Montana State nursing instructor named Distinguished Nurse of the Year

By Anne Cantrell, MSU News Service
January 14, 2021

BOZEMAN — A Montana State University nursing instructor has been recognized for her outstanding contributions made to professional nursing.

Leesha Ford, clinical nursing instructor on the College of Nursing’s Bozeman campus, received the Distinguished Nurse of the Year award. The statewide award, which was founded in honor of nurse Trudy Malone, is given annually by the Montana Nurses Association. Candidates for the award must be association members who are knowledgeable, dynamic leaders committed to professional ethics, improving patient care and fostering teamwork.

Ford called it “beyond humbling” to be selected for the honor, particularly in 2020.

“Every nurse working during this pandemic is truly deserving of recognition and honor,” Ford said. “There has been so much responsibility placed on nursing’s shoulders, and nurses everywhere, including our nursing students and faculty, are rising to the occasion. I’m incredibly grateful for the opportunities I have to serve on the Montana State Board of Nursing and in educating tomorrow’s nurses in our College of Nursing’s crucial nursing programs. Montana can be proud of its Bobcat nurses.”

Ford was nominated for the award by Laurie Glover, a fellow member of the Montana Nurses Association and an associate clinical professor on the College of Nursing’s Great Falls campus.

In her nomination letter, Glover wrote that Ford consistently demonstrates dynamic leadership in promoting excellence in nursing and demonstrates a keen knowledge of current issues in the nursing profession. She is also widely respected by her peers, patients and students, Glover wrote.

“She is one of the most ethical nurses I have ever known,” Glover wrote, adding that Ford respects all levels of nursing and clients from all backgrounds. “She is a team worker and collaborator, and (she) models positive quality improvement.” 

Ford has served as a clinical instructor with the College of Nursing since 2015, beginning at the MSU College of Nursing’s Great Falls campus and then moving to the Bozeman campus in 2018. Her teaching interests include obstetrics, health policy and economics, pediatrics, foundations of nursing, nursing leadership and community service. Her outreach and research interests focus on child abuse prevention, violence in the workplace among peers, leadership in nursing, creative nursing education and obstetrics. She previously worked as a labor and delivery nurse in Great Falls.

Ford has a master’s degree in nursing education and a bachelor’s degree in nursing, both from Purdue University Global. She is certified in nursing education by the National League for Nursing. In addition, she has an associate degree in nursing from MSU Northern and became a licensed practical nurse through Great Falls College MSU.

“Leesha Ford is a treasure,” said Sarah Shannon, dean of the College of Nursing. “She inspires students to become change agents by modeling how to transform one’s passion for an issue, like children’s health, into tangible action that improves the lives of the most vulnerable patients. Leesha is known for her enthusiasm, creativity, dedication and can-do it attitude. Montana is lucky to have her as a nurse leader.”

The MSU College of Nursing educates students on five campuses – Bozeman, Billings, Great Falls, Kalispell and Missoula – to be professional nurses capable of working in a variety of settings. It is also Montana’s only public provider of graduate nursing education and offers a Master of Nursing degree focused on rural clinical nurse leadership and a Doctor of Nursing practice program that prepares students for certification as family nurse practitioners or psychiatric mental health nurse practitioners. More information about the college is available at Leesha Ford, 406-994-2710 or

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