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May 5, 2023/Leadership

Dynamic Leader Aims to Standardize and Elevate Professional Nursing Practice

Emergency Services and Behavioral Health welcome new ACNO

Erica Shields headshot | Cleveland Clinic

At the start of 2023, Cleveland Clinic’s Stanley Shalom Zielony Institute for Nursing Excellence created a new executive leader position — associate chief nursing officer (ACNO) for emergency services and behavioral health. And first to hold the title is Erica Shields, MBA, BSN, RN, NE-BC.


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“Previously, the position did not include behavioral health and it’s been a positive change,” Shields says. “There’s a lot of exciting work ahead and my past career experiences have prepared me for this role.”

Shields has 26 years of emergency department (ED) experience at Cleveland Clinic and has been a progressive leader within ED and inpatient care environments for more than 20 years.

Most recently, she was senior director of nursing for Cleveland Clinic’s east-region EDs, giving her extensive experience with enterprise systems and processes. She was integral to the ED nursing integration at Martin Health, Indian River and Mercy hospitals, and served as a content expert and resource for regional ED nurse managers and directors.

In her first months as ACNO, Shields has been building and cultivating relationships with her teams. Many of the organization’s ED nurse leaders she knows and has worked with, but she is a new face to those in behavioral health.

“Most of our behavioral health leaders have been doing this for a long time and are certainly experts in their field,” Shields says. “They are incredibly valued, and I want to gain their trust and respect.”

As far as leadership style goes, Shields says she likes to “keep things real.”

“Honesty and transparency are at the forefront of my leadership,” Shields comments. “Integrity is a value I live by. I believe in working hard, staying focused, treating everyone equally, and taking care of each other as much as we take care of our patients.”

Elevating professional nursing practice

Shields’ top priority is to support Cleveland Clinic’s emergency services and behavioral health nursing teams by standardizing and elevating professional nursing practice to provide the highest levels of safe, quality care.

“I love that I have the opportunity to connect these teams and standardize and share best practices across both emergency services and behavioral health,” Shields says.

Shields has been rounding and meeting with her teams at Cleveland Clinic’s nearly 30 EDs and six inpatient behavioral health units in Ohio. Her primary focus has been aligning and standardizing policies and practices.

“The goal is to have strong cohesiveness and representation in this area,” Shields notes. “I’ve been working with the directors to review policies that are up for renewal and ensure regulatory compliance.”

Providing safe environments for emergency and behavioral health caregivers is of the utmost importance. Shields co-chairs Cleveland Clinic’s enterprise-wide workplace violence prevention committee. She’s also been closely involved with Cleveland Clinic’s emergency services and behavioral health affinity groups, which include nursing caregivers from across the enterprise.


“Sharing safety stories and best practices in this collaborative setting brings us all together and continues to solidify our one Cleveland Clinic culture,” Shields says. “In the behavioral health group, we recently discussed providing enhanced support for nurses who care for behavioral health patients admitted to medical units, and how to support patients while they are on the units.”

Passion for professional development

Shields is passionate about mentoring others and helping them develop professionally.

“I’m grateful for the path I’ve had and for opportunities to learn and grow,” Shields says. “I want to make sure others are afforded the same.”

To aid with their development, Shields likes to get to know people on a personal level. She likes to find out what drives them, what motivates them, and what pushes them to be the best versions of themselves.

“I want to know their goals and support nurses in ways that helps them get to where they want to be,” Shields admits.

She encourages participation in classes or courses to garner knowledge and foster growth, and she is a huge proponent of nominating nurses for awards and recognitions.

“It’s so important to recognize individuals and teams for the things they do and achieve,” Shields says. “Every day nurses are making a difference in someone’s life, and they deserve to be celebrated for it.”

As Shields looks to the future, she predicts it will be abundant with innovation — especially in telehealth and telemedicine.

“From virtual ED triaging and telehealth capabilities for behavioral health patients to using artificial intelligence to better serve all patients, there is much ahead on the horizon,” Shields says.


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