Deemed too tall to be a flight attendant and told by her childhood physician that women could either be doctors or mothers — but not both — Deloras Jones would soar to unparalleled heights in her career as a respected California nurse leader.
In honor of her many accomplishments, Jones was recently honored with a DAISY Lifetime Achievement Award, an accolade “created to recognize those nurses who have devoted their life’s work to the compassionate care of others.”
That is exactly what Jones has done, beginning with her graduation from the Kaiser Foundation School of Nursing (KFSN) and continuing with a career that flourished for more than 60 years.
Innovator, executive, voice for others
Early on, Jones developed the Family-Centered Perinatal Care Program (FAMCAP). It dramatically shortened mother and infant postpartum stays in the hospital and changed nursing practice around the world. Today, Jones said this is “one of the things I am most proud of.”
Jones rose within the organization, including as chief nurse at the San Francisco Medical Center, before ultimately serving as Kaiser Permanente’s first chief nursing executive across Northern and Southern California.
“I saw my role was being able to facilitate nursing leadership at the operational level to allow nurses to function at their highest professional capacity,” she said. “At the executive level, I was the voice for nursing, and therefore the voice for the patient.”
Jones retired from Kaiser Permanente in 2000 but returned as a consultant and later co-editor of its first book on the KFSN. In 2001 she began a long tenure as the executive director of the California Institute for Nursing & Health Care, now called HealthImpact.
“At the time, there was a real shortage of nurses, with only about 6,000 graduating in the state annually,” Jones said. “During that time we doubled the capacity to about 13,000, a number still holding today.”
Jim D’Alfonso, DNP, RN, is the Kaiser Permanente executive director, professional excellence for Patient Care Services and the Kaiser Permanente Scholars Academy. He and Jones co-edited the book.
“Deloras was a true disruptor and her many leadership accomplishments, contributions to Kaiser Permanente nursing, and to the broader nursing profession are extraordinary,” he said. “Deloras and the KFSN alumni were the ‘heart and soul’ of our nursing, and it was essential to capture the 75-year legacy and their lived experience.”
Jones’s Daisy award is not her first honor. Kaiser Permanente created a statewide scholarship in her name that distributes $300,000 a year to student nurses. To date, the organization has awarded about $6 million in scholarships.
“I have so much gratitude for the acknowledgement of the contribution I made to Kaiser Permanente,” she said.
Today, Jones, 80, lives with her husband in Washington state. A mother of 2 daughters, she cannot help but mention with pride that 1 is a licensed midwife.
“I really believe nursing’s greatest moments lie ahead,” Jones said of her beloved profession. “The role of the nurse in the hospital is very well defined — and we know how important it is — but the impact nursing can really make to the health of our communities is still there and waiting for the new generation of nurses to step forward.”