Saint Anthony Hospital staff worked hard to improve its Leapfrog Hospital Safety Grade from a D in 2014 to an A in October 2016. The nonprofit, community teaching hospital in Chicago found one key to success came in providing front-line nurse leadership with increased confidence and management tools that would help improve hospital standards and quality of care.
Finding the Right Curriculum
Saint Anthony’s development team was searching for a structured, in-depth learning program that would empower their nurses to take leadership to the next level. What they found was Catalyst Learning Company’s NCharge® Nurses Learning to Lead program. NCharge provided the detailed content and knowledge assessments they were looking for, with results that are measurable. By focusing on relevant leadership scenarios within the hospital, participants were able to easily relate and apply techniques to their everyday environment.
“Like most healthcare organizations, we are growing and changing. We were also in the process of reorganization. It was about sweeping clean on old ideas and looking for ways to be more efficient. Illinois is also tightening on funds and as a nonprofit hospital, we had to look at ways to be more efficient in how we were working and make our staff feel as if they have a way to advancement,” stated Jaqueline Napier, Manager of Talent and Development at Saint Anthony.
Leading with More Confidence
One important outcome noted by Saint Anthony management is the overall improved confidence among nursing leadership. Creating a more autonomous team has positively impacted the hospital environment and proven an effective influence regarding quality of care.
Sonia Haro, an ICU Staff Nurse and NCharge participant, committed her time to the NCharge series with specific objectives in mind. “I was looking for ways to communicate more effectively, especially when setting expectations for the team. Sometimes, not everyone feels like being a team player. I wanted to find a way to encourage my team but stay firm and reach expectations,” explained Haro. This was the type of leadership training that most staff nurses don't get with shadowing or clinical training. Haro was pleased with NCharge, which provided her with a better understanding of communication styles and techniques to handle a variety of situations confidently in the unit.
Haro wasn’t the only person who noticed a need for better communication and confidence from front-line nursing leaders. When Catalyst Learning surveyed nurse managers at Saint Anthony before the NCharge courses were implemented, less than 20% strongly agreed that the Charge Nurses in their departments displayed confidence when leading their teams. In addition, less than 30% agreed that Charge Nurses were cognizant of the key drivers of a positive patient experience. A few months after the training was held, the same nurse managers were surveyed and reported dramatic improvement with over 65% saying Charge Nurses were more confident and over 70% recognized key drivers in positive patient experience.
Cultivating Team Dynamics
A more efficient, collaborative environment was formed as a result of the NCharge leadership training. The team who completed training worked stronger and smarter together when handling obstacles. “I really wanted to work with others in the hospital in the same position. It’s nice to have others to lean on and run questions by, and share experiences with. Networking with my own colleagues was a great bonus,” stated Haro.
Elizabeth Negrete, Director of Perinatal and Pediatric Services, had staff who completed NCharge training. Staffing in OB, having the right number of staff and the right combination, had been a continuous issue. NCharge class participants looked at staffing and created plans to put the right skills and experience in the best combinations. “Now the staff are the ones doing the schedule, entering it in to the system and balancing. When the census goes down, they adjust appropriately based on the patient grid. This shows how they have been working more autonomously and are able to make important decisions with less guidance,” explained Negrete. “The Charge Nurses are working more in collaboration with the house managers. Before, staff managers were just telling them what the need was, but now the Charge Nurses are more empowered to speak up about needs.”
Haro reported that the rounding process has also gone through changes, giving the NCharge participants an opportunity to observe with fresh eyes what happens within the unit when everyone is not on board with a change. “It takes some buy-in from everyone, and there were days when we were just being run ragged. You could easily see that on days when the new process wasn’t being used, feelings and tensions were high,” conveyed Haro.
By equipping front-line leaders with the skills to embrace change, NCharge prepares staff for reaction from team members and how to move forward as a unit. This can be vitally important and impactful when trying to deal with the constant updates within hospitals. “There is always more trust from staff when changes come from Charge Nurses. There is more peer influence and impact. The staff has more of a buy-in because they know the Charge Nurses truly understand what the impact will be since they are on the frontline with them,” described Negrete.
Made evident in the impressive move of their Leapfrog Safety grade from a D in 2014 to an A in October 2016, the hospital seems to have found the key to success in increasing quality standards. Napier credits the NCharge series with being a factor in that improvement after implementation in early 2016.
