A History and Future Dedicated to Nursing Education

Educating and developing generations of nurses

Nurse and mentor in a clinical setting

By Joan Kavanagh, PhD, RN, NEA-BC, FAAN, Associate Chief Nursing Officer, Nursing Education and Professional Development


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Since Cleveland Clinic’s founding days, it has been dedicated to patient care, research and education of those who serve. In fact, educating those who serve has been a foundational part of the organization’s long-standing mission – and an area in which the Zielony Nursing Institute has excelled.

Throughout the past two decades especially, the Nursing Institute has stood out as a unique leader in nursing education and professional development. Nursing education leaders have thoughtfully and strategically devised and implemented programs and initiatives that attract and retain highly skilled nurses, better prepare future nurses, and enhance the careers of current nursing professionals.

The path to Cleveland Clinic’s success notably began in 2005, with the introduction of the award-winning Dean’s Round Table (DRT) initiative, a partnership program with local schools of nursing dedicated to mitigating the nursing and nursing faculty shortage and ensuring higher nursing education aligns with the skills needed for real-world practice. Today, the Office of Nursing Education and Professional Development offers an extensive portfolio of unique opportunities – from high school students interested in the nursing profession to nurse leaders seeking to advance their careers.

In honor of Cleveland Clinic’s centennial celebration, the following features a selection of Cleveland Clinic’s highly recognized, innovative nursing education and development offerings.

For future and student nurses

Designed for under-represented high school students, this enrichment program is open to high school juniors in Northeast Ohio who are interested in pursuing a career in nursing. ASPIRE scholars are chosen based on their GPA, a short essay, recommendations and an interview. In addition to simulation, shadowing and facilitated learning, much of the program’s focus includes the opportunity to explore the vast possibilities of career options in nursing as well as the joys of being a caregiver. Students receive professionalism coaching, such as how to identify their brand and hone their professional image. They are also guided in college readiness and obtain valuable life skills.


As high school seniors, scholars serve as mentors for junior scholars and eventually have the opportunity to earn a full scholarship to Ursuline College for a bachelor’s degree in nursing. Each ASPIRE cohort accepts 25 scholars, and on average, 75 percent return as senior scholars and continue the program. ASPIRE was the result of a collaboration between Chief Caregiver Officer K. Kelly Hancock, DNP, RN, NE-BC, and Nick and Lorie Howley of the Howley Family Foundation.
Nurse Associate Extern
This 10-week summer program is designed for junior-level BSN students who are preparing to enter their senior year of nursing school. Students work 40 hours per week (for pay) alongside experienced Cleveland Clinic nurse mentors. The invaluable experience gives students rich insight on both the practical and critical thinking skills required for delivering safe, quality patient care. They are hired in temporary positions as nurse associates in specialties such as medical-surgical, critical care, heart and vascular, neonatal intensive care, labor and delivery, behavioral health and operating room nursing. They also observe outpatient settings like primary care, care coordination, telehealth nursing and home healthcare, and participate in classroom time.

More than a shadowing initiative, the program encourages participants to grow collaboratively and learn necessary skills such as teamwork, communication and delegation. Externs exercise critical thinking and problem solving, influence patient care, experience patient advocacy first-hand, and gain confidence in themselves and their future careers. The program accepts approximately 100 participants annually and increases initial competency and confidence of new graduates.

For new and developing nurses

New Graduate Nurse Residency
A one-of-its-kind health system-based residency, Cleveland Clinic’s nurse residency is accredited with distinction from the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC). Offering a roadmap for aiding new nurses in the transition from academia to professional practice, primary goals of the residency are to improve the practice readiness of new nurses to ensure a competent workforce; and, to provide the enhanced training, skills and knowledge needed to deliver world-class patient care where safety is a priority.

The residency is evidence and competency based, including initial competency assessment post-hire to uniquely meet the learner where they are. Residents experience immersive, active learning based on the neuroscience of learning. In addition to new graduate nurses, the residency also supports nurses who are changing specialties.

Nursing Career Development Pathways
Providing opportunities for life-long learning, ongoing professional development and career advancement, the career pathway provides helpful and supportive career guidance. It is designed for all nursing professionals looking for a roadmap to potential career growth and includes suggested developmental support and resources to embark on a future career ambition. From determining the experience and education needed to become a nurse practitioner or learning what is required to pursue a nursing management path and more, the career pathway includes a wide variety of career tracks and is available for all nurses, including advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs).


For leadership and executive nurses

Assistant Nurse Manager (ANM) Residency
Enhancing professional development of ANMs, this residency provides new nurse leaders with foundational leadership skills and mentoring, while simultaneously preparing a robust pipeline for future nurse managers (NMs) and leaders. The residency focuses on ensuring ANMs have the right tools and resources to do their jobs and includes five key areas of focus: standardized orientation, role clarity, annual education/pathway development, participation in enterprise standard ANM councils (at each Cleveland Clinic hospital) and system access (quality dashboards, data reports, workforce management tools, etc.).

Nurse Leader Development Program
Supporting new and experienced leaders, this program includes courses and offerings designed to guide current and up-and-coming nurse leaders through the leadership development process. For example, it includes an offering for nursing operations managers, charge nurses and ANMs that focuses on developing skills in delegation, leading and managing teams, and professional communication at the unit level. Another course introduces NMs and ANMs to the Cleveland Clinic culture and develops targeted skills and behaviors essential to management and leadership success in finance, human resources, quality and safety, and risk management.

Executive Nurse Fellowship
Designed for aspiring nurse executives, this immersive fellowship delivers highly customized professional development curriculum, in collaboration with multiple academic partners. It covers everything from financial skills and performance metrics to legislative policy, social capital, communication strategies and more. Fellows utilize real-world healthcare issues to expand their knowledge and enhance their ability to create, influence and drive outcomes and organizational change. The fellowship includes a 5-day immersive experience followed by a year-long mentoring partnership with executive nurse mentors. Under mentor guidance, fellows lead project-specific strategic action planning work that aligns with Cleveland Clinic’s strategic agenda.

Committed to excellence

Cleveland Clinic’s dedication to excellence in nursing education and professional development has earned the health system designation as a Center of Excellence (COE) in Nursing Education for the academic progression of nurses by the Washington, D.C.-based National League for Nursing.

This prestigious designation is given to healthcare organizations and schools of nursing that have attained levels of excellence in specific areas. The Nursing Institute was honored for “demonstrating sustained, evidence-based and substantive innovation.”

Cleveland Clinic is one of only five hospitals or health systems to hold the prestigious designation.

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