Nursing Leadership Summit Is A Must

Unique forum delivers immense strategic value

By Kelly Hancock, DNP, RN, NE-BC

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When Cleveland Clinic held its first Nursing Leadership Summit eight years ago, our executive nurse leaders aimed to establish a one-of-a-kind annual strategic planning forum.

It was to include all of our health system’s 450 nurse leaders – from executive leaders and hospital leaders to nursing floor and unit leaders. It would be interactive and engaging. It would feature guest presenters. It would encourage open discussion, brainstorming and idea generation. It would be unlike anything our leadership team had done to date.

Almost a decade later, Cleveland Clinic’s annual Nursing Leadership Summit has not only accomplished the above – it has evolved into one of our organization’s most significant and powerful strategic planning initiatives.

A quick snapshot

Cleveland Clinic holds its Nursing Leadership Summit mid-year, usually in July or August. It is either a full day or a half day (rotating every other year) and the event structure/agenda includes leader updates, guest presenters, table work, break-out sessions, open discussions, presentations, video highlights, associated marketing collateral, raffles and giveaways.

Summit attendees include Cleveland Clinic’s associate chief nursing officers (ACNOs), chief nursing officers (CNOs), nursing directors, nurse managers, assistant nurse managers (in succession planning) and other identified leaders such as clinical nurse specialists and shared governance leaders. Embedded support professionals from areas such as marketing, communications, finance, human resources and continuous improvement also attend. In the future, we are considering adding assistant nurse managers and clinical instructors to the invite list.

An intricately planned program

The executive leadership team leads all planning and coordination of the Summit (primarily the ACNOs, in conjunction with the ECNO) – deciding what we should focus on and why. Every Summit is focused on one primary theme or area. Key stakeholders include the ECNO, CNOs, chief executive officer, donors, the philanthropy team, and others. As imagined, considerable and careful thought is given to the event’s objectives, goals and content.

For example, we may place our effort and attention on strategic planning direction, such as setting or regenerating our nursing strategic themes and our strategic alignment with the current goals of Cleveland Clinic health system. Or, we may decide we should evaluate and discuss timely subjects. We did this at our 2012 Summit, which centered on the “Future of Nursing: Leading Change, Advancing Health” Institute of Medicine (IOM) report. National nursing leader and IOM report committee member Dr. Michael Bleich was our featured guest that year.

Alternatively, our Summit may focus on an identified area of need. This was our approach in 2014, when we looked at the importance of ensuring the voice of nursing is heard in healthcare transformation. That year, renowned nurse leader and author of Nurses Making Policy from Bedside to Boardroom Rebecca Patton spoke on nursing legislation and policy.

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Throughout the years, in addition to Dr. Bleich and Rebecca Patton, our Nursing Leadership Summits have presented the opportunity to invite several other national nursing professionals as featured guests, including Dr. Linda Burnes Bolton, Marie Manthey, Dr. Tim Porter-O’Grady and Dr. Patricia Benner.

Healthcare transformation is pivotal to our Summit content, as is care coordination and leadership development. And every year, we make a point to share best practices, celebrate our accomplishments, and recognize our leaders and nursing teams for their excellent work. We often kick off the day with a celebratory video that highlights our recent successes and helps set an inspirational tone for the day. At the close of the event we raffle off gifts related to leadership development.

At our recent 2016 Summit, we celebrated the “power of every leader” and the expansion of excellence in our nursing institute locally, regionally, nationally and internationally. With a focus on the future, we discussed how each of our nursing leaders is a catalyst for our continued growth and transformation.

The day consisted of leadership presentations from Cleveland Clinic locations such as Abu Dhabi, Canada, Las Vegas, Florida and Akron, Ohio. We invited Mark and Bonnie Barnes from the Daisy Foundation, an organization that honors and celebrates nurses for their work, to speak to our leaders. Jennifer Lea from the Johnson & Johnson Human Performance Institute’s Energy Management training program was another guest speaker. She discussed how energy ignites our full potential and how important it is to manage and cultivate our supply of energy.

Admittedly, no matter what our Summit objectives, goals and content plans are – this event takes significant time and resources to pull off. But, the value it delivers is immense.

Return-on-investment is significant

First and foremost, the Summit helps us accomplish numerous objectives – comprehensively as one leadership body – and continues to establish measurable benchmarks for our organization’s forward movement.

Because of work we’ve done at our Nursing Leadership Summits, we’ve altered or modified our strategic direction. We’ve determined more appropriate steps for future strategic planning and action. We’ve realized new opportunities for nurse leaders and their teams (such as the creation of the Nursing Legislative Council at our 2014 Summit). And, we’ve provided continuing nursing education.

Additionally, this unique forum allows nurse leaders to hear directly from their colleagues – providing unmatched opportunity to message and converse directly with all leaders at the same time. It also demonstrates the solid leadership of those presenting and creates systemwide leadership cohesiveness, while further enhancing relationships and our sense of community.

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From our annual Summit, we’ve been able to build portfolios of leadership resources on our nursing institute intranet site for caregiver viewing. These resources create a visual “chronicle” of our strategic work and allow our nursing caregivers to view milestones in our organization’s strategic history, such as our initial integration or the evolution of our strategic planning efforts and strategic theme development. This chronicle has further developed organizational pride, created continuity and showcased ongoing progress and success.

Considerations for your own leadership summit

For nurse leaders who have been thinking about how to “freshen” strategic planning initiatives, or better encourage strategic collaboration and idea generation, a nursing leadership summit may be the answer you’ve been seeking.

If so, the following considerations should help as you begin planning:

  • Venue (with ample space, tables/chairs, staging/podiums/screens, A/V capabilities, food and beverage service)
  • Save-the-Dates and Invitations
  • Agenda/Program
  • Guest Speakers/Presenters
  • Administrative/Clerical/Project Management Support (RSVP tracking, creation of day-of materials, coordination of day-of services, etc.)
  • Collateral Materials for Tables (folders, pens, paper)
  • Facilitators for Group Work and Discussions/Collection of Group Work and Dissemination of Information/Debrief Time/Post-Action Review (results/ideas presentation)
  • Raffles/Giveaways
  • Day-of Photography and Videography
  • Cost (all of the above as well as ‘highlights/nursing team success’ video)

Additional recommended tips are to allow 6 to 8 months for event planning and preparation. Appoint a planning committee and immediately establish roles and responsibilities. Include marketing representatives for assistance with event collateral and promotion, and schedule monthly committee meetings with outlined objectives.

As soon as you can, sign a contract with your venue provider. Request all final presentation materials from your event presenters approximately 3 to 4 weeks prior to the event to ensure material fluidity and continuity. Schedule rehearsals for presenters as needed in the final days leading up to the event.

And, finally, when your Summit has concluded, hold a debriefing within 1 to 2 weeks. This debriefing is crucial. Include the event planning leadership team (ECNO, ACNOs) and planning committee and aim to discuss what worked, what didn’t, lessons learned, and next steps as well as Summit follow-up needs.

Kelly Hancock is the Executive Chief Nursing Officer of the Cleveland Clinic Health System, and Chief Nursing Officer of Cleveland Clinic Main Campus.

Follow Kelly on Twitter at @kkellyhancock.