April 20, 2022

Cleveland Clinic Launches APRN Professional Development Pathways Program

Tracks offer nurses an opportunity to focus on quality, leadership, education or research

APRN Career Pathways

In March 2022, Cleveland Clinic initiated a professional development pathway program with a cohort of 47 advanced practice nurses (APRNs). It was developed by the APRN Council, which supports 2,400 APRNs across the health system.


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“Cleveland Clinic offers lots of professional development opportunities, but we wanted to design pathways and content specifically for APRNs,” says Summer Buckenmeyer, MSN, FNP-BC, APRN, CNP, Regional Cardiovascular Medicine APP Manager for Cleveland Clinic’s Heart, Vascular and Thoracic Institute and chair of the APRN Council.

Curriculum creation

A core group of council members worked with content experts for two years to create curriculum for one-year pathway programs in four tracks: quality, leadership, education and research. Each track is taught by representatives from the APRN Council, as well as a content expert with experience in the field who serves as a senior advisor.

The council piloted the pathway program in 2021 with eight participants. Based on feedback, the Professional Development Subcommittee tweaked the program before the first cohort kicked off in March. While content varies based on the track, each group holds an in-person, four-hour quarterly meeting and several online meetings. Nurses in each pathway also complete independent assignments and a culminating project.

“We want the nurses to pick a project topic they can learn about during the program and also take back to their teams wherever they work,” says Buckenmeyer.

Four focused tracks

More than 120 advanced practice nurses applied to be part of the first cohort. Those selected chose from among the following tracks, which were identified by the APRN Council as areas of interest for advanced practice nurses:

  • Quality. The 11 APRNs in this pathway are learning about the fundamentals of quality and continuous improvement, drivers for healthcare reform, quality measures and metrics, and more.
  • Leadership. This track, which has 20 participants, covers communication skills, transformational leadership, team building, employee engagement and other topics.
  • Education. The goal for this track is for APRNs – 10 in the first cohort – to develop the knowledge and skills to lead educational initiatives and create educational materials for use in their institutes or departments.
  • Research. Six APRNs are enrolled in this track, which teaches participants how to complete research from proposal of an idea through publication of study results. Because of the complexity of research, this pathway is a two-year program.

At the end of the program, participants receive a Cleveland Clinic certificate of completion.

Advice for building professional development pathways

Buckenmeyer offers tips for APRNs who would like to create a professional development program at their healthcare institutions.

“Network with other APRNs, whether you are in a small or large institution,” she says. “Have conversations about the opportunities for growth – even if it means starting off small. Find one small project and the resources to make it happen.”

Buckenmeyer adds that it’s crucial to consider your healthcare facility’s culture when devising a program.

“Each facility has a different culture,” she says. “Home in on what that culture is and where the opportunities are that you want to focus on.”


The domino effect

Buckenmeyer is excited at the potential impact of the pathway program not only for the participants, but for those they touch as well.

“The APRN culture is one of continuous learning. This program can provide advanced practice nurses a personal challenge and growth opportunities,” she says. “If we offer APRNs those opportunities, then they can take that back to their teams and help them grow. It’s a domino effect.”

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