Department of Nursing Celebrates Inaugural Clinical Nurse Leader Graduates

Clinical Nurse Leader Graduates

The 13 graduates are joined by Beth Baldwin and Maddy Pearson (far left) and Professor Helene Bowen Brady (far right).

Since beginning the Clinical Nurse Leaders master’s degree program two years ago, Laurie Demeule, MSN, RN, CNL, CVRN-BC, has developed the skills necessary to lead multiple initiatives to improve quality, safety and the patient experience.

“The CNL program showed me the academic steps required to make evidence-based practice changes that will improve our delivery of safe, high-quality care,” said Demeule, a clinical nurse in the Electrophysiology (EP) Lab and member of the first cohort of Brigham nurses to graduate from the program last month. “I believe bedside nursing initiatives are the key to better and safer care.”

Demeule’s most extensive project was developing a fire safety initiative in the EP lab with guidance from her leadership team. She has since delivered poster and podium presentations.

“I even became a published author on this subject,” she said, noting that she has further plans to present at the national level.Excellence logo

Clinical nurse leaders are recognized throughout the U.S. for advancing patient outcomes through risk assessment and quality improvement initiatives like the ones Demeule spearheaded, as well as interprofessional initiatives that promote exceptional patient care. In 2017, the Brigham launched this graduate program in partnership with Regis College to support clinical nurses who wish to develop these projects while practicing at the bedside.

“The complexity of patients’ conditions is continually increasing, as is the complexity of the care delivery system,” said Maddy Pearson, DNP, RN, NEA-BC, chief nursing officer and senior vice president of Clinical Services, during a celebration of the 13 graduates in January. “The CNL program has prepared graduates to be expert clinicians, educators and advocates who serve as leaders at the point of care.”

Leaders at the Bedside

The program’s courses cover a wide range of topics, including health assessment, advanced pharmacology and pathophysiology, ethics, quality management, evidence-based practice and research, leadership, informatics and health policy.

“I believe this program gave me not only a deeper understanding of how the Brigham operationalizes from day to day, but also the confidence to embrace my nurse leader role on my unit,” said Alexander Machajewski, MSN, RN, CNL, of CWN-7, Orthopaedics. “Many of the topics we discussed crossed over with the Brigham Magnet journey, and that truly helped to emphasize the importance of evidence-based practice and quality improvement.”

Oluwabusayo Akinade, MSN, RN, CNL, of Braunwald Tower 10AB, Intermediate Medical Care, agreed.

“The experience broadened my knowledge of the true attributes and qualities of a leader, as well as the skills needed to be a successful leader,” she said. “I learned how leaders act as facilitators of teams and manage team dynamics and how effective communication goes a long way to promote a healthy work environment and effect positive changes. I also learned that evidence-based practice and research are vital to improving patient care and patient outcomes.”

Balancing Act

When nursing leaders designed the program in 2017, they wanted to ensure that the structure would support nurses who were already balancing work, family and other responsibilities.

“We offer some classes on-site at the Brigham, which makes it easier for our nurses to attend,” said Beth Baldwin, MSN, MHA, RN, program director of Nursing Informatics in the Center for Nursing Excellence and Regis College ambassador for the Brigham. “This, along with a generous tuition discount and reimbursement options, helps to eliminate some of the barriers nurses may face while going back to school.”

Those benefits made Akinade’s goal of obtaining her master’s degree possible.

“When I found out about the Regis program, I couldn’t resist because it addressed almost all the obstacles that were preventing me from achieving my goal of getting my MSN,” she said. “It will also give me an opportunity to be a leader and remain at the bedside, which is what I hoped to do.”

Cohort Support

One of the other advantages of the CNL program was the opportunity to complete a degree with the support of a Brigham nursing cohort.

“It was tremendously helpful to be part of the Brigham cohort because of the vast nursing experience that our group was able to share amongst ourselves,” said Machajewski. “From the Neurosciences ICU, to Oncology, to the Cardiac Catheterization Lab and many more specialties, the first CNL cohort was full of brilliant minds that all pushed each other to the finish line.”

Demeule said that the cohort quickly became a lifeline. “Only my cohort understood all the pressures and guilt I had as a full-time working mother combined with the workload of the CNL program,” she said. “All of us were working full-time in our nursing careers, many had families with school-age children, and we even had a couple of engagements and weddings.”

Akinade added, “I don’t think I could have completed the program if it was not a cohort. It was a very demanding and challenging two years, but being part of a cohort made it doable. It was nice to have a group of people working towards a common goal.”