January 10, 2024

Vanderbilt nurse managers take part in inaugural cohort of the Health Management Academy’s Nurse Manager Idea Labs

Through the nine-month program, high-performing nurse managers participated in thinking workshops to collaboratively develop solutions to common frontline operational challenges.

Jennifer Graham, MSN, RN, NEA-BC

Five Vanderbilt University Medical Center (VUMC) nurse managers participated in the inaugural cohort of the Health Management Academy’s Nurse Manager Idea Labs, part of the organization’s Nursing Catalyst program.

The Nurse Manager Idea Labs were a nine-month program for high-performing nurse managers from leading health systems nationwide in 2023. Through the program, nurse managers participated in thinking workshops to collaboratively develop solutions to common frontline operational challenges.

Participants practiced critical- and creative-thinking strategies while developing action-oriented, nurse-centered solutions to shared challenges and building relationships with a national network of peers.

Misty Ashby, MSN, RN, SCRN

The five VUMC participants were:

  • Jennifer Graham, MSN, RN, NEA-BC, manager, Patient Care Services, Vanderbilt University Hospital (VUH).
  • Misty Ashby, MSN, RN, SCRN, manager, Patient Care Services, VUH.
  • Shelly Dinkins, MSN, RN, manager, Patient Care Services, VUH.
  • Alicia (Ali) Grubbs, MSN, RN, NE-BC, manager, Patient Care Services, VUH.
  • Jessica Holman, RN, director, ICU, Vanderbilt Wilson County Hospital (VWCH).

Graham, Ashby, Dinkins and Grubbs — who all work at VUH — collaborated on a nine-month program called “Retention through Recognition: Using Challenge Coins to Recognize Exceptional Service, Valor and Teamwork.” The project focused on strategic management issues and leadership development through networking with other nurse managers from 10 leading health systems across the country.

Shelly Dinkins, MSN, RN

Dinkins said the original project came out of a need to build the RN/care partner relationship, build trust among the team, give an opportunity for peer recognition and impact staff retention. The kickoff was during Nurses Week, and staff and leadership awarded over 70 challenge coins. The nurse with the most coins at the end of the week won a prize: “the schedule of their choice during the next scheduling period,” Dinkins said. “I learned that bringing a fun and competitive spirit to work gives an opportunity to focus on the positives.”

Grubbs said the team learned through the experience that VUMC nurses weren’t alone in the challenges of recruiting and retaining staff, particularly after the COVID-19 pandemic. “As we continue to establish a new health care normal, it was breathtaking to work with such an amazing group of nursing colleagues from other institutions to help brainstorm ideas and share best practices that will help us lead our teams through this evolving change in our health care landscape.”

Alicia (Ali) Grubbs, MSN, RN, NE-BC

“This was an amazing experience,” Ashby said. “It was refreshing to work with nurse leaders from other institutions to develop innovative solutions to some of the biggest challenges we are all facing right now. I would encourage other leaders to take advantage of opportunities like this.”

Holman, from VWCH, worked on two similar but separate projects. The first was a “parking lot survey,” designed to get real-time feedback on whether nurses had “good or bad shifts.” The survey was sent via email, and flyers with a QR code linked to the survey were placed at all time clocks and exit doors used by staff. Staff were asked if they had what they needed to complete their shift, including equipment, staff and education.

“My goal was to be able to see if there was a way to improve the shifts by providing the things the staff needed based on the responses,” Holman said.

Jessica Holman, RN

Holman’s second initiative was a recognition survey. “This survey allowed for real time recognition,” she said. “Any employee within the facility could fill out the survey. It would go to me, I would then email the employee, their one up, and the executive leader of the department. This again was for employee engagement and satisfaction.”

Holman added, “I am so grateful for this experience and the friendships I made from it. My plan is to continue to work to improve employee satisfaction and retention.”