Donna Lynn Smith began her career teaching Fundamentals of Nursing, Maternal and Child Nursing, Interpersonal Skills, and Mental Health Nursing in two-year diploma nursing programs. Concerns about the need to improve the culture, environment and outcomes of care led her to a 30-year career in progressively responsible leadership positions, encompassing all sectors of Alberta's health system. Known for principled, creative and wise decision-making, she led the successful implementation of many innovations in complex organizational and system environments. As a respected leader, she recruited, coached, supervised and taught many individuals who have gone on to become successful health system leaders and scholars in Alberta and Canada.
Beginning with a focus on long term and community care of older people and persons with disabilities (Lethbridge Rehabilitation/Auxiliary Hospital), she implemented many emerging best practices, including one of the first special care units for difficult to serve people in a long term care setting. Working with community partners, she helped to establish a variety of new services including home care in the Lethbridge region.
In senior positions at a major teaching hospital (University of Alberta Hospitals) over a ten-year period, her responsibilities included clinical departments, educational services and financial management during expansionary and downsizing periods. During this time, she established the Nursing Research and Scholarly Activities committee and collaborated with the Faculty of Nursing to recruit two prominent clinical nursing researchers, Dr. June Kikuchi and Dr. Janice Morse. She chaired the Hospital Health and Safety Committee and provided on-the ground leadership during three nurses strikes and the Edmonton tornado.
In 1988, she assumed province-wide responsibilities as a Manager in a newly created Branch of Alberta's Ministry of Health and Wellness. She recruited and led an expert team to plan, implement, and evaluate a range of innovative provincial and regional programs prior to the formal introduction of regionalization in Alberta's health system. Supported by a range of stakeholders, these programs bridged the gap between the previously separate continuing and community care sectors.
Recognition for Interdisciplinary Collaboration
An early adopter of interprofessional and collaborative practice, she worked with the Dean of Medicine, Dr. Doug Wilson, and Dr. John Dossetor as Founding Co-Director of the Joint Faculties Bioethics Project. This became the first interdisciplinary Health Ethics Centre in Canada and was subsequently named for Dr. Dossetor. Her expertise in collaboration was recognized with secondment to the University of Alberta as the first Executive Director of a newly formed Coordinating Council of Health Sciences- an innovative partnership of the Deans all health sciences faculties. Subsequently appointed with tenure as an Associate Professor in the Faculty of Nursing, she held adjunct appointments in the Faculty of Medicine (Department of Public Health Sciences and Division of Bioethics); and Rehabilitation Medicine.
Teaching and Research Supervision
Between 1997 and 2007 Professor Emerita Smith served as Coordinator of the Leadership Stream of the Masters in Nursing Program, teaching and developing courses in Nursing and Health System Leadership, Continuity of Care, Technology Assessment, and Program Planning. She is the author, with Dr. Judith Hibberd, of the widely used textbook Nursing Leadership and Management in Canada (2nd and 3rd Editions), as well as other influential publications.
View Donna Lynn Smith's publications. (PDF, 30 KB)
Beginning with a work study experience in New Zealand early in her career, Professor Emerita Smith actively pursued an interest in service integration and continuity of care. Between 1998 and 2007, a total of 12 twelve masters and doctoral students completed theses or final projects with this focus under her supervision. Many of her peer-reviewed presentations have highlighted developments in service integration and continuity of care.
With methodological expertise in applied policy research and analysis, program evaluation and case study research, she also supervised or co-supervised many other masters and doctoral students who conducted research in the areas of health policy and informatics, leadership of health and nursing services; seniors care and the scholarship of collaboration.
View Donna Lynn Smith's graduate student research supervision. (PDF, 28KB)
Recent and Current Work
Following retirement she was recruited to the newly created position of Professional Responsibility Advisor with United Nurses of Alberta. In this part time role, she continues to advocate for safe patient care environments, through knowledge translation, development of educational programs to support professional advocacy, and by planning and implementing a Patient Safety Research Program. Through this exciting program, funds have now been provided to two independent investigators for studies of Accountability Failure in Health Care, and a study of Alberta Nurses Real Time Reports of Patient Safety Concerns. An international team has been brought together to plan a third study.
Always a champion for knowledge-based practice, Professor Emerita Smith has has appeared as an expert witness in courts and tribunals. She continues to set an example as a life-long learner, having completed the Osgoode Hall Law School Certificate in Clinical Risk, Negligence and Claims Management in Health Care in 2015.
She selectively accepts consulting engagements applying a "Triple A" Model emphasizing Advocacy, Accountability and Authenticity in work with organizations, families and individuals.
Professional and Community Leadership
Professor Emerita Smith served as an elected member of the Council of the Alberta Association of Registered Nurses (now CARNA) from whom she received the prestigious Vogel Award conferred by fellow councilors for contributions to team decision-making.
She has been an invited speaker at conferences in many disciplines, most recently at the International Conference Interprofessional Partnerships for Global Health Outcomes in Chiang Mai Thailand, in 2012.
A two-term President of the Alberta Association on Gerontology, she was appointed, with other experts in the field of gerontology, to the Demographic Planning Commission chaired by George Vanderburg, (former MLA, Whitecourt/St Ann) under the auspices of the Department of Seniors and Community Supports in 2008.
Professor Emerita Smith was a political candidate in the provincial election of 2004, nearly defeating a prominent Cabinet minister, and was a candidate in the federal election of 2008, finishing a strong second.
She continues to serve on Boards and lead fundraising initiatives for not for profit organizations.