The Crucial Role of Leadership at the Bedside
by Kelly Brooks
Amy Peterson, RN, takes extremely good care of her patients and is full of creative ideas to make improvements on her Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. In 2010, she says, “I had reached a point in my career where I wanted to be a part of the solution and step outside the box.”
Inspired by Peterson and other nurses like her, Joan Vincent, MSN, MS, RN, Sibley Memorial Hospital’s senior vice president of patient care services and chief nursing officer, envisions a greater role for Sibley’s nurses: women and men who strongly advocate for patients, collaborate with physicians, role-model for other staff, and hold themselves and others accountable for their practice.
To help achieve her vision, Vincent became the executive champion for the Frontline Nursing Leadership Program, and in February 2011, 50 Sibley nurses launched into a year of specialized leadership training. The schedule included four full-day intensive classroom sessions, regular meetings with a leadership coach, and undertaking a project to improve safety and patient care.
“I’ve been a nurse for a long time. [The Frontline Leadership Program] reenergized me,” says operating room (OR) nurse Jill Kalaris, RN. After observing OR physicians mixing an intra-articular injection, she launched a Frontline project to have the mixture made by the pharmacy instead. She worked diligently for a year to have the procedure changed. “Nothing is as quick of a fix as you think it is,” she says. But Kalaris’s persistence will pay off in saved time, improved safety, and decreased potential for error or contamination.
Along the way, Kalaris, Peterson, and the other Frontline nurses received mentoring and guidance from coaches like staffing manager Meg Kriss, RN, who found herself “inspired by the nurses’ creativity, their determination, and support for one another.”
Each coaching group was formed with nurses from different clinical specialty units, giving them new opportunities to form such strong relationships with their colleagues that “now they’re resources to each other,” says Susan Ohnmacht, MSN, MS, RN, associate chief nursing officer and director of critical care and senior coordinator for the Frontline program.
Kalaris, Peterson, and 44 other nurses graduated from the program in January 2012, earning continuing education units and certification in the Center for Frontline Leadership. The program was so successful that it’s been enhanced—the curriculum now extends over two years, and other professional disciplines are invited to join. As the first cohort of nurses continues its training in 2012, they are joined by 20 new participants from nursing, imaging, laboratory, pharmacy, and nutrition services.
With the Frontline program in place, the Hospital is seeing improvements in patient safety and satisfaction, nurse-physician relations, and nursing engagement. Eight Frontline nurses achieved recognition through the Hospital’s Professional Advancement in Clinical Excellence (PACE) program.
The improvement is obvious to Vincent, who sees that Sibley nurses are now “more engaged in their practice and have a vision for their professional development.”