Courageous, innovative and resilient: 10 CNOs on the 1 word they'd use to describe their teams

In recognition of National Nurses Week, Becker's asked 10 chief nursing officers or nurse executives from health systems nationwide to share the one word they'd use to describe their nursing team over the past year.

All respondents shared their insights with Becker's via email or phone May 5-10. Responses were lightly edited for clarity and length. They are presented alphabetically.

Deborah J. Baker, DNP, RN. Senior Vice President of Nursing at Johns Hopkins Health System (Baltimore). Johns Hopkins nurses are passionately "intrepid." Every nurse at Johns Hopkins has given their all in support of the complex and multidisciplinary efforts to create a safe environment for COVID-19 and non-COVID-19 care. They have taken on new roles; developed new processes; learned new skills, procedures and workflows; designed and run testing tents and mobile testing clinics; deployed with Go Teams to care for underserved and at-risk communities; served as safety officers; and stepped up in countless other ways to respond to the challenges we continue to face. Regardless of what the COVID-19 pandemic has thrown at them, they have adapted and persevered, never giving up on our patients or each other.

Jesus Cepero, PhD, RN. Chief Nursing Officer at Stanford Children's Health (Palo Alto, Calif.). "Courageous" and "innovative." Over the past year, we have overcome patient care issues and faced difficult decisions amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, such as the need to restrict family visitor access, all while worrying about our own health and safety as we provided care. Despite this, we continued to deliver excellence in patient care even in times when we did not have all the answers about the best treatments or protocols, which necessitated our professional nurses to be more innovative than ever in their approaches to care.

Amy Christensen, MSN, RN. Vice President and Chief Nursing Officer for Specialty-Based Care at Intermountain Healthcare (Salt Lake City). I would say "extraordinary" in a very positive way — a word that describes a team of nurses who were out of the ordinary in so many ways. When I think of the work done in the past year, extraordinary encompasses so many of the behaviors, tasks and emotions demonstrated by Intermountain Healthcare nurses. It encompasses the heroic way they took on the unknown early in the pandemic, the clinical competency and skill shown, the compassion for those they served in life and in death, and the courage they had to continue day after day without knowing an end. I will forever feel blessed to be associated with such an extraordinary team. 

Meredith Foxx, MSN. Executive Chief Nursing Officer at Cleveland Clinic. As I have been rounding and visiting all of our nursing caregivers, I ask them two questions — 'What is your biggest challenge?' and 'What are you most proud of?' — and uniformly what our nurses are most proud of is the "teamwork." Every single nurse, nursing assistant or nurse leader I ask — it is the team; they all say they have come together like no other.

As they have faced challenges during this pandemic to provide care during high census with high acuity, the nurses have embraced teamwork and with that embodied the spirit of innovation.

Denise Mihal, BSN. Executive Vice President, Chief Nursing and Clinical Operations Officer at Novant Health (Winston-Salem, N.C.). "Resilient." The word "courageous" comes to mind as a close second. Our nurses came to work each day in the midst of a pandemic and continued to put their patients first through it all. That's pretty remarkable!

Debi Pasley, MS, RN, NEA-BC, FACHE. System Senior Vice President and Chief Nursing Officer at Christus Health (Irving, Texas): "Committed." Whether they stayed with us or accepted an offer to travel to hotter spots, they were committed to serving those impacted by the pandemic. Many were asked to care for patients in conditions they had never experienced. Many experienced escalated demands both at work and at home with loved ones who were not working, not in school, or had needs which were no longer being met due to the pandemic. Despite all that, they kept coming to work and serving those who trusted us with their care. As I said in the Nurses Week message to them, "Thank you for what you do every day, but especially during this time when the hero you are becomes apparent to everyone."

Kristin Ramsey, MSN, RN. Senior Vice President and Wood-Prince Family Chief Nurse Executive at Northwestern Memorial Hospital (Chicago.). "Resilient." Our nurses have responded to every single innovation and change we have presented them with over the past 16 months in order to care for our COVID-19 patients and in supporting normal operations. I know that they have done this in their personal life, too. I am amazed how they have been able to process and respond to their ever changing environment.

Maureen Scanlan, MSN, RN. Vice President of Nursing and Patient Care Services at Montefiore Health System (New York City). The one word would be "valiant." Our nurses are boldly courageous, extraordinarily determined and the truest example of heroic excellence. Throughout this unprecedented year, these are the qualities that shined bright — and continue to do so — each and every day. I feel grateful and inspired by our nurses' endless commitment and compassion for our patients and for each other. Thank you to nurses everywhere — and happy Nurses Week to all!

Annette Sy, DNP, MSN, RN. Chief Nursing Officer at Keck Medical Center of USC (Los Angeles). The word I would use to describe our Keck Medical Center of USC nursing team over the past year is "resilient." Our team has been fearless throughout the pandemic. Despite being faced with extremely difficult situations, they stood strong, worked together and cared for the patients entrusted to us. I am so very proud of our nursing team! Fight on!

Janet Tomcavage, MSN, RN. Executive Vice President and Chief Nurse Executive at Geisinger (Danville, Pa.). "Clinical excellence." COVID-19 required the utmost clinical skill set to assess, monitor and manage these complex patients. Our nurses stepped up in a huge way to provide stellar care!

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