New Abu Dhabi CNO is Privileged to Lead Cleveland Clinic’s Most Diverse Nursing Team

Elizabeth Govero aims to provide the best nursing care in the UAE

Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi (CCAD) is Cleveland Clinic’s first multispecialty hospital outside North America. It’s also home to the health system’s most diverse nursing team, which encompasses caregivers from 80 different nationalities.

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For Elizabeth Govero, DNP, RN, CMSRN, CCAD’s new chief nursing officer (CNO), leading this team is a privilege. “Having the opportunity to see the way this diverse team comes together to care for patients is humbling and inspiring,” she says. “Every day, I witness something new from them. It makes me appreciate leadership, nursing and healthcare even more.”

Govero, who has spent more than two decades in healthcare, has held a variety of leadership roles, including four CNO positions as well as interim director and chief executive officer positions. Most recently, she served as vice president of nursing and CNO at SSM Health St. Mary’s Hospital – St. Louis (affiliated with St. Louis University). In her current role — her first international position — she spearheads nursing strategic planning, operations and practice at CCAD.

Her first week as CNO was spent in Ohio with Executive Chief Nursing Officer Meredith Foxx, MSN, MBA, APRN, NEA-BC, and other Cleveland Clinic nurse executives.“It was a great way to meet the team, make connections, visualize the landscape of nursing and see the health system culture come to life,” she explains.

Since arriving in Abu Dhabi, Govero says that although CCAD is oceans away from main campus, it’s striking to see how well the organization’s culture carries through. “No matter your background, you feel like you belong and are part of an extended family,” she says. “It’s obvious that caregivers at all Cleveland Clinic locations — from main campus to Abu Dhabi — want to do what’s best for their patients and each other.”

In just a few short months, Govero has compiled a long list of the ways her team has collaborated with others throughout the health system. “We are currently going through the American Nurses Credentialing Center Magnet® redesignation process, and the tri-annual international survey from The Joint Commission is coming up,” she says. “Our colleagues across the globe have been so helpful with both. They collaborate with us on policies and procedures, and all things regulation and accreditation.”

Teams are also working side-by-side in preparation for the opening of CCAD’s new state-of-the-art cancer center this year, which is designed for patients with complex oncology diagnoses. “We’ve sent physician and nursing staff to main campus for training, and they’ve sent staff to us,” Govero says. “We are always connected with the rest of the health system.”

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Top priorities

Safety, quality, and patient and caregiver experience are at the top of Govero’s priority list. She’s been working to better align CCAD’s standards of care with the rest of the health system and developing new care support protocols, for example. Addressing staffing challenges through enhanced recruitment and a solid nurse retention strategy are other areas of focus.

Govero and her leadership team have been working on expanding CCAD’s nursing development program while increasing awareness of current offerings. The group will soon launch a new clinical ladder initiative and enhanced training to prepare nurses to become preceptors and mentors.

Supporting and guiding nurses

Professional development is something that hits home for Govero. She is a firm believer that nurses need to continuously develop as professionals — no matter their role.

“I enjoy seeing nurses take ownership of their development,” she says. “Nursing is one of the largest workforce groups in healthcare, so it’s incredibly important for us to earn those degrees and certifications, take on different positions, and advance the scope of registered nursing.”

For Govero, mentoring is key to a nurse’s professional development. She praises the benefits of participating in formal, evidence-based competency modules, videos and classes. CCAD offers a program that enables managers to assign these career-boosting activities to up-and-coming leaders, whose progress can be monitored and evaluated. On the other hand, she attributes much of her own career success to informal development opportunities — specifically things she learned from her mentors.

“Seeking advice and guidance from my leaders and mentors taught me how to ask questions, come up with creative solutions, research and present my findings,” says Govero, who has served as a mentor for current and future nurse leaders throughout much of her career.

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“I walk around with them; note how they interact with patients and physicians and offer feedback; see how they lead projects and work through obstacles; take note of how they ensure bedside nurses are heard; and offer valuable advice,” she explains. “One of my favorite accomplishments is watching my successor get my job. I always tell my team members that when I win the lottery, I want them each to be ready to step in as the next CNO. Those are the breadcrumbs I want to leave.”

To that end, Govero seeks opportunities to increase her own visibility by attending all unit safety huddles, sending weekly staff communications and more. “I do all I can to make sure our nursing caregivers feel valued and appreciated.”

The best place for empathetic nursing care

Looking ahead, Govero hopes to build on Abu Dhabi’s great foundation of nursing and ensure that CCAD is known as the best place for nursing care.

“Cleveland Clinic has an exceptional reputation here; more and more, nursing is emerging as a reputable profession in the UAE,” Govero says. “I want CCAD to not only be looked at as the best place to go for complex medical treatment, but also as a true leader in empathetic nursing care.”