed. The program director assesses where you are in your leadership journey and strategically pairs you with someone who would be a perfect fit for your leadership development. There is a distinct difference in leaders that have received education in a nursing administration program, particularly at NYU. We are better prepared to lead the real-world nursing challenges with a sense of calm, putting the internal goods of the practice at the very forefront.
What’s your proudest (or most fun) moment from serving on the Council?
The NYC Chief Nursing Officer (CNO) panel, pre-Covid, was the first event that really brought NYU alumni and NYC nurse leaders together in volume, in-person. It solidified that this council had a purpose, to fill a void that we were missing. Nurse leaders wanted this content, they wanted a place to come together, to reconnect, and to network. Margaret McClure, who for twenty years was the chief nursing officer at NYU Medical Center, and who’s research served as the basis for today’s Magnet Hospital program, was in the audience. It was such a big deal!
Most recently, we organized and hosted an NYU Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) Admin information session that was attended by 60+ individuals and led to several applicants to the program. This will continue to boost NYC with strong nurse leaders.
How did your NYU education prepare you for everything you’ve experienced the past year and a half?
The experiential learning gained through reflection was a unique component of class time at NYU that prepared me to lead. I was groomed to always stay calm “when on stage,” to manage my comportment; because how I am acting on stage sets the tone for everyone else, including the staff.
When the pandemic began, I was leading an Emergency Department in Brooklyn, NY. There were so many unknowns. Everyone was scared. I stayed calm and was supportive of the staff. I encouraged everyone to just do the best that they could under the circumstances. My job at that moment, as I learned at NYU, was to provide the staff with the tools that they needed to provide safe, high-quality patient care.
So this included securing PPE, which me and my ED leadership team did really well on (by securing our inventory immediately, having a well-detailed sign out process so that PPE could be closely monitored and there would be enough for everyone that needed it).
Again, one of the most simple concepts was being present and being engaged. Listening. Hearing staff’s stories. Being understanding to everyone’s emotional needs and understanding that the pandemic was affecting everyone differently. There would be staff that would come in and just have a mental breakdown on the unit. We provided them appropriate well-being resources to ensure that they received the help that they needed. They were in no shape to work and take care of patients. Sure we needed nurses and staff to take care of patients, but we also needed to ensure the well being of the team. So in these instances, the staff were advised to go home. It was important to take the well-being of all of the staff very seriously during this time and it is still very important to this day. So my NYU education prepared me to prioritize and understand what my role is. Yes, it is to lead high quality care of the patients, but we need to make sure that the staff are well enough to provide that care first.
What would you say to current NYU students preparing for a career in healthcare?
Make sure you are going into a career in healthcare for the right reasons. This is the right career for you if you want to make a difference or impact in someone’s life and their significant others. If you are going into healthcare for other reasons, I wouldn’t advise on it.
Did you have any NYU classes or instructors who inspired or impacted you?
My program director, Eloise Cathcart. She is an inspiration every day. I always think “well, what would Eloise do?” when making difficult decisions.
What is your favorite NYU memory?
My first nursing classes (before the new nursing and dentistry building on First Avenue) were actually at the main campus. I absolutely loved hanging out around Washington Square Park between classes as well as at Bobst Library. I went to a small, local college for my undergraduate degree so experiencing the “city feel” of NYU during my graduate studies was amazing and exciting to me. I loved being immersed within the city and meeting so many people from all over the world and hearing their stories.
What is your favorite:
- Food? Fried dough with powdered sugar. My great grandmother would always make this unhealthy but fulfilling treat for me during my childhood.
- Book? Michael Cohen’s What You Accept is What you Teach.
- TV Show and/or Movie? Everything on CNN and CNBC
- Song and/or Musical Artist? Sofi Tukker and Sylvan Esso
- Place in New York City? Independently-owned coffee shops
- Social distancing activity? Off-hour meetings that can now be Zoomed at home