Cleveland Clinic Nursing Hosts Prestigious Inaugural Executive Nurse Fellowship

Five-day experience delivers essential leadership insights


One of the nation’s top nursing institutes and a designated National League of Nursing Center of Excellence in Education, Cleveland Clinic nursing recently hosted its inaugural Executive Nurse Fellowship for aspiring nurse leaders.


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A prestigious and innovative leadership development program, the Executive Nurse Fellowship is offered under the direction of Cleveland Clinic Executive Chief Nursing Officer, K. Kelly Hancock, DNP, RN, NE-BC, in collaboration with Joyce J. Fitzpatrick, PhD, MBA, RN, FAAN, FNAP, Elizabeth Brooks Ford Professor of Nursing, Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing, Case Western Reserve University.

Program planning and development was executed by the Executive Nurse Fellowship Committee, which includes the following members: Joan Kavanagh, MSN, RN, NEA-BC, Associate Chief Nursing Officer for Cleveland Clinic’s Office of Nursing Education and Professional Development; Deb Small, DNP, RN, NE-BC, Chief Nursing Officer for Cleveland Clinic London; Shelia Miller, DNP, MBA, RN, NEA-BC, Vice President of Nursing and Chief Nursing Officer at Cleveland Clinic South Pointe Hospital; Sue Collier, DNP, RN, NEA-BC, Vice President of Nursing and Chief Nursing Officer at Cleveland Clinic Hillcrest Hospital; and, Jill Prendergast, PHR, Senior Human Resource Director for Cleveland Clinic nursing. Additionally, Kimberly Zahand, MBA, of Cleveland Clinic’s Office of Nursing Education and Professional Development is the Fellowship Program Manager.

Through highly customized professional development curriculum that covers everything from financial skills and performance metrics to legislative policy, social capital and communication strategies, the five-day immersion experience is designed to deliver essential leadership insight and knowledge.

“In today’s complex and constantly evolving healthcare landscape, nurses need to be front and center as key drivers and contributors in senior hospital leadership,” says Kavanagh. “Executive nurse leaders bring unique, patient-centered viewpoints to the decision-making table, influencing both organizational success and patient experience. However, there are limited programs available to educate aspiring nurse leaders. We created this opportunity to help fill that void and provide role-specific curriculum tailored to each participant’s unique skillset and professional development needs.”

Inspiring fellows and faculty

The inaugural Fellowship welcomed 11 of Cleveland Clinic’s high potential senior nurse leaders.

Through networking, community partnerships and compelling interactive learning, problem solving, group exercises, role-based scenarios and simulation, fellows participated in more than 20 educational sessions with top academic and service executives.

In addition to numerous Cleveland Clinic experts, Fellowship faculty included the following experts:

  • Kate Judge, Executive Director of the American Nurses Foundation
  • Simon Peck, Associate Professor of Strategic Management at the Weatherhead School of Management, Case Western Reserve University
  • Judith Shamian, PhD, RN, LLD (hon), DSci (hon), FAAN, Immediate Past President of the International Council of Nurses and President Emerita; and Past President and CEO of the Victorian Order of Nurses
  • B. Silvers, PhD, John R. Mannix Medical Mutual of Ohio Professor of Health Care Finance and Professor of Banking and Finance at the Weatherhead School of Management, Case Western Reserve University
  • Rebecca M. Patton, DNP, RN, CNOR, FAAN, Lucy Jo Atkinson Scholar in Perioperative Nursing, Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing, Case Western Reserve University
  • Carol Porter, DNP, RN, FAAN, Senior Vice President and Chief Nursing Officer, MD Anderson


“The fellows and faculty were incredible,” says Dr. Small. “It was great to watch the participants engage in professional dialogue with the presenters. You could see light bulbs going off. It was a huge success and the program far exceeded my expectations.”

Continued learning and development

To further enrich the immersive experience, fellows were paired with Cleveland Clinic nursing executive mentors and assigned project-specific strategic planning work. Each project was an identified systemic issue that aligned with Cleveland Clinic’s strategic agenda. Fellows were to apply the concepts learned from the speakers and sessions to their action planning work, which included the following:

  • Investing and Developing Non-Licensed Personnel to be “Best in Class.”
  • Striving to Become a Leader in Population Health.
  • Promoting Clinical Nurse Awareness and Participation in Innovation Opportunities.
  • Perfecting Interdisciplinary Rounds to Impact Length of Stay.

Fellows chose the topic that was of most interest to them and were divided into small groups. At the conclusion of the five-day experience, they presented their initial research and action planning to Cleveland Clinic’s executive nursing leadership team.

Dr. Miller notes, “It was very rewarding to see the nurse leader fellows broadening their perspectives as they applied the concepts to their interactions and projects.”

Over the course of the next year, fellows will further enhance their leadership learning and development by continuing work on their assigned systemic issues. This continued learning component is intended to help create a pipeline of future executive leaders who will be well equipped for advanced leadership roles.

“One of the primary goals of this program is to take high potential leaders and give them the tools they need to create a path where they can continue to develop and grow outside of their own expertise through more systems thinking,” adds Dr. Small.

Fellows are embracing the opportunity. Fellow John Davis, MSN, RN, NE-BC, Nursing Director for Inpatient and Emergency Services Nursing at Cleveland Clinic Medina Hospital, is working on the population health initiative and comments, “This allows me to step outside of my clinical area. My wheelhouse is inpatient care; that’s where all my experience and work to date has been, so not only do I look forward to the change in focus, I feel it will be a great expansion of my skillset because it’s not in my comfort zone.”


Leveraging influence, driving outcomes, and leading

During the program’s closing ceremony, in which Dr. Hancock and Dr. Fitzpatrick personally honored and recognized each graduating fellow, the inaugural program was unanimously dubbed highly valuable and extremely beneficial.

Throughout the experience, fellows successfully utilized real-world healthcare issues to expand their knowledge and enhance their ability to create, influence and drive outcomes and organizational change. They garnered insight on leadership strategies and competencies designed to help them quickly analyze, respond and lead. They learned how to create high-impact relationships. They were empowered to take a closer look at the difference nursing can make in healthcare.

And they further discovered their own leadership strengths and enhanced their leadership journeys.

“This Executive Nurse Fellowship really focuses on the core competencies that future nurse leaders already have, but don’t necessarily use to their full potential. For example, a core part of what nurses do with patients and families every day is communicate – yet they don’t practice communication as often in leadership circles,” says Dr. Fitzpatrick. “This program builds their confidence and increases self-awareness of current skills so participants can use them in different, elevated ways.”

Dr. Fitzpatrick says she likes to use the example of a Kaleidoscope. She adds, “What we are doing here isn’t changing reality, but rather changing the way we view reality.”


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