HCS Alumni Change the System through Nurse Leadership

HCS Alumni Panelists

A group of Health Care Systems alumni returned to Carrington Hall on April 24, 2012 to share their professional experiences with current HCS students. Their message: big changes are happening in health care, and nurses are leading the way.

The alumni panel, organized by the SON Office of Advancement and Associate Professor Cheryl B. Jones, brought in almost two dozen HCS alumni dating back to the graduating class of 2004. Nurse graduates came in from across the country, many with remarkable reports on what they’re doing now.

The SON’s Health Care Systems Program offers master’s and post-master’s training for nurses who want to further their expertise in administration, education, informatics, quality and outcomes management, and clinical leadership. Often these nurses have extensive clinical backgrounds and seek to influence health care on a system-wide level. According to a recent article in The Atlantic Magazine, now is a good moment for nurses to effect change by rising to leadership positions.

“Our current students already have successful careers, but it’s amazing to think of the expanded roles and opportunities that lie ahead,” said Dr. Jones, who referenced the Atlantic article. Proof of this trend was all around the room and shared by former HCS students.

Take HCS ’09 grad Angela Newman, nurse manager at WakeMed Cary, who was asked to help improve the oncology unit at her hospital. After observing oncology staff, Newman had the idea of expanding her unit’s operations by opening an outpatient clinic for blood transfusions.

“I put a proposal together, sent it to my VP, and within minutes he sent it to finance,” Newman said. It was Newman’s story of creating a medical day treatment unit that inspired Jones to bring the HCS students back to share their stories.

Susy Koruth, ’10, the SON’s first Clinical Nurse Leader certified graduate, is having a big impact in a clinical setting.

“As you can see, I’m completely clinical,” Koruth said, wearing scrubs for her position as CNL of the main surgical floor at the VA Medical Center in Durham. Koruth is not only the first SON CNL graduate, but also the first CNL to work at the Durham VA.

“At first the hospital didn’t really know exactly what the CNL role meant,” Koruth said. “But now it’s taking shape.” Koruth’s duties include monitoring performance improvement indicators for all the patients on her floor as well as serving as a support resource and educator. She has found an easy way to explain what she does: “You know the attending doctor? I’m the attending nurse.”

Another nurse whose career speaks directly to the nurse leadership trend outlined in the Atlantic is Lindsay Gaynor, ’04. Gaynor, who pursued the administration track with a focus on health care policy, is now director of clinical services and innovation for a multi-specialty physicians group in Massachusetts. Gaynor’s group is preparing to act as a pioneer Accountable Care Organization with Medicare. As an ACO, the group will work together as a network of hospitals, physicians, and other providers, sharing responsibility for the health of a specific population, in this case, of Medicare recipients. In ACO formations, providers are rewarded with increased pay when their populations show measured signs of good health, like decreased hospital visits.

“This is my first time at the executive level and I feel like we’re really having an impact on national health care reform,” Gaynor said. “It’s the team-based, multi-disciplinary care the U.S. health system has been talking about.”

Trent Praytor, ‘09 and Dustin Williams, ‘09

Dustin Williams, ‘09, spoke about the expanded roles in informatics that are and will become more available to nurses in the future.  These roles include the chief nursing information officer who leads and guides informatics operations; serving on teams to facilitate and coordinate the adoption of electronic health record technologies and the achievement of “meaningful use,” and leading efforts to implement a variety of electronic documentation systems.

Panelist Nancy Gleason, ’08, uses her HCS training in her role as a supervisor in the pre-anesthesia clinic at UNC. “I was learning something that I really needed to know in my current role as nurse manager from the get-go,” Gleason said of the HCS program. Gleason’s subsequent work and research have focused on patient safety, nurse empowerment in decision making, and nurse managers’ job satisfaction. “At this point in my career I’m looking to advance the legacy of nursing,” Gleason said.

“The one thing that I am learning, thanks to this program, is how to be a director,” said Beth Hutchinson, HCS ’10, administration, director of the Duke Birthing Center. Hutchinson spent 25 years as a nurse manager in pediatrics before taking on the role of director at Duke.

Trent Praytor, ‘09, also spoke about leadership opportunities for nurses in non-traditional settings.  After graduating from the HCS program, Trent took a position as a director of critical and progressive care at MedWest Haywood Hospital in Clyde, NC.  This step gave him the opportunity to help the organization achieve critical patient and organizational outcomes.  More recently, he has taken on the role of chief nursing officer at AnMed Health and Rehabilitation Hospital in Anderson, SC.  This position enables him to put his education to work by leading nursing services outside of acute care, and to ensure that patients who need rehabilitation services get high-quality care.   This was the perfect opportunity for Trent to take the next step in his leadership journey.
Before wrapping up, Jones asked the HCS grads what they wish they had more experience in.  The same words kept coming up: finance, marketing, facilities design, law, data analysis, project management. Their remarks reflect the increasing duties being undertaken by nurses who graduate from the HCS program and have opportunities to move above and beyond the jobs they first trained for.

Dean Swanson attended the panel and offered this in her closing remarks: “Never underestimate the lens through which you ask questions as a nurse.”  Our current HCS students and our graduates will do this as they continue to expand the boundaries of health care change, innovation, and leadership.

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One Response to “HCS Alumni Change the System through Nurse Leadership”

  1. HCS Alumni Change the System through Nurse Leadership « UNC Nursing News Says:

    [...] “Our current students already have successful careers, but it’s amazing to think of the expanded roles and opportunities that lie ahead,” said Dr. Jones, who referenced the Atlantic article. Proof of this trend was all around the room and shared by former HCS students. Read more here. [...]


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