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Deborah T. Zimmermann

Deb Zimmermann, DNP, RN, NEA-BC, FAAN, is the chief clinical officer and principal of Leaders in Care, a company dedicated improving clinical performance in health care settings and creating a healthy work environment for clinicians.

Deb served in the United States Army Nurse Corps, practiced as a nurse practitioner, and for 25 years served in executive positions in New York and Virginia. She is the past chairperson of the ANCC Commission on Magnet®, currently a member of the DAISY Foundation Boards of Directors, and a fellow of the American Academy of Nursing. She chairs the AONL Foundation Board of Directors and co-chairs the AACN-AONL Academic Practice Council. Her work has been dedicated to strengthening the education and influence of nurses, the creation of collaborative interprofessional care models across the continuum and quantifying the contribution of nurses in improving health outcomes.

In 2018, Deb was recognized by the New York Organization of Nurse Executive and Leaders for her partnership with the New York State Board of Nursing, state legislature, college deans, and healthcare association on academic progression for nurses and the introduction of legislation advancing educational requirements for registered nurses on baccalaureate education which passed into law in December 2017.

As chair of the Magnet® Commission, Deb introduced and facilitated approval of Magnet® standards on education, innovative models of nursing across the care continuum, and nurse sensitive outcome measures.  In Virginia, she co-led the coalition which increased RN baccalaureate preparation by 20%. Deb is currently working with the Virginia Board of Nursing and academic leaders on the redesign of clinical nursing education and collaborating with AACN and AONL leaders on lessons learned from the global pandemic and roll-out of the 2021 AACN Essentials.

As a chief nursing officer, Deb led teams which reduced mortality, decreased hospital acquired infections, improved access, achieved an 82% BSN prepared workforce, enhanced nurses’ role in hospital governance, instituted a transition to practice fellowship for advanced practice nurses, and reduced lost employee workdays caused by workplace violence. She led listening forums on racism in healthcare and introduced policies on care for the LGBTQ community. In 2021, Deb worked with community leaders on equitable access and education on the COVID-19 vaccine and served as lead investigator on a national grant highlighting sustainable healthcare innovations introduced during the pandemic. She currently serves on the AONL Diversity and Belonging Committee.

Presently, Deb chairs the AONL Foundation Board of Directors. The Foundation funds research focused on leadership effectiveness, improving the healthcare experience, and the measurement of outcomes from nursing care. In response to the pandemic, the Foundation is supporting studies on new models of interprofessional care, leadership resilience and wellbeing, and achieving healthcare equity. The 57 funded studies and scholarships align with the strategic plan of AONL and positions nurse leaders as change agents, advocators, innovators, and influencers.

Nursing is central to defining safe, timely, effective, efficient, patient-centered, and equitable care. Deb believes opportunities abound for nurses to re-envision and transform healthcare.