On October 22 and 23, nurses representing all care sites and regions of the health system met at Saint Joseph Hospital and established the first SCL Health System Nursing Congress. The Nursing Congress is the major component our newly formed System Professional Governance model. More than 60 elected delegates met to discuss topics related to empowerment, shared decision-making and building accountability for consistency in high performance among the more than 3,380 nurses who work at SCL Health. These 3,380 nurses make up 22 percent of our total workforce.
Shared governance is a process that allows for nursing to make decisions about their practice that are driven by the evidence. It involves teamwork, problem-solving and accountability, with the goals of improved nursing satisfaction and patient outcomes. The goal of the Nursing Congress is to work together as a health system to make decisions about patient care and nursing practice that can be replicated and standardized across all our care sites.
“We believe that decisions about the professional practice of nursing are best made by those closest to the work and supported by the evidence. We want all nurses at SCL Health to find meaning and true joy in your work,” said Geri Towndrow, Senior Vice President of Nursing. She explained that to give nurses who care for patients a voice and an opportunity to lead this work promotes a more engaged workforce and a stronger nursing culture. This model includes a Nursing Executive Council, a Nursing Congress and Specialty-specific councils.
The first day of the conference included an overview of how our Mission, Vision and Values shape who we are as a health system as we strive to care for every patient as a ‘whole person’ in mind, body and spirit. The agenda also included a review of progress to-date on our system strategic imperatives. There was also discussion of how our SCL Health Nursing Congress and Professional Governance structure will provide a framework for clinical integration as we partner with our physician colleagues.
A Nursing Congress Charter was presented, reviewed, edited, and ratified. In addition, Naomi Sikora, RN, from St. Mary’s Medical Center was elected Chair of the SCL Health System Nursing Congress and Amy Goltz, RN from Saint Vincent was elected Co-Chair. Carol Enderle, CNO/COO at Holy Rosary Healthcare was introduced as the executive sponsor for the Nursing Congress.
On the second day, JP Valin, MD, Chief Clinical Officer, spoke to the participants about Clinical Integration, a major initiative to help us move to top-decile performance. Our SCL Health System Professional Governance model is our platform for clinical integration. This structure will also allow us to partner with our physicians to identify and implement evidence-based best clinical practices across our system, eliminating unnecessary variation with the goals of improved patient outcomes.
Guest speaker Tim Porter-O'Grady DM, EdD, APRN, FAAN, FACCWS, a national expert in professional governance and health system innovation, also spoke to the group. Currently a clinical professor at Emory University School of Nursing, he serves as board chair for the American Nurses Foundation and has authored 26 books and more than 200 proctored publications.
Dr. Porter-O’Grady echoed the importance of shared governance and standardization to support excellence in the professional practice of nursing and emphasized it as a “way of life” that must be linked to the health system organizational structure, from the care site to the system board. He also shared that having clarity around how to measure nursing excellence and an accountability structure are important success criteria.
To summarize what shared governance is all about and why it matters, it might help to think about it this way, the structure is shared governance; the process is nursing having a voice in driving their professional practice; the outcomes are metrics that demonstrate both improved employee engagement and improved quality outcomes for our patients.