Hospitals across the country continue to fight nursing shortages and retention challenges in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic. The executive team at SUNY Upstate Medical University Hospital in Syracuse, New York has been able to make significant progress in meeting those issues and more, thanks to a partnership that includes Dr. Robert Corona, chief executive officer, Scott Jessie, chief nursing officer and the rest of the executive team. The entire executive team discussed their approach in the most recent Tipton Health Nursing Leadership webinar, “Build a Strong CNO Partnership in Your Executive Suite to Drive Success,” moderated by Tipton Health CNO Mary Del Guidice, MSN, BS, RN, CENP.

Panelists from SUNY Upstate Medical University Hospital included:

  • Scott Jessie MSN, MBA, RN, NEA-BC, Chief Nursing Officer
  • Robert J. Corona, DO, MBA, FCAP, FASCP, Chief Executive Officer
  • Amy Tucker, MD, MHCM, Chief Medical Officer
  • Jeff Stevens, Vice President and Chief of Human Resources
  • Mark Zeman, Chief Information Officer
  • Nancy Daoust, Ed.D., FACHE, LNHA, Chief Ambulatory Officer
  • Marylin Galimi, MS, CHOP, Chief Operating Officer

When asked how their executive team approaches the challenges facing the hospital, the executive team discussed these points:

On strategic plans

  • During the pandemic, SUNY Upstate Medical University Hospital abandoned its formal written strategic plan that would sit on a shelf in favor of several visual pillars that can be easily remembered by everyone.
  • The visual pillars include quality and experience goals like those used by retail establishment to earn five stars. The goals emphasize innovation, sustainability of the environment and sustainability of the workforce.
  • The use of visual pillars has survived through the pandemic and continues to give the executive team a general direction as it moves forward

On partnership and teamwork with the CNO 

  • Nothing of significance is decided by the executive team without the CNO’s input because the CNO’s knowledge of the nursing staff makes their input critical.
  • Team members must be open and approachable, and comfortable with each other. They must be willing to disagree when appropriate.
  • Executive leadership is hard work, so it is important that teams are made of people who want to work with each other. Team members should do the hard jobs together—and do easy things together, too—to help build relationships.
  • Executive team members must trust and support each other.
  • All members of the executive team are included in all decisions, not just those in their specific area of expertise.
  • The executive team all works with the same groups of people, regardless of who they report to. Learning about each other’s departments and challenges makes everyone better at what they do.

On transparency and visibility

  • When team members make rounds together in each other’s departments, it lets staff members see leadership in action, talk with them and see who the executive team members really are.
  • Visible transparency between the CNO and other members of the executive team is just as important as transparency between the CNO and the nursing staff.
  • Transparency sets the tone that makes nurses feel comfortable enough to be very open with the CEO and other members of the team.

On respect

  • When a CNO earns the respect of the nursing staff and hospital physicians, it is the result of their skill, competence and knowledge of the organization.
  • Earning the respect of nurses, physicians and others on the hospital staff goes a long way toward achieving optimal outcomes for initiatives.
  • A CNO who has the respect of all departments can be a model for the types of relationships that should occur throughout the organization.
  • When everyone on the executive team respects the CNO, it helps demonstrate that the entire organization supports nursing.

On inclusion

  • Hospitals need a CNO who can be an advocate for nurses.
  • CNOs are in a unique position to help rebuild the nursing workforce and retain nurses already on staff.
  • A CNO who connects with the nursing staff and the rest of the executive team can be an effective driver for nursing recruitment and retention.

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