Lisa Anderson-Shaw, DrPH, MA, MSN, ANP-BC, HEC-C, is a certified clinical healthcare ethics consultant, Assistant Professor at Loyola University, and Chief Editor of The Nursing Voice, to name a few of the many hats she wears. She retired from her clinical and leadership roles with the University of Illinois Medical Center in 2019 after 31 years.

We sat down with this long-time ANA-Illinois member recently to discuss her nursing career and work in bioethics. Below is a condensed and edited version of our conversation.

How did you get involved with ANA-Illinois?

I joined what is now ANA-Illinois in 1990. I joined because I wanted to be active in a nursing organization and felt that ANA-Illinois would be a great fit for me. My first state convention was in 1991. I was overwhelmed and excited to be a part of this wonderful organization. It blew my mind how organized nurses could be at the state level as well as the depth of work being done by the state organization.

At this convention it was so much fun meeting other nurses and talking about what we do. That was when I first started getting active in ANA and ANA-Illinois.

How did you start working on The Nursing Voice?

I was on the editorial committee quite soon after I joined ANA-Illinois. We published a newsletter and continuing education opportunities. I enjoyed that committee very much. As time went on, our newsletter became more professional. Now, our editorial committee is part of the Illinois Nurses Foundation, and we publish four issues of The Nursing Voice each year. I am the chief editor for our publication, which is sent to all Registered Nurses in Illinois either online or as a paper copy.

Our state publication has progressed greatly over the past 15 years in how it looks and what we, as the editorial committee, look for to include in each issue of our publication. We just had a meeting recently where we decided on upcoming issue themes for the next year.

Because we are a state organization with nurses in all areas of the state, our editorial board recently added a reader feedback process in order to get feedback from nurses in Illinois as to what content nurses are interested in around the state.

How did you get into nursing?

I grew up in central Illinois, near Springfield. My favorite aunt, who lived in Springfield, Illinois, was a nurse. I just adored her. I didn’t really think much about me being a nurse or what I wanted to do after high school. My mother kept saying, “You need to be a nurse.” She always wanted to be a nurse when she was young but didn’t have the opportunity.

So I spent a day with my aunt at her hospital in Springfield. She worked at Memorial Hospital. That day I saw how respected she was. She was the OR nurse supervisor for many years. I thought it was just really interesting watching her and the other healthcare professionals do their work. I really thought I wanted to be a lawyer until I job shadowed my aunt. Sometimes mothers really do know best!

Nursing school was so amazing, but it was so intense. During my second year of nursing school I started working at St. John’s Hospital as a nurse assistant. This experience gave me a lot of perspective about healthcare in general, but nursing in particular.

I received my bachelor’s degree in nursing from SIU Edwardsville (SIU-E); they had a two-year completion program for BSN degree after ADN (Associate Degree in Nursing). I totally loved my nursing school experiences. During my time at SIU-E, Nurse Practitioner programs began at the university level.  That really appealed to me as something I would love to do. I applied and continued for my Master of Science in Nursing degree at Indiana University (IU) in the adult health APN program. I moved to Indiana in January 1985, which was the coldest and snowiest winter in the Midwest, I think, still. I worked at the IU hospital on off shifts while working on my master’s. I met a fellow student at the hospital; we married at the end of our studies and moved to Chicago.

How did you get into ethics?

When I came to Chicago, I became interested in bioethics. I started working at University of Illinois Hospital in 1989 as the clinical nurse specialist at University of Illinois Hospital in Chicago. That experience was amazing. The first year I was there, I was the APN for head and neck surgery. I learned so much and started thinking more about the ethics of clinical care.

Our service had case conference meetings each week, and we would discuss the surgical schedule for the next week’s surgeries. Some procedures included large facial surgeries that would render the patient unable to really speak, eat, or drink. I would ask the team  “What is the prognosis with surgery, and what are the treatment alternatives to surgery?” The team would look at me oddly and say “We’re surgeons. That’s what we do. We do surgery.” I would reply, “Why don’t we give patients options?”

Palliative care and hospice was kind of new back then but certainly viable options. I started asking my supervisor about the hospital ethics committee and that I wanted to be on the committee. I joined the ethics committee about three years after I started working at UIC. I then started taking evening classes in a new bioethics program at Loyola University, Chicago and eventually finished my master’s degree in Philosophy at Loyola.

My path in ethics continued at the UIC School of Public Health where I finished my Doctorate in Public Health Policy and Administration with my dissertation related to topics in bioethics and policy. It took me 10 years to finish my doctorate, but again, I was busy working and raising our family. Through the 10 years it took me, I was able to bring a lot of ideas from my classes back to UIC hospital in my role as a clinical nurse specialist, specifically looking at policies and procedures, Joint Commission standards and reviews, as well as ongoing ethics education programs for our clinical staff.

As time went on, our ethics committee grew and became more active, providing grand rounds programs at noon and various other staff education opportunities. We also took care of state prisoners at UIC in the clinics and at the hospital. Clinical staff had many questions about ethics and policy in the care of prisoner patients – who can make clinical decisions for them if they could not make their own decisions; when can shackles be removed and for what reasons; can prisoner patient go to the bathroom alone; end of life care issues….. I had the warden on speed dial. Hospital administration, clinicians, and I were part of many ethical questions related to clinical care of all patients. It’s ethics. It’s policy. Its human rights.

What kind of ethics work have you done outside of the hospital?

As a member of ANA-Illinois, I have participated in several committees and events through the years.  Much of my work with ANA-Illinois has been related to bioethics and bioethics related topics. I have been teaching at Loyola University, Chicago for over 20 years in the graduate nursing program as well as in the school of medicine at the Neiswanger Institute for Bioethics.

I have been very active in the American Society of Bioethics & Humanities (ASBH) for many years.  Bioethics professionals come from many different educational and clinical backgrounds.
ASBH is the main national bioethics organizations in the United States.  Certification as a healthcare ethics consultant began through ASBH recently, offering the first certification exam two years ago.  I have been on several ASBH committees through the years.  Currently I am on the committee that is updating our ethics core competencies. I am the chair of this committee, and we are getting down to the final drafts. It’s been 20 years, and things have changed a lot in healthcare and bioethics. It’s been a lot of work, but I think at the end of the day, it’s going to be a good outcome.

I like to keep busy. I enjoy talking with patients and family members, other healthcare professionals, students, and faculty. I also like teaching and asking why. That’s a big question: “why?” Why are we doing this? Why are you doing that? Why is this happening? Why? I think that’s something that can sound challenging, but it’s really not. It’s just… why?

Clinical Ethics and nursing for me just go together.