The combination of increased confidence, more efficient staffing and adaptability to change have helped Saint Anthony become a more progressive, efficient hospital when it comes to patient care and standards. “The nurses are more cohesive as a team and moving towards a group environment where the charge nurses really stand out as leaders. They are really keeping their team members engaged. All of that correlates to the patient experience and how everyone is measured,” stated Napier. “Our people were skilled but now they have more confidence in those skills and their ability to engage the nurses on their team. They now understand how this all comes together to enhance the patient experience.” By giving front-line leaders new techniques to handle their day-to-day situations and changes, an environment of new ideas and proactive enthusiasm has been cultivated.
By investing in the front-line nursing leadership at Saint Anthony, stronger teams were built and the confidence instilled in the newly trained charge nurses was of great value. The return on investment for the Chicago hospital is shown through the recognition of receiving its first A rating from Leapfrog Hospital Safety Grade and becoming a top-rated hospital.
When the University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB) assessed its training needs in late 2015, nursing leadership recognized a gap in charge nurse development. With no formal tools in place and a somewhat inconsistent structure to the Charge Nurse position, UTMB decided to take action. Catalyst Learning's NCharge® courses were chosen to bring more commonality and consistency to this vital hospital role for both current and aspiring Charge Nurses. To date, 60 participants in three cohorts have completed all five NCharge courses: Charge Nurse Fundamentals; Critical Thinking; Leading Change in a Dynamic Climate; Supervisory Skills for Positive Outcomes; and Employee Engagement & The Patient Experience. Patient Care Facilitators (PCF), who have similar responsibilities to Certified Clinical Nurse Leaders, have also been included in this comprehensive professional development program. Because Charge Nurses often look to PCFs as experts on the patient care experience, UTMB determined that leadership training could equally benefit the PCF role, said Barbara Bonificio, Director of Nursing Excellence. Bonificio added that the NCharge program could become an important asset in a comprehensive health system initiative to increase employee engagement and patient satisfaction. In fact, UTMB leaders believed the program was valuable enough to include some of its relevant results at the unit level in UTMB's recent reapplication for Magnet status.
By putting in place formal training, UTMB hopes to make significant improvements not only in patient satisfaction, but also RN-to-RN communication, nurse sensitive indicators and workflow on the units. Comparisons of participant surveys conducted before classes began and after completion indicate positive movement in critical skills development across several of these areas.
Most notably, when asked if they were cognizant of the key drivers of positive patient experience, only about 65% of respondents strongly agreed when surveyed before taking classes. After completion of the program, more than 85% strongly agreed with that statement. When asked if they understood the linkage between employee engagement and the patient experience, nearly 90% strongly agreed after the course, up from less than 70% before entering the program. Also, only about 60% of respondents strongly agreed they were cognizant of key drivers of an engaged team prior to NCharge. That number jumped to close to 90% after completion.
A Timely Decision
When UTMB launched NCharge in December 2015, hospital staff was preparing to relocate to a new facility and would be faced with a new set of workflows. The program's Leading Change module proved to be timely, as all participants in the class were involved in this major move. One especially valuable component of the Leading Change module educated students about the change curve, demonstrating that workers at different levels in an organization also are at different stages of the curve, said Sharon Hensley, Nursing Program Manager. Those in leadership roles may have already processed a change, while frontline workers may have just been introduced to it. "That was very impactful for them," she said. Prior to taking the Leading Change class, only 55% of survey respondents strongly agreed they were cognizant of their role to assist the team with change management. After completion, nearly 90% strongly agreed. In terms of leadership, 100% of respondents reported strong agreement that they were cognizant of their influence on the attitude and tone of the unit, up from only 60% prior to the class.
Beyond these targeted outcomes, NCharge has been successful in helping to dispel some misconceptions and illuminate different perspectives. For example, before the courses, many participants believed value-based purchasing simply meant that if system departments bought in volume, UTMB got a discount. "The financial impact of value-based purchasing was a real eye-opener for everyone," said Bonificio. "I don't think they realized the significant dollar amounts attached to not being reimbursed, as well as the penalties for not reaching certain targets."
