Supporting Those Who Support Nursing Care

Cleveland Clinic lights the healthcare career pathway


A nursing support worker in need of a little career inspiration would do well to read about Shawn Nixon, MSN, APRN-CNP, a nurse practitioner for Cleveland Clinic’s Heart, Vascular & Thoracic Institute. Ten years ago, Nixon stepped into healthcare when he joined Cleveland Clinic as a patient transport worker. It didn’t take long for him to see that he was on the right path.

Nixon sought new roles, moving from patient transport to patient care nursing assistant (PCNA), where he worked as he studied for his nursing degree. Along the way, he seized opportunities to experience new teams, take on projects and further his education. Nixon’s advice to others starting out in a support role? “Do not be afraid to chase your potential, because you are worth it.”

His career story is but one of several on the health system’s Nursing Support Caregiver Career Path, a new web hub designed for those who want to more deeply embrace their current roles, explore other healthcare jobs or climb the ladder to more responsibility, influence and earning potential.

Developed by Cleveland Clinic’s Stanley Shalom Zielony Institute for Nursing Excellence, the tool encourages caregivers to maximize their potential by taking advantage of resources that Cleveland Clinic puts in place to keep employees engaged in their careers.


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The hub was designed for use by PCNAs, clinical technicians, medical health unit coordinators, division clerks, home health aides, behavioral health technicians, medical assistants and surgical technologists.

“Even before the start of pandemic-related workforce challenges, we were keenly aware of the integral role these caregivers perform on a day-to-day basis,” says Kathy Mau, DNP, APRN, ACCNS-AG, ACNS-BC, Senior Director of Nursing Education and Professional Development. “We also know that many clinical nurses, nurse leaders, nurse scientists and educators first fell in love with healthcare thanks to entry-level positions that they found rewarding. We developed the career path because we want to be very intentional about encouraging that process of discovery.”

Cleveland Clinic makes significant investments in developing training programs and materials for caregivers of all levels. In addition to building these assets, Mau says, it’s crucial to ensure they are being used.

“We made these resources easy to find and navigate,” she says. “When a nursing support caregiver visits the site they’re going to discover information that speaks to them wherever they are in their career. Organizing this information well was a simple but essential mode of support we can give them.”

The site is organized to offer help in four general goal areas.

Developing within a current role

Every job offers the potential for growth for the caregiver. For those who wish to make the most of their work, these pages offer descriptions of every support role, orientation information, clinical competencies lists, and resources for bolstering skills and knowledge.


Identifying ways to advance in one’s career

Cleveland Clinic offers a robust roster of resources for those interested in career advancement. One of the essentials is the Career Development Self-Assessment Tool, which guides participants through questions to help them define their goals: exploration, lateral or vertical career movement, or simply enriching their career right where they are. Nursing caregivers also can click a link to connect with the Mentoring Resource Center and learn more about formally requesting a mentor.

Improving one’s workplace engagement as a means to career enrichment

Career success depends on doing more than what is minimally required in one’s job. A section devoted to engagement offers information on becoming more involved through participation in shared governance, professional organizations, continuous improvement, unit safety and quality, and tiered huddles.

How to acquire life skills that support personal wellbeing

Supporting those who support nursing care means offering opportunities to improve skills that go beyond the workplace. Tips cover topics such as achieving balance, adjusting to night shift, avoiding burnout and dealing with change, as well as time management, communication and adapting to unit culture.

Success stories are key

One of the important elements of the career path site is a section containing Nixon’s career success story and many others.


“We hope our nursing support caregivers understand how wide open the possibilities really are for them,” says Mau. “They obviously need nuts-and-bolts information to help them craft their future, but we wanted to provide inspiration as well. Things really click when a person sees what someone else, who once worked in the same role as theirs, has been able to achieve. It fires the imagination, which in turns can lead to exploration, research and goal-setting.”

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