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Sharon Pappas honored with lifetime achievement recognition from national nursing organization
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Janet Christenbury

Sharon Pappas

Sharon Pappas will receive the 2023 Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Organization for Nursing Leadership for her accomplishments as a leader in the nursing profession.

Jack Kearse, Emory Health Sciences

The American Organization for Nursing Leadership (AONL) has named Emory Healthcare Chief Nurse Executive Sharon Pappas, PhD, RN, FAAN, as the 2023 recipient of its prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award.

The award honors an AONL member recognized by the nursing community as a significant leader in the nursing profession, who also has served AONL in an important leadership capacity. AONL will award Pappas for her career accomplishments during its annual conference on May 2 in Anaheim, California.

“This honor is incredibly special because it comes from the profession I love,” says Pappas. “It reminds me of all the great people I have learned from, and it gives me a reminder to say thank you to many. This isn't about me - it is about all the people along my journey. Things like this are always confirmation that God is good.”

A Georgia native, Pappas’ nursing career spans more than 40 years. She joined Emory Healthcare in 2016 as chief nurse executive, after holding nurse leader positions in Denver, Colorado over a 25-year span, and nursing roles in Macon, Georgia before that.

At Emory, she is responsible for nursing practice across the system’s 11 hospitals and 250 outpatient clinic locations. More than 8,000 nurses are employed by Emory Healthcare. With five Emory Healthcare facilities (four hospitals and Emory Clinic) receiving Magnet designation through the American Nurses Credentialing Center, Pappas works to establish nursing excellence as a distinctive competency across Emory Healthcare. 

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Pappas has worked tirelessly to implement resilience and well-being programs to keep nurses healthy and reduce burnout. With the recent depletion of nurses nationwide, she has been engaged in rebuilding the nursing workforce at Emory, with a strong emphasis on recruitment and retention. Some of these programs include career development and progression programs within Emory’s own top-ranked Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing.

Prior to the pandemic, Pappas served as an author of the National Academy of Medicine’s 2019 consensus report, “Taking Action against Clinician Burnout,” and the knowledge gained during this experience has greatly served Emory Healthcare clinicians. Through AONL, she has served as a member of the AONL Board of Directors and currently represents AONL on the American Nurses Credentialing Center’s Commission on Magnet Recognition, where she is the chair. She recently chaired the AONL Workforce Subcommittee on Leadership.

Her passion for nursing is reflected in multiple publications that contributed to the international body of knowledge on how improving health care cultures through inclusion in decision-making, respect and leadership contributes to patient care. One of these publications is a book, “Quantum Leadership,” which is the text most commonly used in Doctor of Nursing Practice programs across the U.S.

Pappas received her bachelor’s degree from the Medical College of Georgia, a Master of Science in Nursing degree from Georgia College and a PhD in nursing from the University of Colorado.

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