Donna Nickitas realized her calling to be a nurse at a young age. During the summer of her freshman year of high school, when she was just 14 years old, Nickitas volunteered with the American Red Cross in lower Manhattan, New York. She was placed at St. Vincent Medical Center, where she experienced daily interaction with both nurses and nursing students. Admiring their professional and caring attributes, Nickitas decided then that she wanted to become a nurse herself. The next summer, she applied to become a “Vincenteen,” volunteering again for St. Vincent through a program especially geared toward high school students who wanted to be nursing assistants. She was accepted into the program and worked as a Vincenteen every summer thereafter until graduating from high school. “It was an amazing experience that provided basic introduction into the profession,” she says.
As a young Italian woman from Brooklyn, New York, and one of the first members of her family to go to college, Nickitas leveraged the love and support of her family and community to serve society as a nurse. While a young graduate student at New York University, she was inducted into the Upsilon Chapter of STTI in 1979. “As a graduate student, I succeeded academically and had the grade point average to be accepted as a member of the honor society, but more than that, I had several opportunities to serve the division of nursing on a variety of committees,” says Nickitas. “It was this service experience that allowed me to appreciate how one can use her strengths and talents to serve her educational institutions and professional membership associations.”
Nickitas is very proud to be active in STTI for more than 35 years, and she has held a variety of leadership positions throughout her tenure, including faculty advisor, president and research chair for the Alpha Phi Chapter at Hunter-Bellevue School of Nursing in New York, New York, USA; Service-Learning Task Force member; board member for the International Honor Society of Nursing Building Corporation; faculty member for the Experienced Nurse Faculty Leadership Academy; and as a Virginia Henderson Fellow.
Given Nickitas’ vast array of experiences, it is fair to say that STTI has shaped her nursing career quite significantly. From the local level to the national level, Nickitas has learned to participate in governance, sharpen her skills as a leader, recruit board members, develop strategic planning competencies, and network on civic and community engagement. She continues to give back to STTI, too, with her time, talent, and treasure.
“For me, STTI is the standard and benchmark in nursing that best represents my moral compass as a professional nurse — superior performance in scholarship, leadership, and service … I was very fortunate to become a member of the STTI early enough in my career to have benefitted from all that STTI had to offer,” says Nickitas. “The message and mission of STTI became a part of my fabric as a professional.”