Georgetown Alumna Provides Nursing Leadership with National Organizations

Posted in News Story

August 24, 2020 – Dr. Robyn (O’Neill) Begley, who earned her BSN at Georgetown in 1977, is CEO of the American Organization for Nursing Leadership (AONL) and the senior vice president and chief nursing officer of the American Hospital Association (AHA).

For her career contributions, she has been recently selected for induction as a fellow of the American Academy of Nursing, which will occur in October.

Dr. Robyn Begley in an official portrait-style photograph
Dr. Robyn Begley (Photo: Andrew Collings)

“Being inducted into the academy is such an honor,” Begley said. “Five years ago, I never imagined I would be in this position to elevate the voice of nursing leadership at the national level. I am humbled and inspired by working together with nurse leaders from across the world to improve health and make changes to the health care delivery system.”

Improving Health

For many years before beginning her leadership positions at AHA and AONL, Begley served as an administrator and nurse executive, including as chief nursing officer, with AtlantiCare Health System in southern New Jersey.

One big achievement from this time period, she highlighted, involved leading the organization in successfully receiving four Magnet Recognition Program® designations.

In addition, Begley discussed several initiatives she helped lead: a nursing workforce pipeline program along with a local community college, partnerships with various organizations to help support diversity and inclusion within the nursing workforce, and a program about nursing for children living in a migrant farmworker community. 

Seat at the Table

“I was very happy and fulfilled at AtlantiCare, but the opportunity to become active at the national level was one I couldn’t pass up,” Begley said, noting how much she enjoyed working with her team in the health system.

Almost two years ago, she began at Chicago-based AONL (formerly known as the American Organization for Nurse Executives), which is a part of the AHA and “the national professional organization of more than 10,000 nurse leaders working in all care settings.”

Begley said she values the chance to “sit at the senior leadership table and be able to translate the challenges and opportunities for nursing leadership” and advocate for nursing leaders.

She continues her focus on diversifying the nursing workforce and is the executive sponsor for the AHA’s nationally focused “Better Health for Mothers and Babies” initiative. 

In March, Begley, who began her career in maternal-child nursing, wrote a letter of support for the Black Maternal Health Momnibus Act of 2020, sponsored by Congresswoman Lauren Underwood (D-IL-14). (Congresswoman Underwood is a former Georgetown faculty member and also a 2020 AAN fellow inductee.) 

Georgetown Foundation

To this day, Begley said she still sees nursing through the lens of the theoretical framework she learned at Georgetown, one developed by Dorothea Orem (Honorary Degree 1976) and called the “Self-care Deficit Theory of Nursing.” (Read more about Dorothea Orem.)

“Georgetown gave me a very interesting perspective,” she said. “We really saw nursing through Orem’s framework. It’s impossible for me to not think about nursing [without Orem]. It was so deeply ingrained.” 

She explained that she really enjoyed the health promotion and public health aspects of her education and believes that it was very forward-thinking. While Begley still remembers some of Orem’s terminology (for example, “wholly compensatory system”), the wellness-oriented spirit of the theory is what continues to inspire her. 

“We assist people in reaching their optimal health status,” Begley said.