Q&A with Dr. Natalie Callis, PPGNY’s Chief Nursing Officer

PPGNY Action Fund
5 min readMay 8, 2024
Dr. Natalie Callis — Chief Nursing Officer, PPGNY

Every year from May 6 to May 12, Planned Parenthood of Greater New York joins fellow reproductive health, rights, and justice groups across our state in celebrating National Nurses Week. Amidst ongoing attacks on reproductive health, we approach this year’s National Nurses Week as an opportunity to highlight all nursing professionals for their commitment, compassion, and the exceptional care they provide to patients daily. We sat down with our Chief Nursing Officer, Dr. Natalie Callis, to discuss the importance of centering nurses in the fight for reproductive freedom, why this year’s Nurses Week is different, and what she hopes to accomplish at PPGNY.

Now more than ever we need to amplify and protect the work nurses do — today and every day we celebrate our providers and are grateful for all the nurses who have been an essential part in the fight for reproductive health, rights, and justice.

What made you want to work in the reproductive health field?

As a woman, I understand the critical importance of reproductive health. Additionally, I recognize the pressing need for gender-affirming care, particularly for the LGBTQ+ community, who often lack a voice and advocate in healthcare settings. Given the current political landscape, it’s imperative for nursing to take a leading role in addressing these issues. Often, in ambulatory or specialty care spaces, there is a lack of nursing leadership. I wanted to fill this gap in the reproductive health sphere and explore ways to support women’s health, advocate for pro-choice initiatives, and address disparities in underserved and BIPOC communities.

While nursing is often associated with large inpatient hospital settings, it’s crucial to acknowledge that nurses work in various areas. Regardless of the setting, nurses play a central role in patient care. They serve as advocates for patients and their families, providing support and care. It’s essential for nursing staff to have strong leadership and support, whether in reproductive health, ambulatory care, or inpatient settings. Nurses need someone to whom they can relate and express their concerns, ensuring they have a voice at the table, particularly in reproductive health settings.

Can you talk about the importance of equity and diversity in the reproductive health setting?

New York has long been recognized as a melting pot, characterized by its diverse array of cultures, lifestyles, and perspectives. We are essentially a heterogeneous mixture, encompassing a myriad of identities and experiences. It’s crucial to have leadership that not only comprehends this complex landscape but also appreciates and respects where individuals are coming from. Moreover, it’s essential to empower staff to extend empathy and support to those facing specific adversities, such as those in the BIPOC or queer communities.

For me, it’s imperative to forefront this understanding and champion it through the nursing staff at PPGNY. By fostering an environment of empathy, respect, and empowerment, we can better serve our diverse patient population and uphold our commitment to providing inclusive and equitable care.

What was your work like before joining PPGNY?

Before joining PPGNY, I served as a Senior Nursing Director for a prominent health system in NYC. My primary responsibility was to streamline nursing professional development standards and operations across multiple on-site hospitals and off-site practices. This experience is particularly relevant to my current role at PPGNY, where we are in the process of integrating operations across 24 sites within our affiliate. Prior to my tenure in New York, I began my career in New Jersey and held various leadership positions in both academia and clinical settings. Each of these diverse experiences has equipped me with a broad skill set that I can now effectively leverage in my current role.

What made you want to work with PPGNY?

With over 25 years of experience in nursing, I’ve developed a deep passion for leadership. I believe that leaders should be accessible, relatable, and a source of support for their staff. Throughout my career, I’ve encountered both exceptional and less-than-ideal leaders, which motivated me to become the Chief Nursing Officer at PPGNY — someone who can lead, communicate effectively, and truly understand the needs of the team. Joining PPGNY as the first-ever Chief Nursing Officer for both the affiliate and the federation was not only an honor but also a profoundly humbling experience.

What do you hope to accomplish as a Chief Nursing Officer?

I’m deeply committed to enhancing the practice of our nursing staff, and I believe I can achieve this in a relatable manner due to my firsthand experience working on the floors. This background enables me to truly empathize with the challenges our front-line staff face, including staffing issues and burnout. I’m dedicated to finding effective strategies to address these concerns and reinforce the support needed to retain our nursing staff.

What’s different about this year’s National Nurses Week?

Nurses Week holds significance beyond the confines of a single week in May — it’s an ongoing acknowledgment of the invaluable contributions nurses make every day. In my new role as the first Chief Nursing Officer at Planned Parenthood, I find myself embodying the essence of nursing. I have the privilege of advocating for my colleagues in non-traditional settings like Planned Parenthood, where the presence of a Chief Nursing Officer is not typical. While Nurses Week is often associated with hospital settings or large health systems, it’s crucial to recognize the vital work being done by nurses in reproductive health, LGBTQ+ support, and other diverse areas. Nurses play a pivotal role in every facet of healthcare, especially during an election year when advocacy for reproductive health rights is paramount.

How do you take care of and celebrate yourself during National Nurses Week?

When reflecting on how I celebrate myself during Nurses Week, I find great fulfillment in empowering others and facilitating knowledge translation. For this year’s Nurses Week, my focus is on further improving nursing practice at PPGNY, empowering our staff, fostering meaningful relationships, and ensuring they recognize the support and advocacy provided by their Chief Nursing Officer. I anticipate that this year’s celebration will hold exceptional significance in fostering a strong sense of unity and support among our team in 2024.

Do you have any words of encouragement for professionals working in reproductive health right now?

Acknowledge that our efforts are not in vain. We must remain consistent and resilient in this charge for reproductive freedom. If we unite, genuine improvements are possible. It’s essential to recognize the challenges, fatigue, and moments of doubt, but remember that by joining forces for this shared purpose, progress is inevitable.

Dr. Natalie Callis Bio:

Dr. Natalie Callis is a highly accomplished and experienced healthcare leader and serves as PPGNY’s first Chief Nursing Officer. She has a myriad of clinical and leadership experience in inpatient and ambulatory settings. She has successfully led the journey to MAGNET ® designation at various organizations across the New York metropolitan area. Dr. Callis comes to PPGNY from a large academic medical enterprise where she was responsible for nursing clinical practice, professional development and operations across the system. She holds a Doctorate of Nursing Practice Degree in Executive Leadership from Rutgers University, New Jersey; a Master of Science Degree in Clinical Leadership from the University of Medicine and Dentistry, New Jersey; and a Bachelor of Science Degree in Nursing from William Paterson University, New Jersey.



PPGNY Action Fund

We’re Planned Parenthood of Greater New York Action Fund, a 501(c)(4) organization.