Elevating the Image of Nursing

Council promotes the professionalism of nursing

When people think about branding, the first thing that comes to mind is often familiar corporate symbols and slogans like the Nike swoosh and “Just Do It” catchphrase. Should nurses have an image, too? The answer is a resounding yes at Cleveland Clinic, where the Stanley Shalom Zielony Institute for Nursing Excellence created an Image & Branding Council in 2011 to define, strengthen and advance its image and brand to attract nursing excellence globally.

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“Nurses are at the top of the list of most trusted professions in the United States,” says Meredith Lahl, MSN, RN, PCNS-BC, PNP-BC, CPON, senior director of advanced practice nursing at Cleveland Clinic and chair of the Image & Branding Council. “But we have this reputation of just being caring angels. There is so much more to what we do.” The council’s goal is to make nurses – and the public – aware that Cleveland Clinic nurses are leaders in professional practice, nursing research and nursing education.

One of the first steps for the council was to conduct internal and external research on the visibility and perception of nursing at Cleveland Clinic. More than 2,000 nurses from main campus and the health system’s community hospitals completed the survey. When asked to name the top five words nurses use to describe themselves, lots of great answers popped up – advocate, courageous, creative, critical thinker, innovator, welcoming and more. But one glaring oversight occurred in the survey results: More than half of the nurses said the word they would least use to describe themselves is leader.

“Nurses do not view themselves as leaders unless they have a formal title,” says Lahl. To help Cleveland Clinic nurses realize they are, indeed, leaders and to promote the professionalism, clinical excellence and scholarly pursuits of its nurses, the Image & Branding Council has adopted several initiatives, including these four:

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  • An essay contest. To encourage staff nurses to attend conferences, the Zielony Nursing Institute sponsors essay contests. Winners are sent to conventions such as the ANCC National Magnet Conference. In 2012, Dianna Copley, BSN, RN, CCRN, a nurse in the surgical ICU on main campus, was one of the winners who attended the Magnet conference in Los Angeles. In recounting her experience, Copley said, “It made me feel like Cleveland Clinic thinks I’m worth the investment. Our CNO and management team are really advocates for bedside nurses.” After returning, Copley joined the Image & Branding Council.
  • A professional day. In 2013, the council held a series of professional days at several Cleveland Clinic hospitals dubbed “Oh, the Places You’ll Go!” The goal was to encourage nurses to advance in their professions by obtaining specialty certifications. Nurses who attended and presented at conferences shared their experiences and showcased their posters.
  • Celebration of nursing leaders. The Zielony Nursing Institute held a panel presentation entitled “Looking Forward, Looking Back: Stories of Nursing Leadership Journeys.” Kelly Hancock, MSN, RN, BC-NE, executive CNO at Cleveland Clinic, and CNOs from three Cleveland Clinic community hospitals shared their personal stories of advancing in nursing. They talked about the challenges, influences and mentors who guided their journey. The invitation-only event, which drew approximately 115 attendees in October, was so well received that it will now be held twice a year. “It was an inspiring evening,” said Sue Collier, DNP, RN, CNO of Hillcrest Hospital and one of the panelists. “My nurses were really appreciative that someone thought to put together an event like that for them.”
  • Virtual poster presentations. Later this year, the Image & Branding Council will launch virtual poster presentations. Nurses who have presented at national conferences will display the posters on Cleveland Clinic’s intranet, along with voiceovers on why they chose the project and what it was like attending a conference.

Cleveland Clinic’s Image & Branding Council has made great strides toward helping nurses in the health system realize the extent to which they influence care, increase engagement among nurses and enhance the overall image of Cleveland Clinic.