Nursing alumna Kenya Haney: Fierce leader, minority health-care advocate
As a little girl, Kenya Haney read medical textbooks that her aunt, a nurse with Lupus, had around the house. She knew more about the body system and caring for an ill loved one than most children.
“There is not a time in my life that I can recall not worrying about my aunt and wanting to take care of her,” says Haney, BSN 2010, as she traces the roots of her nursing career.
She was raised in north St. Louis in The Plaza housing projects before she moved to south St. Louis and went to Parkway School District schools as a deseg student. Now, she’s director of Cardiology Services and Respiratory Care Services at both Progress West Hospital in O’Fallon, Mo., and Barnes-Jewish St. Peters Hospital.
Her climb to her directorship was a spectacular one.
When she entered the RN to BSN program in the College of Nursing at the University of Missouri–St. Louis, Haney already had her associate’s degree from St. Louis Community College at Forest Park and was on track to rise through the ranks of the National Student Nurses’ Association.
“I was looking for a school to complete my BSN, but I was already campaigning to run for president of NSNA. I wanted to be challenged, but still be in a program that was OK with having a student who traveled as much as I did.”
Juliann Sebastian, dean of the College of Nursing at that time, assured and supported Haney in her ambitions. While she worked as a registered nurse at Christian Hospital in St. Louis and studied for school, Haney simultaneously served as president of NSNA. She was the national leader of a 63,000-member professional nursing association and also the first black female to hold the position.
“Believe it or not, it was so surreal,” she says. “President Obama had recently been elected, and then NSNA elected a woman named Kenya. It was a hat I wore with honor and one I took very seriously.”
During her term from 2009-10, Haney combined her love of nursing and policy to represent students across the nation and internationally. That experience has paid off, especially for St. Louis. While still deeply involved with NSNA as vice president of the foundation, Haney has focused her efforts locally this year with the Black Nurses Association of Greater St. Louis.
The original chapter, founded in 1972, dissolved in 2004 due to aging members. Haney, with the help of the nursing community, has revitalized the organization. BNA helps promote better health care for minorities throughout the region through health screenings, fairs, expos and educational forums as well as assisting first-responders in north St. Louis County. It’s composed of all levels of nurses, including students and retirees.
“Right now our goals are simple in nature. We want to raise enough money to give away four scholarships at the end of the year to nurses continuing their education,” says Haney. “We are a small nonprofit and this investment is one that stays in our community.”
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