Endowment Funds Offer Cleveland Clinic Nurses More Opportunities For National Nursing Conference Participation

Funds enhance professional development, ongoing learning

Over the past year, Cleveland Clinic’s Nursing Institute has taken a new approach to the way it utilizes endowment funds. As part of the strategic planning process for 2014, Cleveland Clinic nurse leaders worked to identify tactics that would meet two of the organization’s business objectives – improve professional development and increase the national image and brand of Cleveland Clinic nursing.

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With one solid idea, the organization’s nurse leaders are now achieving both. How? By creatively using endowment funds to send more Cleveland Clinic nurses to local, regional and national industry conferences.

“Professional development and ongoing education are essential to ensuring our nurses are delivering patients world-class care, practicing the profession to the best of their abilities, and bringing new knowledge and insight to continually advance both nursing and healthcare,” says Kelly Hancock, executive chief nursing officer, Cleveland Clinic health system, and chief nursing officer, Cleveland Clinic main campus.

Enhancing nursing practice

“Utilizing endowment funds to cover the costs of conference travel and attendance enables more nurses to present at and attend nursing conferences, which in turn gives them the opportunity to gain valuable knowledge, enhance their practice and elevate our Cleveland Clinic nursing brand,” Hancock adds.

The nursing conference attendance program consists of two primary components: mentor/mentee offerings and scholarship opportunities. Both components utilize endowment funds to cover conference-related travel and expenses and, in both instances, nurses must meet outlined eligibility requirements.

Mentor/Mentee Offerings

The ‘mentor/mentee offerings’ portion of the nursing conference attendance program was created specifically to offer comprehensive reimbursement for conference attendance and travel. It enables nurses presenting a podium or poster presentation at a conference to serve as a mentor and to ask more novice nurses to attend the conference with them as their mentees – giving the mentees added experience and confidence.

Scholarship Opportunities

With the ‘scholarship opportunities’ portion of the program, each of Cleveland Clinic’s chief nursing officers are given the opportunity to hand-select nurses from their organization for conference attendance. Chief nursing officers are notified when conference attendance opportunities are available and may submit their requests accordingly.

Prior to the allotment of endowment funds to nursing conferences, Cleveland Clinic was only able to approve a minimal number of nurses annually for reimbursed conference attendance as conference funding was taken from the organization’s operational funds.

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“Before our leadership team made the decision to use endowment funds to encourage more nurses to attend and participate in industry conferences, nurses who were interested in attending a conference filled out an application form, were entered into a review pool and only a small number of applicants were chosen based on the submitted criteria,” says Mandy Barney, marketing manager for Cleveland Clinic Nursing Institute and the initial nursing conferences program manager. “By utilizing endowment funds, our nursing organization is now able to send nurses from every Cleveland Clinic location to a wide variety of national conferences each year.”

In 2014, the year the program launched, more than 200 Cleveland Clinic nurses attended approximately 50 professional nursing conferences by way of endowment funds, which is a significant increase from 2013. And this creative allotment of funds is proving extremely successful in 2015 as well. In the first five months of the year, 117 nurses took advantage of the nursing conference attendance program, representing Cleveland Clinic at roughly 28 local, regional or national nursing conferences.

Implementing a “S.M.A.R.T.” evaluation process

To ensure the knowledge garnered by conference attendance is being shared throughout the Cleveland Clinic health system, when the program launched, Barney and other program leaders worked to devise a new conference evaluation process.

Now, following conference attendance, attendees are required to submit a “S.M.A.R.T.” action plan that they are asked to then execute upon return from the conference. The plan requires attendees to include the following information:

S – Be Specific about what you achieved from this event

M – Ensure your result is Measurable

A – Make sure it is Action oriented

R – Check that it’s Realistic

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T – Make sure it is Time restricted

Leading and learning by example

In April, Karen Distelhorst, a clinical nurse specialist in gerontology at Cleveland Clinic’s South Pointe Hospital had the opportunity to take three geriatric resource nurses (GRNs) with her to the national NICHE conference as part of the program’s mentor/mentee offerings. For two of the mentee nurses, it was their first time ever attending a national nursing conference.

“The nurses who had the opportunity to attend the NICHE conference were very appreciative of the opportunity and they immediately devised key takeaways from their experience, including best practices on fall prevention for patients and families, and delirium interventions and orientation programs for patient companions,” Distelhorst says.

Following the conference, the nurses met with their GRN colleagues at South Pointe to share what they learned, and their S.M.A.R.T. action plan was also shared with all other health system GRNs.

“When I was a staff nurse, I never had an opportunity to go to a conference. I think it’s great the Nursing Institute supports the professional development of the direct care nurse by encouraging them to attend conferences,” Distelhorst adds.

For more on how Cleveland Clinic nurses have been able to capitalize on conference attendance opportunities, read other examples from those who have used the program’s mentor/mentee offerings.