For Dr. For Linda Burnes Bolton, the nursing profession is about responsibility.
“We answer to the patient first and foremost,” says Burnes Bolton. “And we keep that in mind in everything we do.
Burnes Bolton, Chief Nursing Officer Emeritus at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, has dedicated her life and career to the nursing industry after joining the healthcare organization in 1971 and retiring in 2022 at the age of 72.
She was recently applauded for this commitment by the American Academy of Nursing (AAN), which selected her as the winner of its 2022 Lifetime Legacy Award for her leadership and contributions to nursing and health care. Burnes Bolton, past president of the AAN, says she appreciates the honor she was given, even though she was unable to accept the award in person due to illness.
During her more than 50-year career, Burnes Bolton served Cedars-Sinai and its patients in many capacities, including senior vice president and chief medical officer.
Outside of Cedars-Sinai, Burnes Bolton spent time as president of the American Association of Nurse Executives (now the American Association for Nursing Leadership); president of the National Association of Black Nurses; trustee of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF); Chair of the RWJF National Advisory Committee on Bedside Care Transformation and Veterans Affairs Nursing Commission; and vice-chair of the RWJF Initiative for the Future of Nursing at the Institute of Medicine.
Burnes Bolton says one of the accomplishments she was most proud of during her tenure was being able to increase the number of undergraduate employees at Cedars-Sinai.
“We were the first institution in Los Angeles County to offer all bachelor’s degrees,” notes Burnes Bolton.
And yet, the nursing veteran expressed frustration with the problems plaguing the field, one of which was that nurses are leaving the profession altogether.
“Some institutions still have registered nurses—that’s the top of the line—taking care of more than four or five patients at a time, up to nine or 10 patients at a time,” says Burnes Bolton. “That way, they can’t be helpful to the patient without help.”
She later adds, “So many people leave the profession because of their misuse in terms of how they are used as registered nurses.”
Because ultimately, a nurse’s goal is to effectively care for and be of service to others, she says.
“One of the things my career has been about is making sure everyone has the power to call when they feel they don’t have the support they need to provide the best possible care,” she says. “It is very important that anyone who is in the business of caring for people – whether they are a doctor, a nurse or a pediatrician…regardless of their title – understands the value of what they are doing is caring for other people.”
It’s a lesson she holds close to her heart and passes on to those interested in coming to the area. Because anyone who doesn’t understand what it means to be a nurse shouldn’t join at all, according to her.
“I hope they maintain their accountability and responsibility to care for human beings,” says Burnes Bolton. “Unfortunately, some nurses do not realize the value of caring for another human being. And if they don’t recognize it, they have to leave nursing.”