Alumna Jeri Milstead’s Lifetime of Work in Nursing Education and Policy Honored
The American Nurses Association recently honored The Ohio State University alumna and former The Ohio State University at Newark student Jeri Milstead with its Hall of Fame Award to recognize her lifelong commitment to the profession of nursing and her impact on the health and policy process of the United States. Her illustrious career began in the classes of Ohio State Newark when they were taught at Newark High School before the present campus was established.
Milstead had previously earned a diploma from Mt. Carmel’s nursing program, but her credits did not transfer. So at the age of 35 and married with four children, she embarked on a bachelor’s degree in nursing at Ohio State Newark.
“Classes were available in the evening which made it possible to be a mom/wife during the day and student in the evening,” said Milstead. “Ohio State Newark gave me the confidence to learn and the encouragement to be smart.” She was particularly impacted by her comparative literature professor. Milstead said, “He challenged me and encouraged me to think critically and write well – skills that not only made my transition to Columbus easier but were invaluable throughout my career.”
After completing all of the courses she could at Ohio State Newark, Milstead finished her bachelor’s degree at the Columbus campus. She shared that being a student at Ohio State in the early-mid 1970s helped shape her future. Milstead noted how women’s liberation and the civil rights movement along with the beginnings of nursing theory and research created a unique atmosphere that encouraged her to be open to ideas and the challenges of learning.
“That solid, innovative, futuristic education positioned me to move forward and make a difference,” Milstead noted. “Thank you, Ohio State, and thank you, Ohio State Newark, for giving me such a solid start.”
As she neared the end of her bachelor’s degree, Milstead realized that it would only take one more year to complete her master’s. Her husband encouraged her to keep going. Only one year after she completed her MS in Nursing, her husband passed away leaving her as a single working parent of four. Milstead served as associate executive director of Ohio Nurses Association before taking an opportunity offered to her at Clemson University in South Carolina.
She went to Clemson with the intention of teaching but knew she would need a doctoral degree. However, there were only four PhD programs in nursing in the South at that time and none in South Carolina. She decided to earn her PhD in Political Science from the University of Georgia because she understood the power of policy decisions from previous lobbyist work. While working on her PhD in 1988, Milstead served as nursing and health policy advisor to U.S. Senator Daniel K. Inouye (HI) in Washington, D.C. She served as staff liaison to the Appropriations Subcommittee for Labor, Health and Human Services and Education. Milstead taught at Clemson for 10 years, taking her graduate students to the Netherlands for several summers to learn about healthcare education and policy in another country.
During her time in South Carolina, she did much more than teach. Milstead was also appointed to the South Carolina Board of Nursing and was the founding editor and senior author of Health Policy and Politics: A Nurse’s Guide that is now in the seventh edition. It has been sold in 22 countries and is used in most graduate nursing programs in the country. Throughout her career she also wrote Handbook of Nursing Leadership: Creative Skills for Culture of Safety and numerous other books and research articles.
Milstead spent three years as the director of graduate nursing programs at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh and 10 years at the Medical College of Ohio that merged with the University of Toledo. In academia she has held practically every title. She has served as a visiting lecturer, instructor, assistant, associate and full professor and dean.
“So many times, I’ve been at the right place at the right time, and other times I’ve pushed a little and made things happen. I’ve traveled the word. I’ve met fascinating people, become involved in interesting activities, and had the whole world open to me,” Milstead said.
She has also impacted the field of nursing through her involvement and leadership in several organizations. Milstead served on the South Carolina Board of Nursing, as a fellow of the American Academy of Nursing and on American Nurses Association state chapters in every state she has lived. She was one of five founders of the Nightingale Policy Institute, a virtual gathering of experienced policy nurses based in Washington, D.C., who discuss health care and nursing issues and determine what networks could address solutions.
For everything that she has contributed to the field of nursing Milstead has been honored time and again. She was named a Mildred E. Newton Distinguished Educator, one of 100 Alumni Transformers of Nursing and Healthcare by the Ohio State College of Nursing Alumni Society and Local Nursing Legend by the Ohio State Medical Heritage Society. She received the Ohio Nurses Association Excellence in Political Action Award. On October 22 in a virtual ceremony, she was honored as a member of the American Nurses Association’s Hall of Fame, their most prestigious award.
“This is the zenith of my career and one that I never sought or expected,” said Milstead. “I believe I helped establish policy and politics as a major field in our profession. I believe that my textbook has had an impact on students and faculty by helping them understand the power of nursing as expressed through policy.”
Even after retiring, Milstead has continued to teach and work as a consultant with nurses in countries such as Albania, Croatia, Italy, Panama, Portugal, Rwanda, Cuba, Nicaragua and China.
She also continues to give back to Ohio State including funding a scholarship in the College of Nursing.
Milstead shared a few words of advice for the Buckeyes of today, “ Build your network, immerse yourself in the Ohio State culture, and surround yourself by the professionals in the field that Ohio State gives you access to.”
The Ohio State University at Newark offers an academic environment that is inclusive of diversity, challenging but supportive with world-renowned professors and access to Ohio State’s more than 200 majors. It’s where learning comes to life. Research, study abroad and service-learning opportunities prepare students for their careers in ways they never expected.