In the Burroughs | Children's Minnesota | The Kid Experts

Introducing Yinka Ajose. Yinka's story and passion for the health of kids and families just might inspire you to work at Children’s Minnesota, too.

“The sky is the limit” says Yinka Ajose about opportunities for nurses here at Children’s Minnesota. The same could be said about Yinka’s personal story.

She came to America 26 years ago, with limited English proficiency, as she was raised speaking in her native language growing up. She completed nursing and graduate school and today she is senior director of clinical operations at Children’s Minnesota.

I’ve invited Yinka to share a bit about herself, her work, the barriers she faces as an African woman and what inspired her to choose Children’s Minnesota. Here’s Yinka in her own words.

Tell us a little bit about yourself.

Yinka Ajose: I am the first child of three raised in Lagos, Nigeria, West Africa, where the temperature all year round is anywhere from 75-110 degrees. I was raised speaking my mother tongue, so you can now imagine the huge cultural change it was for me moving to the U.S. in 1998. I had to re-learn English as a second language and go to school for my associate degree in nursing, bachelor’s of nursing and my master’s of business administration with no help, as at that time, I did not have any family here.

Yinka Ajose
Yinka dressed in her traditional "Yoruba" outfit for an event.

Oh, and might I add that my first winter here was brutal. I was so sure that I would not last the winter months and was looking for an excuse to go back home to Nigeria. I missed the culture I grew up in, as that was so dear and near to me.

Yinka on a trip to London with her husband and son
Yinka with her husband and son during a trip to London.

But since moving here, I have grown to appreciate the culture and find ways to hold on to and showcase my heritage as well; it is not unusual for me to attend a party in my native attire and head gear. This gives me an opportunity to speak about my background and the culture I grew up with. I have also had the opportunity to travel the world, meet people and learn about many different cultures. I pride myself on traveling to at least three different continents a year; I think the only continent I have not yet been to is Antarctica, which, by the way, is on my bucket list.

What led you to a career in health care?

Yinka Ajose: During my first couple of years in the U.S. I had a series of health issues that required hospitalization; the care I received was exceptional. It was then that I knew I needed to give back and I worked so hard to pay my way through college. It was during one of my hospitalizations after I had finished my two-year nursing degree that one of my nurses found out that I was also a nurse and she reached out to Talent Acquisition. By the time I was discharged, I had four different interviews lined up! The rest is history….

If you were not working in health care, what would you be doing?

Yinka Ajose: Anything that involves me traveling; I love to meet people and learn about their culture and what makes them who they are.

Why did you choose to work at Children’s Minnesota?

Yinka Ajose: The irony of it all was that I was not looking for a job here at Children’s Minnesota. But at the time, I felt that I had hit the glass ceiling where I was. I had two different individuals reach out to me letting me know that they felt strongly that my leadership skills were needed here at Children’s Minnesota. My first reaction was, “I don’t know how to take care of kids.” Well, I now know that was not what was being asked of me. I can joke about it now, but back then, it was an embarrassing moment for me.

The turning point for me though was when I got the opportunity to hear our CEO Dr. Marc Gorelick speak on a podcast about the diversity, equity and inclusion work at Children’s Minnesota and what he is doing at the executive leadership level to ensure that the work trickles down. That was enough for me to apply for a role here. I was also moved by his humility and that he did not appear to be like your everyday CEO; trust me I have worked with a few in the past 15+ years of my leadership journey.

Tell us about your role at Children’s and why your work is important.

Yinka Ajose: I am responsible for providing the overall strategic direction and leadership of clinical operations within patient care services. Pretty much I support all the areas that roll up to our Chief Nursing Officer Caroline Njau. Outside of that I oversee several departments including the care traffic control center that facilitates patient flow, staffing resources management, nursing float teams and vascular access teams. And very recently, I now have leadership oversight of three amazing teams: social work, case management and care coordination.

This work is very important as it touches a wide range of responsibilities which help drive consistencies and efficiencies in the work we do at Children’s Minnesota. We are always looking for opportunities to improve, create efficiency and most importantly, support the teams that take care of one of the most resilient and yet vulnerable populations: our kids! While I might not be directly working at the bedside, my goal every day is to think strategically about what my team and I can do to support the work of our frontline teams. One of these ways is my involvement in Governor Tim Walz’s Children’s Cabinet Advisory Council. I get to represent our kids and provide valuable perspective when it comes to serving children and families, especially those from diverse and underrepresented communities.

What are some of the barriers to success in your work and how do you address those barriers?

Yinka Ajose: Having to prove myself time and time again that I have what it takes to be a great leader. In some cases, I have had to do two to three times more than white colleagues just to get a chance to be at the table and have my voice heard. On several occasions I have had to “quiet” myself so I do not appear as the “angry black woman.” I try to call out microaggressions in real time and give people the opportunity to explain what their intentions are. Added to this is the feeling of “imposter syndrome” and the side talk of being a “token hire.” All of this made it very challenging during my first six years on my leadership journey and at times, I still struggle with this. I have worked so hard to put all these barriers aside by working on myself to ensure that I validate that I am doing a good job even if it is not acknowledged.

How do the Nursing Diversity Council and Nurses of Color Employee Resource Group at Children’s Minnesota address some of these barriers and create opportunities for equity and inclusion?

Yinka Ajose: Both do a great job looking at ways to:

  • Identify advancement, professional growth and leadership opportunities for diverse individuals.
  • Help promote professional development in diversity, equity and inclusion.
  • Recommend strategies to advance diversity and inclusion through recruitment efforts to attract and retain diverse staff and nursing leaders.
  • Support nurses as allies and to serve as advocates and sponsors for all employees for diversity, equity and inclusion and to address social determinants of health.
  • Raise awareness and accountability to support cultural inclusivity.

What opportunities exist for nurses at Children’s?

Yinka Ajose: The sky is the limit when it comes to what opportunities are available for nurses at Children’s Minnesota. We have openings for bedside nurses in various inpatient units and clinics, patient care supervisors, managers, directors, hospital nursing supervisors and clinical nurse specialists just to name a few. There is something amazing about being represented not just at the table but helping with the process of building the table. I welcome anyone who wants to do more or is ready to take that next step to reach out to me; I would love to engage in a conversation with you.

Work with us. Change lives.

Children’s Minnesota is celebrating 100 years of caring for kids. We’re now hiring nurses, lab techs, medical assistants, dietary aides and more.

Is there anything else you’d like to mention?

Yinka Ajose: Representation matters, and my prayer is that people of color or people of diverse backgrounds know that their voices count and that they are needed both at the bedside and on the leadership team.

Thank you, Yinka, for sharing your experiences and wisdom with us. We’re lucky to have you at Children’s Minnesota. Like Yinka said, there are lots of opportunities for people interested in joining our team. Find out more at Career Opportunities at Children’s Minnesota (

James Burroughs

James Burroughs
Senior vice president, government and community relations, chief equity and inclusion officer

James Burroughs is the senior vice president, government and community relations, chief equity and inclusion officer at Children's Minnesota. He is responsible for advancing equity and inclusion in all parts of the organization.
Follow James on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Julianna Olsen