Unique Academic-Practice Partnership

We’re in this together – a note of appreciation

From Joan Kavanagh, PhD, MSN, RN, NEA-BC, Associate Chief Nursing Officer, Nursing Education and Professional Development

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Throughout the early days of the COVID-19 crisis, healthcare professionals across the globe were uniting in an ‘all hands-on deck’ fashion. At Cleveland Clinic, one display of this remarkable professional collaboration was witnessed during the Office of Nursing Education and Professional Development’s dedicated effort to quickly and comprehensively cross-train nurses in preparation for COVID-19 surges.

Cleveland Clinic’s nursing education leaders had developed and launched an immersive clinical training experience for ambulatory and perioperative nurses, preparing them to assist in critical and acute care settings, if needed. The training followed an experiential, engaging learning style in a simulation laboratory setting using patient manikins, ventilators, chest and IV tubes, and more. Running 7 am – 7 pm, 7 days a week, the courses were 5-6 hours in length and offered in morning, afternoon or weekend sessions at main campus and several ambulatory surgery centers that were closed at the time due to the virus.

The Nursing Education Office was prepared with a comprehensive team of Cleveland Clinic educators, including nursing professional development specialists, clinical nurse specialists and members of the simulation team and American Heart Association resuscitation team. However, there were more than 6,000 Cleveland Clinic nursing caregivers who needed training in a very short amount of time. Additionally, to ensure safe training that met social distancing requirements educators trained at a nurse to educator ratio of 7-8 nurses per educator.

We’re in this together

Although we had a village of great educators, the Nursing Education leadership team soon realized we needed more help – and we needed help that would be meaningful and from experts in education. So, we turned to our academic partners at Northeast Ohio’s Schools of Nursing in hopes of creating a unique academic-practice partnership.

We wrote and sent letters to deans and directors of the Dean’s Roundtable, which was founded in 2005 and is a partnership of Cleveland Clinic, 14 Ohio schools of nursing, and three other healthcare facilities in Northeast Ohio. We asked if faculty would be available to work side-by-side with Cleveland Clinic practice educators for the cross-training. The next day, 19 nursing faculty came forward as volunteers. And, in total, more than 20 faculty ended up giving of their time throughout the 11 weeks Cleveland Clinic held the training.

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Justin Loew, DNP, RN, CNL, an assistant professor for the division of nursing at Cuyahoga Community College (Tri-C) was one of those volunteers. An educator primarily of critical care concepts and to senior nursing students, Loew volunteered for the cross-training three times – twice at main campus and once at Strongsville Family Health Center.

“During the cross-training I assisted with personal protective equipment (PPE), IV pumps and more,” says Loew. “I worked alongside Cleveland Clinic’s educators and they were fantastic.”

Loew began his nursing career as a staff nurse on Cleveland Clinic’s H81 main campus nursing unit, and still brings his students to participate in clinical opportunities on the unit today. He later transitioned to a PRN position on H81 and became an educator at Cleveland Clinic’s Huron School of Nursing before joining the faculty at Tri-C.

Loew says he truly believes in Cleveland Clinic’s mission and vision for healthcare and participating in the cross-training meant he could give back to the nursing profession.

“I’ve always known I was meant to help people and by continuing my own educational path, now in my thirteenth year in education, I have the tools to educate the future of nursing,” Loew says. “I truly feel a duty to pass on knowledge and compassion to others and that starts with volunteering and helping in any way I can.”

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Thank you

Indeed, there is something to be said about coming together as one during a crisis. The generosity of spirit from Cleveland Clinic’s partners in academia – giving of their time and talents as they were able – was extremely commendable and appreciated. It was a true ‘team of teams’ effort and an incredible opportunity to work closely together with these trusted colleagues.

Every time a new group of nursing caregivers would arrive for training, all educators on hand – nursing school faculty included – would respectfully welcome them and thank them for their willingness to serve outside the comfort of their specialty. When it was all said and done, Cleveland Clinic, through this unique academic-practice partnership, cross-trained 4,721 registered nurses, 1,123 patient care nursing assistants and 157 health unit coordinators.

From beginning to end, this generous act of volunteerism, professional collaboration and support was an exemplar display of the meaningful ways nursing practice and education can work together for public health and community. It was an amazing reflection of what the Year of the Nurse and Midwife is all about.

Thank you, once again, to all of our academic partners who volunteered to assist Cleveland Clinic during this time – we are incredibly grateful and appreciative of your support.