Professional role models and mentors are vital to nurses’ personal and career development. Their influence goes beyond the classroom or workplace, extending into the very fabric of a nurse’s career and life. Celebrated in November, National Inspirational Role Models Month recognizes individuals who inspire and guide others through their actions, passion, and dedication to their work and community. 

What the Research Tells Us 

Having a role model improves not only a nurse’s motivation but their physical (intrinsic) health as well, researchers found in a 2019 study. They found that role models may also increase nurses’ self-esteem and interest in their chosen profession.  

Professional role models also have been shown to improve a nurse’s self-efficacy. Additionally, serving as a role model for other nurses is an important competency for nurse leaders. 

A Beacon of Excellence 

ONS member Anne Moser, MPH, BSN, RN, CPHQ, Senior Quality Improvement and Risk Administrator at Oklahoma Cancer Specialists and Research Institute in Tulsa, OK, lovingly called ONS member Ruth Dunn, company administrator at Oklahoma Cancer Specialists and Research Institute, “one of Oklahoma's greatest oncology nursing role models.” With more than 25 years of experience, Dunn’s journey from an oncology-certified infusion nurse to her current role as executive director is a testament to her dedication and passion. 

“Ruth is a true inspiration to the numerous patients, physicians, and staff members with whom she interacts on a daily basis,” Moser said. “She is one of the most genuine, empowering, altruistic, knowledgeable, and caring people I have ever known. She embodies the essence of oncology care as her true purpose.” 

Moser particularly noted how undeniable Dunn’s legacy is to the Oklahoma nursing community. She said that Dunn is a role model and leader on local, state, and national levels through a career progression that follows the principle beautifully articulated by writer Robert Ingersoll: “We rise by lifting others.” 

A Mentor Extraordinaire 

ONS member Aileen Anglin, APRN, ACNP-BC, AOCNP®, advanced practice provider for thoracic, head and neck, and medical oncology at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, TX, embodies the concept of nursing inspiration and influences her mentees far beyond the clinical setting. ONS member Amber Dittfurth, RN, BSN, OCN®, outpatient clinical nurse at MD Anderson, whose career journey Anglin significantly shaped, penned these words of profound appreciation: 

“Aileen, you have played an integral role in my story as a nurse. From the very beginning, your passion for sharing knowledge was evident. I vividly remember the first time we met during an in-service on octreotide injections. I was a novice nurse, apprehensive about administering an IM injection. With a mannequin in your arms, you demystified the process, making it comprehensible and removing my fear. You made it easy to ask questions, turning every moment into a learning opportunity.” 

As Anglin’s career transitioned to full-time advanced practice provider, she continued to guide with confidence and warmth that made her colleagues feel like longtime friends, Dittfurth said. She described how Anglin helps her mentees understand complex diseases, supports their professional growth, and motivates them to excel. Dittfurth said that Anglin continually encourages her mentees to reach for the stars, models compassion—both in patient care and professional interactions—and inspires them to strive for excellence throughout life. 

Role models can be found in every corner of our lives, uplifting us to greater heights. Read more stories about ONS members’ inspirational role models—and honor your own role models and mentors by adding your own stories—on the ONS Communities