Avon Hospital’s New Executive Nurse Has a Vision of Excellence
With a varied clinical background that spans nearly two decades at Cleveland Clinic, Avon Hospital’s new chief nursing officer sees a future of excellence for his nursing team.
Nurse executive Craig Tobias, MBA, MSN, RN, lives by the professional motto: A leader’s measure of success does not come from oneself but from the success of those they lead.
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For 13 years, that adage has guided Tobias in the successful leadership of nursing teams at Cleveland Clinic main campus, Lutheran Hospital and Marymount Hospital. His latest career move has landed him at Cleveland Clinic Avon Hospital, where he was named chief nursing officer (CNO). He previously served as director of medical-surgical nursing at Marymount.
Referring to Avon as an efficient, patient-centered hospital where caregivers display compassion and empathy, Tobias says stepping into the CNO role has been a seamless transition. “I’m still getting my feet wet, but I’m honored to lead such outstanding caregivers,” he says. “They take excellent care of patients, and I plan to keep that momentum of excellence going.”
Avon Hospital opened in November 2016 with a focus on patients and advanced technology. It was the first Cleveland Clinic regional hospital built in Ohio. (The second is Mentor Hospital, which opened in July.)
A traditional nurse’s station at Avon, for example, is known as an “IDW,” which stands for interdisciplinary workstation.
“It’s a very intentional way of saying this is a place for everyone to work and be part of the team,” Tobias says. “The hospital was designed to foster caregiver teamwork and collaboration. There’s a culture of family at Avon that is very palpable.”
The hospital’s family-oriented culture transcends throughout the communities it serves. More than 150 caregivers participate in community service activities for the local food bank, Good Knights of Lorain County, an organization dedicated to providing beds to children in need, and more.
“The amount of community service and outreach by Avon caregivers is outstanding,” Tobias says. “We have a very strong community connection here.”
“The desire for Cleveland Clinic care in Lorain County has been tremendous, and we’ve exploded in volume,” Tobias says. “This community was looking for the best high-level care, and that’s what we provide.”
To ensure that the nursing team can support the hospital’s patients, Tobias and other Avon leaders are focused on employee engagement, recognition and retention.
“Having a fully engaged nursing team makes all the difference in keeping nurse-to-patient ratios balanced,” he explains. “Avon has notably low nursing vacancies.”
When reflecting on his past career experiences, Tobias says having a diverse background has prepared him for the role he holds today. “I’ve worked on med-surg and behavioral health floors, in ORs and PACUs, in teaching hospitals and community hospitals,” Tobias says. “Having that diversity helps me see the bigger picture so I can provide thoughtful and strategic nursing leadership across the entire hospital.”
Tobias’ formal leadership career began in 2010, when he worked as an assistant nurse manager for the G81/91 nursing units at Cleveland Clinic main campus — a job he still considers a favorite. In 2017, he became nurse manager at Lutheran Hospital, where he gained additional leadership experience and expanded his clinical knowledge.
“A big reason behind how I got to where I am is because I was comfortable moving around,” he explains. “Taking that first leap from main campus to a community hospital ended up being a great catalyst for my future as a leader.”
In 2019, Tobias reaped similar rewards when he accepted a nurse director position at Marymount Hospital. “Because I’ve worked in so many different environments, I feel I can relate to people and what they need to do their jobs effectively,” he says.
Having great mentors was also vital to his professional trajectory.
“Of all the advice I offer those in healthcare, my best is to find a trusted mentor and be a trusted mentor,” Tobias says. “I still have my first mentor, who helped shape me into a professional when I was a young clinical nurse.”
And he’s gained many more mentors through the years — all of whom he has on “speed dial.”
Tobias shares his professional experiences with those he leads as well. He is currently laying the groundwork for mentorship of his new nursing leadership team.
He recently completed one-on-one meetings with his team members to get to know them better and ask his go-to question: What do you want to be when you grow up? He laughs as he recounts the response of one nurse leader with 40 years of service — she said, “retired.” Tobias said he would happily help her reach that goal.