As a nurse leader, Shenell Hinton, MSN, BSN ‘95, RN, CRRN, CCM, director of nursing for a local health system, loves motivating and inspiring the nurses she oversees. Every person she encounters is an opportunity to treat others with the respect and kindness she herself would like to receive. Day in and day out Hinton observes how instilling faith in her teams’ abilities makes a difference in how they care for their patients. Hinton credits hospital CEOs and CNOs she’s worked under for teaching her the strategies and skills she has acquired for her leadership toolbelt over the years.

“I’ve been fortunate to learn from wonderful people. One CEO exemplified the importance of knowing our teams personally. He knew every name from the top to the bottom. When he’d walk around, he called people by their names because he had taken the time to go out and get to know people in his hospital,” stated Hinton. “It was important to him to have a positive attitude; be committed and feel enthusiastic about the work he was doing, and he expected that from others as well. I adopted many of his qualities. His example made me an even better leader.”

Hinton’s outstanding nurse leadership has also been recognized by her community as well.

“A year after I moved back towards Cleveland, Ohio, I was recognized as a healthcare leader in the Erie County community I had left behind. When I went back for the ceremony, there were people who were sad I had left the community because they saw me as a pillar at that hospital. It touched my heart to know my service as a leader was valued and appreciated by the community.” 

Early on in her career, Hinton learned one of the biggest challenges she would have to overcome was being given opportunities to gain more experience in the leadership roles she desired. Recognizing that opportunity may not come at the small community hospital where she worked full-time, Hinton temporarily went PRN and accepted a director of nursing position elsewhere. A few years later, the hospital CNO called Hinton into her office and offered her the role she had previously hoped for, director of the acute inpatient rehabilitation unit. From that moment on, Hinton says the trajectory of her career was catapulted into the future as she was continually encouraged and supported through her leadership development. 

Willing and ready to do whatever it took to support the hospital and its success, Hinton was quick to say yes to each new experience. During her time as the director of case management, the hospital received several awards for cost savings related to readmission rates and length of stay. In light of these awards, Hinton was asked to be a speaker for a national advisory board. She traveled to the advisory board conference in Florida and participated on a panel as a national speaker regarding the processes she and her team put in place to improve their hospital.

Hinton has also experienced the evolution of nursing first-hand. 

“There have been advancements in technology, more evidence-based practice and research, evolving roles as leaders in many scopes of practice, along with an increase in diversity within the profession,” explained Hinton, who attributes her strong leadership skills to having held many responsibilities as a nurse early on in her career. “Nurses are focused on prioritizing care and taking on every challenge or task to deliver the best possible quality of care to keep everyone safe. It’s our nursing DNA. Look at what we have achieved during the pandemic.” 

A nurse for 26 years, Hinton knew this was her calling from a young age. Even in childhood she enjoyed helping care for others alongside her mother, whom she called an inspirational leader in the home. When she was a tween, Hinton’s older brother was involved in a motorcycle accident and moved back in with the family during his recovery. This would prove to be a pivotal experience for Hinton. 

“I was intrigued by everything that was going on and remember thinking we had to get him better,” recalled Hinton. “We had to heal him so he could get back to his independence.”

Kent State University College of Nursing would help Hinton answer her calling and pursue her passion.

“I fell in love with the beautiful campus and loved that it was a community inside of itself. This was somewhere I could thrive, and I had a sense of calm immediately,” remembers Hinton. “I had done my research and knew the nursing program was among the best in the nation. Additionally, Kent was close enough to go home if I wanted, but far enough away to be self-sufficient.”

She loved spending time with the other nursing students who were pursuing similar goals. Hinton explained their group quickly learned that for each to excel at and achieve their personal educational goals, they would need to learn to rely on each other for support and community.  

Hinton’s time at Kent State was also positively impacted by her favorite nursing professor, Joan Dashield. 

“When I was in school, it was not common to have an African American professor,” said Hinton. “But she pushed her students to be their best. It’s so important for those connections to occur between professor and student.”

Shenell Hinton poses for a photo with Kent State mascot, Flash, during the 2021 Homecoming tailgate.

Throughout the years, Hinton has expressed her joy in being a Kent State nursing alumna. She remains dedicated and committed to the newer generations. One of the ways Hinton has stayed connected with the college was through the creation of the Frankie Montgomery Perseverance Scholarship, which was named in honor of her mother. 

“My mother has been my biggest cheerleader throughout my life and nursing education. Her love and support helped me persevere successfully through Kent State’s nursing program,” explained Hinton. “This fund will provide financial support to a Kent State nursing student, with preference given to a student of diversity.”

Hinton recognizes the importance for students of underrepresented populations to see nursing as a career path to success. 

“We need to honor each other’s differences and engage with students early on by putting together programs that can help them be successful in the future,” said Hinton. “I remember students like myself saying ‘this is too hard’ when it came to getting the grades needed for the nursing program. Many change their majors because they lacked a mentor who could support and encourage them to continue persevering when it got difficult.”

Hinton offers the following advice to new nurses trying to find their place in the profession.

“Never give up. Stay strong and reflect on the value you bring to the table. Sometimes you will be invited to the table, but when you are not, you may need to make your own seat. Experience is a teacher, and it builds confidence. Get the experience under your belt so you have what it takes to pursue your dream. Remain focused with a network of support behind you. Stay positive. Everything good always comes in time.”

Finally, Hinton encourages nursing students to get everything possible out of their education. 

“Seek out opportunities if they are not coming to you. Ask the questions you have so you receive the answers you need to be successful.”   

When Hinton looks back at her career, she cherishes the peaks and valleys. She recalls many great moments where she was thriving and making big strides made in her career. She made a point to acknowledge that she has enjoyed every amazing step in her journey, including each season and every challenge.  “It has been a true calling in my life and I will be forever grateful to Kent State University College of Nursing for paving the way to my success!”