Leading With Collaboration

Hillcrest Hospital welcomes new CNO

Dr. Sue Behrens

Collaboration tops the list of the keys to leadership success for Sue Behrens, DNP, RN, ACNS-BC, NEA-BC. Dr. Behrens was recently named Cleveland Clinic Hillcrest Hospital’s Chief Nursing Officer (CNO).

Advertising Policy

Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services Policy

Dr. Behrens is no stranger to the executive nurse position or Cleveland Clinic. For seven years, she served in nurse leader roles at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi (CCAD), Cleveland Clinic’s first multispecialty hospital outside North America and home to the health system’s most diverse nursing team. Most recently, she was CNO.

Dr. Behrens led CCAD nursing caregivers to many accomplishments, including the first-ever American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) Magnet Recognition Program® for the United Arab Emirates (UAE) medical sector and the first Emergency Nurses Association (ENA) Lantern Award to be given outside the U.S.

She was also instrumental in CCAD’s initial operational planning, establishing clinical direction for nursing care delivery in ambulatory, emergency department, procedural and imaging settings and developing the UAE scope of practice for advanced providers.

As Hillcrest CNO, Dr. Behrens has outlined priorities including quality care, patient experience, nurse engagement and ensuring nursing caregivers are working at the top of their license.

Initially, however, she is looking forward to building relationships and working with her new colleagues. She says she has quickly realized that Hillcrest is backed by a strong group of nurses and leaders who believe in teamwork and collaboration – which aligns with her leadership style.

Advertising Policy

“What struck me the most coming to Hillcrest was the culture within the walls of the hospital,” Dr. Behrens says. “I’ve been meeting with all the nursing units and have been impressed by the culture. Everyone is hard-working and committed. There is a genuine concept of caring for each other that you can feel among all. It is a true team of teams environment.”

A culture built on collaboration

Of course, this is the type of culture Dr. Behrens expected to see when she arrived at Hillcrest.

“No matter where you are throughout this health system, the commitment to quality care, the core values and the mission are always the same,” she says. “You can feel it in every building you walk into. I used to hear people talk about the secret sauce of Cleveland – this is it, the culture. Our mission and values are at the center of every institute and location.”

Dr. Behrens believes Cleveland Clinic’s team of teams concept is about diversity and using everyone’s strengths through team collaboration. Leading diverse teams is one of her specialties. At CCAD, there were 77 nationalities within The Stanley Shalom Zielony Institute for Nursing Excellence.

“Leading a diverse team is about listening to each other and integrating the differences each team member has to focus on the job at hand and deliver outcomes that are best for the patient and organization,” she says.          

Advertising Policy

Learning from best practices

Dr. Behrens is also a strong advocate for nurses sharing best practices with one another, and she has made it an important part of her career.

“When the COVID-19 pandemic started, Abu Dhabi was where Cleveland Clinic’s first patient surge hit,” she says. “We learned a lot from that and I’m hoping to bring some of the best practices we used there in quality and engagement here to Hillcrest.”

Before joining Cleveland Clinic, she worked for 25 years at OSF Saint Francis Medical Center in Peoria, Ill. She was vital to the medical center’s initial achievement of ANCC Magnet Recognition, as well as its two re-certifications. Upon joining CCAD, she introduced everything she knew about Magnet to the CCAD nursing team.

“It was really a unique experience educating and getting everyone at CCAD enthusiastic for something they had never heard of before,” Dr. Behrens says. “The nurses were so engaged throughout CCAD’s Magnet journey – it was awesome to watch! I did the same with the ENA’s best practices for the ED environment in Abu Dhabi. To me, it’s fun to bring best practices back and forth. You are giving, but you are also receiving.”

As a nurse executive, Dr. Behrens says her greatest satisfactions come from collaborating with other nurses.

“When you’re the CNO, you represent the voice for all nursing caregivers within the organization,” she says. “The voices of the nurses you work with help drive change, and this is what energizes me to lead and make a difference for those I serve.”