Strategic Web Communications Unify Nurses Across Continents

A unified nursing team all comes back to communication

When nursing leadership set out to integrate the Zielony Nursing Institute’s policies and practices across the entire Cleveland Clinic health system, it was apparent that strong central communication was the most critical part of the plan if they were to achieve success.

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Rallying nearly 12,000 nurses across a main campus, eight system hospitals and two faraway hospitals – in Florida and Abu Dhabi – would mean building a platform that could reach every last one of them. And it would mean finding creative ways to engage with nurses to build a sense of unified purpose.

“The Nursing intranet,” says Mandy Barney, Marketing Manager for Nursing, “is the foundation to our house. We built everything else on top of it.”

“The site has created great enthusiasm,” says Nelita Zytkowski, DNP, MS, NEA-BC, RN-BC, Associate Chief Nursing Officer, Office of Informatics, who oversees the team responsible for updating the nursing intranet.

Two-way communication

Since 2009, when overhaul of the intranet site began, it has improved and grown exponentially. It went from a static website to a leader-driven, user-friendly website complete with news feeds, videos, shared governance documents, research posters, a nursing innovation center, career and educational opportunities, organizational charts, an events calendar and more.

It is the one place where nurses can stay informed about nursing efforts across the system and across the field of nursing. And importantly, it is a place for two-way communications where nurses can provide their feedback and learn more about their colleagues’ efforts.

“It has become the go-to place for need-to-know information,” says Barney. “Nurses are busy and don’t have a lot of time to spend online, so you have to give them content that is timely and relevant.”

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Providing engaging content

Today, the content-rich site is designed around Cleveland Clinic’s Professional Practice Model, and it has an average of 16,000 visits from nurses across the system every week.

“Our centralized communications ensure that we are not only delivering the right message, but also continuing to support our culture of shared governance,” says Joan Kavanagh, MSN, RN, NEA-BC, Associate Chief Nursing Officer. “It is so important to hear and honor the voices of our nurses.”

With all roads leading to the nursing intranet, Marketing is able to track and measure readership to find out what nurses find most valuable. “We are always listening to feedback so we can continue to engage nurses and give them what they need,” Barney adds.


Ensuring bedside nurses stay up-to-date with the latest information is key to providing the best in patient care. We tapped into their smartphones to send weekly text messages. These include news updates, event and conference information and inspirational messages designed to engage nurses.

A place for social media and video

This year, the most highly trafficked time on the site was during National Nurses Week in May. Celebratory events were featured and a series was posted called “Generations of Nurses,” which highlighted stories about Cleveland Clinic nurses who were related. Nurses also had the opportunity to send fellow colleagues flowers and eCard thank yous in honor of the special week; and they were invited to post nursing messages on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook sites.

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Another great advantage of this virtual communication tool is the ability to connect all of nursing with nursing leadership. In the past year, Executive Chief Nursing Officer K. Kelly Hancock, MSN, RN, NE-BC, launched her “Momentum Series.” In these five-minute videos, she and guest nurses talk candidly to viewers about the latest nursing initiatives to keep everyone informed. Hancock does this regularly in addition to her bimonthly monthly e-newsletter, which is sent to all nurses with links back to the intranet—always for more information.

Building trust and unity

Kavanagh believes that streamlined communications have been instrumental in facilitating a “culture of unity” across all nursing units in the system. “Effective, timely internal communication is the key driver in building trust and commitment,” she says. Cleveland Clinic’s Nursing Institute has seen tremendous gains on this based on results from the Gallup employee engagement survey. In 2013, there was a 92 percent survey participation rate across the institute, and engagement scores jumped from the 38th to the 61st percentile from 2008 to 2013.

“In this time of rapid and intense change, our communication had to evolve from merely conveying information to exchanging information and involving our nurses as strategic business partners,” says Kavanagh. “All of our Intranet communications have strengthened nurses’ identification with our Nursing Institute’s mission and strategic goals.”

Ultimately, with the help of the intranet, the primary goal is being achieved every day: more connectivity and more streamlined policies and practices—all of which allows Cleveland Clinic Nursing to provide the very best in patient care.

Photo Credit : ©2013 Russell Lee