My career as a nurse clinician and educator, actively engaged in creating professional development for healthcare professionals and teams, is fundamentally connected to my core belief that nursing provides a unique perspective in caring for patients, families, and populations. From my perspective, a nurse’s work is intrinsically linked to not only the health but also the quality of their lives. Nurses coordinate the delivery of care on a daily basis with their colleagues in the healthcare team and that voice is essential to optimizing that care. The importance of nursing professional development leadership in collaborative practice is found in Standard 13 from the Association for Nursing Professional Development Scope and Standards which states “the nursing professional development practitioner collaborates with interprofessional teams, leaders, stakeholders and others to facilitate nursing practice and positive outcomes for consumers” (Harper & Maloney, 2016). Nursing professional development leaders, in their work, touch almost all of the other professions and allied healthcare providers and therefore have a unique role in leading interprofessional communications and collaborative practice. According to Embree et al. (2018), nursing leadership requires that nurses accentuate their talent in building and sustaining relationships within their healthcare systems (p. 61).
The 2009 Gallup poll brief entitled Nursing Leadership From Bedside to Boardroom: Opinion Leaders’ Perceptions identified that “nurses were one of the most trusted sources of health information and that nurses, as healthcare professionals, should have greater influence…in the critical areas of quality of patient care and safety” (Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, 2010). The brief also made several recommendations for the nursing profession.
Opinion leaders offer two major suggestions for how nursing can overcome barriers and achieve more influence in key areas of healthcare. Foremost, nurses need to make their voices heard. Opinion leaders view nursing as lacking a single, unified voice to focus on key issues in health policy, and view many nurses as lacking interest in taking on this role. Second, opinion leaders feel society, and nurses themselves, should have higher expectations for what nurses can achieve, and that nurses should be held accountable for not only providing quality direct patient care, but also for healthcare leadership. (Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, 2010)
Over the past 30 years, I have consistently leveraged my expertise as a nurse to broaden the focus of continuing medical education (CME) to address the needs and priorities for coordinated patient-centric care. This nursing perspective creates the opportunity to bring quality care and continuing professional development (CPD) together into learning experiences that highlight the value of interprofessional collaboration. Sharing my experiences may inspire other nursing professional development leaders to promote interprofessional collaboration and teamwork in multiple healthcare settings.
In December 1990, I became the first Director for Continuing Medical Education for the University of Virginia School of Medicine. My career prior to that date included both graduate and undergraduate teaching and clinical experience in a variety of environments. This new position afforded me with an opportunity to engage in education-based dialogues with physicians that could positively impact practice and foster interprofessional collaboration.
Six weeks into my new position, I attended my first Alliance for Continuing Medical Education (Alliance) meeting. There were 600 CME professionals from all aspects of the profession attending, including accreditors, academic centers, publishing companies, advertising and education companies, and specialty societies and industry. I asked a million questions about how they did their work, what priorities were most important, and what processes were most successful. I found colleagues who shared my passion for delivering evidence-based learning experiences to promote quality patient-centric care. My new found colleagues encouraged my involvement in the Alliance by recommending volunteer opportunities. I built relationships with colleagues from different organizations, which helped me develop a broad understanding of CPD and how my expertise as a nurse educator could provide opportunities for true collaboration in a learning environment.
I continued to attend the annual conference and volunteered for multiple committees, task forces, and projects that were available through the Alliance and other organizations. Through my involvement with the Alliance, I found several mentors who were generous with their time and talents and helped me build my CME/CPD expertise. Most notably, one mentor recommended me for a position on the Accreditation Review Committee for the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education (ACCME). My engagement in these two organizations helped me build my credibility as a knowledgeable CME professional with expertise in both the design and creation of CME activities and also the expectations of the ACCME accreditation system.
As I built the CME program at the University of Virginia, I shared my experiences with my Alliance colleagues by presenting workshops and posters and sitting on panels. My institution supported my travel when I was presenting sessions and participating in committees for the Alliance. My mentors continued to guide me and create opportunities for me to broaden my expertise in CME and provide a platform for me to integrate my nursing knowledge into interprofessional CE experiences.