Because each cohort comprised a mix of experienced Charge Nurses and those hoping to land the role, NCharge was beneficial to both groups because they were exposed to each other's perspectives. In addition, the module on types of communication is already being put to use on the floor. "Participants learned the best way to talk to people whose communication styles are different than their own," said Bonificio. Now, graduates are "excited to share the skills they have learned with their units."
Looking to the Future
Reception to the NCharge program has been overwhelmingly positive overall, Hensley said. "There were significant dollars connected to the people being selected, and I think that was impressive to them - that we are investing in them." UTMB nurse leaders are happy with the program response and results so far, and plan to continue offering it to PCFs and Charge Nurses. In fact, they envision further advantages across other nursing roles. "It would be beneficial if all nurses could understand challenges their charge nurse colleagues face," according to Bonificio. "If everyone understood these challenges, it would make the units run much more smoothly."
When a unit is under the direction of a charge nurse, service recovery is an important part of their role. Whether they are coaching other RNs or answering directly to the patient or family, charge nurses can directly impact the patient experience.
The charge nurse's ability to communicate and lead can have a significant impact on management, patients and staff. With strong clinical skills they raise the bar on patient care, but charge nurses aren't always comfortable with the leadership side of their role.
A focus on charge nurse development can improve employee engagement and patient care. Healthcare organizations that empower charge nurses to lead will achieve better results.
Research has shown that frontline leaders like charge nurses play an important role in keeping team members engaged. They also serve as the first line of defense when there is an upset patient or visitor. These skills can be learned and strengthened through dedicated training.
First, help charge nurses assess their leadership skills by exploring questions such as:
Key Skills that Benefit Patients and Staff
With greater self-awareness, charge nurses will have a better understanding of the key skills they can put to use right away to benefit patients and staff. Training outcomes for charge nurses should include the ability to:
Change - it colors the everyday lives of healthcare professionals and administrators. Even when it's a positive thing change can be stressful. Still, some upheaval is more extreme and more challenging than others and I'm sure many would say that describes healthcare today. One question this article seeks to answer is how do we get better at leading and supporting our team members through change?
Loss is a fundamental of change. Even if the change is ultimately beneficial for all stakeholders, they are still being forced to let go of something with which they are comfortable. Knowing this and that many people experience difficult emotions as a result is a key point to remember for successful change management.
Everyone Responds Differently:
When Responses Are Not Addressed...
If you or your team has a negative reaction that is not addressed and worked through, it can become a hindrance to the successful operations of the care team. Certainly morale can take a downturn, undermining the goal of the new process or procedure.
So how can you reduce the severity of stress and the degree of diminished productivity that can result from introducing the numerous new processes, procedures, and policies that are surely impacting your facility right now? Catalyst Learning recently used the model below in the course for charge nurse development, "Leading Change in a Dynamic Climate."
Step 1 - Identify where you or a co-worker fall on this curve (left). The needs and reactions of the person in 'Denial' are very different from those who are in 'Exploration'. Step 2 - Apply the corresponding strategy (right) to aid your co-worker or employee in their transition to 'Commitment.'
A key challenge of every institution is to create an environment that nurtures growth and attracts talent that has the total package: Business Management, Personal, and Team Leadership skills. There are many approaches. Anticipating the skills needed for the future can be difficult – to say nothing of the climate of change in healthcare today.
To further complicate matters for nurse leaders, today’s nursing units are populated with RNs at polar ends of the age spectrum. About 1/3 of the nursing workforce, according to HRSA, is older than 50. And, while the good news is that the number of RNs younger than 30 has significantly increased, that means there is work to do in shaping these clinicians for leadership. Over the next 10 years, the nearly one million RNs older than 50 will reach retirement age.
Put all this together and, if your organization has lower than desired nurse engagement scores, a higher than desired turnover rate, or time to fill average, you might be feeling like you’re approaching a critical point in your succession planning.
This article explores some of the traits of excellent nurse leaders and the place that training and development has in a good succession planning strategy.
2. A holistic training approach which addresses all of the domains in the model in figure 2, is a good place to start.
This model may be familiar, but it still applies and is still widely used as the model for nurse leadership. More importantly, how is your organization acting in order to ensure these traits, skills and competencies are being assessed and instilled across the nursing enterprise?
Any good plan of action begins with assessment. Take a close look at your talent pipeline, key engagement measures, and compare them to the models above. This will bring you one step closer to closing the gap in your training and succession planning strategy.