Intermountain's CNO on maximizing nurse talent, optimizing care transitions and more

According to the American Nurses Association, miscommunication during care transitions is a well-known cause of medical errors. The importance of health IT in care transitions is increasing as healthcare continues to evolve at a rapid pace. At Salt Lake City-based Intermountain Healthcare — a national forerunner in health IT — nurses are on the front lines of care and work directly with health IT professionals to ensure smooth care transitions and the safety of patients across the system.

Kim Henrichsen, RN, vice president of clinical operations and CNO of Intermountain Healthcare, places an emphasis on optimizing communication throughout the care transition process. She has been with system in various positions since 1984. In her current role as CNO, Ms. Henrichsen sets the vision for nursing across the system and provides strategic leadership and operational support to ensure the delivery of high quality clinical care. Recently, Ms. Henrichsen spoke with Becker's about the challenges that come along with being a nurse leader today and her hopes for the next year at Intermountain.

Note: Responses have been lightly edited for length and clarity.

Question: What makes nursing at Intermountain different?

Kim Henrichsen: Lots of things. Intermountain Healthcare is known for the delivery of high-quality, cost-effective care, and nurses at the heart of this. Intermountain nurses are patient and professional. They work in collaboration with other members of the healthcare team, and many practice across a variety of settings acute and home care. I believe our nurses are special; they embrace opportunities to excel as they've been trained to do.

Q: What are the biggest challenges you are currently facing as CNO?

KH: There's no question that the healthcare environment is changing at an unprecedented rate. New demands and changing roles for nurses are exciting. The challenge is to make sure we are engaged in ensuring we are maximizing the use of our nursing talent as we continue to see more patients with complex needs. The explosion of healthcare technology has also fueled rapid changes in healthcare. At Intermountain, we [nurses] are working in collaboration with IT colleagues to make sure we are optimizing the use of the right technology when caring for patients. We want to simultaneously enhance our patients' experience and enhance the environment of our caregivers. This technology explosion has been both an opportunity and a challenge for us.

Q: How do you personally avoid burnout and achieve work-life balance?

KH: I tend to be one of those very optimistic individuals. I do have work-life balance. I'm a wife a mother of four, soon to be a grandmother of 10. I run on the weekends with my sister. We're always trying to find new mountain trails. Running helps me clear my mind and gives me a good, strong physical exercise. Our [nurses'] jobs are stressful. I worry about our nurses at the front line. We are nurses at our work but we are nurses in our personal life. Some friends, family and neighbors look to us for our expertise. We have to be able to find to refill our buckets and recharge so we can be at our best for our families and the people we take care of.

Q: What do you hope to achieve as CNO in the next year?

KH: So many things. One of the areas that we are really focused is working to ensure that we have great communication on behalf of our patients between care settings. Doing it [transitioning patients] in a seamless fashion so our patients know we understand them and their needs. We want them to know exactly where they are going and why they're going there. We want them to be reassured that the new care settings are ready for them. We are working to find ways to reduce complexity to make it easier for patients to navigate the system. They can become partners in their own healthcare.

Q: What or who inspires you?

KH: I went into healthcare a little over 30 years ago. I am the first nurse in my immediate family. I was unfamiliar to healthcare when I entered it. I've been inspired in every role I've occupied as a nurse. Our patients who have found ways to overcome incredible challenges inspire me. I'm inspired by the tenderness of my fellow nurses. I've been inspired by many leaders as they insist that patients are at the forefront of every decision we make. I've been inspired by the amazing advancements and outcomes that our clinical teams have achieved. To be in healthcare is such a great opportunity to work with patients and teams of people who have identified opportunities to improve the health of populations is inspiring. It is an exciting time to be in healthcare and to be in a forward-thinking, influential organization. I love being a nurse and I cannot think of a more fulfilling profession.

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