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January 7, 2022/Leadership

Fellowship Helps Nurses Focus on Leadership Issues

Cleveland Clinic program provides tools for senior nurse leaders

Meredith Foxx

For anyone in leadership, there’s something helpful to having a “personal brand” – that collection of qualities that you stand for and that others recognize as authentic. A personal brand can help with building trust and expanding networks, and it also comes in handy for helping a person muster confidence in themselves – and everyone needs that, says Cathleen Wheatley, DNP, RN, CENP, FAAN.


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“No matter how many times you’re a leader or how many jobs you’ve had, or how many organizations you’ve worked for, each time you move into another role, you have to go through a little bit of imposter syndrome, and build confidence,” said Wheatley, President of Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in Winston Salem, NC. She was among faculty members for Cleveland Clinic’s 2021 Executive Nurse Fellowship (ENF), which was presented in October for 21 nurse leaders in the Cleveland Clinic health system.

Wheatley’s topic was Influence and Communications Strategy — just one set of skills that those in top leadership roles need in their toolkit.

“The key mission of the Executive Nurse Fellowship is to provide high-potential senior nurse leaders with the knowledge, tools and resources to grow and develop in their current roles, and to prepare them to serve in an executive nurse leader role,” says Kathy Mau, DNP, APRN, ACCNS-AG, ACNS-BC, Cleveland Clinic Senior Director of Nursing Education and Professional Development.

Supporting nurses in their leadership goals

The ENF was designed to be a career development opportunity for nurse leaders with executive ambition and potential. As professionals who bring a unique perspective to caregiving, nurses have become a crucial part of healthcare leadership.

Cleveland Clinic chief nursing officers and associate chief nursing officers presented much of the content, sharing their knowledge and expertise across a broad range of topics. Many partnered with other Cleveland Clinic executives and experts to present a variety of perspectives on a topic. Cleveland Clinic CEO and President Tom Mihaljevic, MD, and Chief Caregiver Officer K. Kelly Hancock DNP, RN, NE-BC, FAAN, presented together on changes in healthcare.

The fellowship also tapped wisdom from external experts, including Scott J. Allen, PhD, John Carroll University; Diana Billamora, PhD, Chair of the Department of Organizational Behavior at Weatherhead School of Management, Case Western Reserve University; Tim Porter O’Grady, DM, EdD, ScD, APRN, FAAN, Senior Partner, Tim Porter-O’Grady Associates; Patricia Sharpnack, DNP, RN, CNE, NEA-BC, ANEF, FAAN, The Breen School of Nursing and Health Professions; Becky Patton, DNP, RN, CNOR, FAAN, Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing, and Linda Burnes Bolton, DrPH, RN, FAAN, Senior Vice President and Chief Health Equity Officer, Cedars-Sinai.

Topics included:

  • Leadership Complexity
  • Executive Presence
  • Emotional Intelligence
  • Healthcare Finance
  • Executive Relationships
  • Strategic Change
  • Legislative Policy
  • Performance Metric Optimization

Fellows also will take part in a year-long project designed to give them an opportunity to use lessons learned through the fellowship, Dr. Mau says. The project is focused on exploring a new model of nursing care. Additional professional development opportunities for fellows will include an Emotional Intelligence Deep Dive in the spring.

Mentorship is also a key aspect of the fellowship, Dr. Mau says. Fellows are matched with an executive mentor for individualized leader development.

A post-intensive survey indicated that the experience made a significant impact for participants, who saw benefits for both their current role and for future leadership position. Some of the most valuable takeaways reported were:

  • Presentation skills and executive presence
  • Importance and use of Big Data and Technology as well as population health
  • Systems thinking, strategic change, and leadership complexity
  • Impact of teamwork and collaboration on success
  • How to be influential and how to build executive relationships
  • How to support and sustain change

The 2021 fellows included nurses in director roles as well as several nurse managers from across Northeast Ohio and Cleveland Clinic London.


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