Following my service on the Accreditation Review Committee for the ACCME, I submitted my name as a candidate for the Alliance Board of Directors. I was elected to the Board for an initial 3-year term. I volunteered to serve on a CME Certification Task Force as the Alliance representative. Following my election to a second 3-year term, I submitted my name as a candidate for President elect with an agenda for growth and relevance for the Alliance. I won the election and the following year served on national committees as part of the alliance leadership.
When I assumed my role as President, I was given a list of parking lot issues and the mandate for a new strategic plan for the organization. The strategic planning process combined the existing strategic plan with the parking lot issues/topics that had not yet been addressed. Board members were put into teams to research specific strategic goals with the related topics and present them to the Board for further discussion and prioritization. As we held these discussions, it became apparent that the Alliance needed to lead the transformation of the CPD environment to align with the Institute of Medicine reports and the Core Competencies for Interprofessional Collaboration so that clinicians and healthcare teams could learn collaboratively. The new strategic plan served as the foundation for the organizational name change. I created an interprofessional advisory board, transformed the association’s mission from medicine to interprofessional care, and led the Board to develop a new strategic plan. Continuing education (CE) professionals engaged in cross-collaboration to disseminate best practices in educational theory, developed national competencies for CE professionals, and created interprofessional continuing education (IPCE) learning opportunities that focused on patient-centric outcomes.
My leadership in CME at the national and international levels provided a platform to bring the nursing perspective into policy and regulation arenas, aligning CE with the Institute of Medicine priorities for improved care and population health. As President of the Alliance, I convened stakeholders from the Federal Drug Administration, American Hospital Association, and other national organizations to define the value proposition of CE. This work led to the genesis of the Federal Drug Administration Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategies Program, increased the awareness of the value of certified CE and IPCE, and further differentiated certified CE from industry-driven education that impacted provision of the Affordable Care Act. I also contributed to the Lifelong Learning in Medicine and Nursing Report (2010) by AACN/AAMC Consensus Group, highlighting point of care learning and collaboration across health professions.
My engagement with the Interprofessional Advisory Board for the Alliance created an opportunity to further engage with nursing CE. I was appointed to the American Nurses Credentialing Center Commission on Accreditation. In my role as Chair, I led the commission as we developed accreditation standards for residency and fellowship programs for RNs and APRNs; I have collaborated with national residency accreditors in medicine and pharmacy to promote interprofessional learning and collaboration. In my dual roles in CME and continuing nursing education, I share perspectives across professions and give voice to the value of interprofessional collaboration. The American Nurses Credentialing Center now serves as a strategic partner with the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education Clinical Learning Environment Review Program to promote IPCE, signaling a culture shift that can truly improve interprofessional collaboration and patient-centric care.
In all of my work, I am driven by the ultimate desired outcome, the provision of superior and safe care based on collaborative interprofessional care and based in a fundamental understanding that healthcare teams are stronger and better together than can be provided solely by one profession. The transformation of healthcare delivery is grounded in interprofessional CE so that nurses and healthcare professionals entering their chosen profession can have mentors and leaders to guide them as they develop their professional frameworks for practice.
Embree J. L., Wagnes L., Hendricks S., LaMothe J., Halstead J., & Wright L. (2018). Empowering nurses to lead interprofessional collaborative practice environments through a nurse leadership institute. The Journal of Continuing Education in Nursing
., 49(2), 61–71.
Harper M. G., & Maloney P. (Eds.) (2016). Nursing professional development: Scope and standards of practice
ed., p. 52). Chicago, IL: Association for Nursing Professional Development.
AAMC and AACN. (2010). Lifelong learning in medicine and nursing—final conference report
. Retrieved from http://www.aacn.nche.edu/education-resources/MacyReport.pdf
Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. (2010). Nursing leadership from bedside to boardroom: Opinion leaders’ views. Brief
. Retrieved from https://www.rwjf.org/en/library/research/2010/01/nursingleadership-from-bedside-to-boardroom.html