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MUSC Pivots on Virtual Nursing to Focus on the Specifics

Analysis  |  By Eric Wicklund  
   May 07, 2024

The South Carolina health system, part of the HealthLeaders Virtual Nursing Mastermind series, is learning to measure ROI in specific, actionable tasks, such as communication

A key component to launching an effective Virtual Nursing program is communication. How will the virtual nurse communicate with the floor nurse, as well as with the patient?

“Clear delineation of roles and communication is going to be really important,” says Emily Warr, administrator for the Center of Telehealth at the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC), which launched a second iteration of its Virtual Nursing program about six months ago and is now monitoring the program in five hospitals.

Warr says it’s critical to identify specific KPIs in evaluating the success of a Virtual Nursing program, and to focus on small, measurable actions rather than larger concepts. For example, it’s great to say such a program will reduce time spent on admissions and discharge, but there are many factors that go into those processes that Virtual Nursing won’t affect.

“A virtual nurse, as one member of the team, cannot carry all of the factors that impact, say, an HCAHPS score on a unit,” she points out. A more effective way of measuring value would be to focus on single factor, such as how communication between nurses affects admissions or discharge times.

MUSC is one of a handful of health systems across the country that are taking part in the HealthLeaders Virtual Nursing Masterminds program, a series of virtual meetings capped off by an in-person event in June. The program is taking a deep dive into virtual nursing strategies with perspectives from some of the top health systems and executives in the country.

MUSC launched its first version of a Virtual Nursing program about two years ago, with a focus on mentoring new nurses.  Warr said that program didn’t produce the ROI needed to be sustainable, so the health system looked for more “hard outcomes.” That led to a discussion about how to identify meaningful outcomes and understand the KPIs that go into defining a program’s value.

“We needed to focus on something that we felt we could impact and choose to measure,” she says, such as “very specific, task-oriented things.”

In the six months that version 2.0 has been in play, Warr says they’ve learned a few things about those tasks. During the first two months, as everyone was getting used to the new approach, the virtual nurse would often reach out to the floor nurse to take tasks. But as time has passed, the floor nurse is reaching out more often tp the virtual nurse to hand off tasks. In other words, the two nurses are communicating more freely (and equally) about their workflows.

Warr anticipates those conversations will lead to a smoother or more seamless collaboration between floor nurse and virtual nurse, which in turn will lead to better administrative outcomes and, eventually, improved clinical outcomes.

“We’re still learning and evolving (in) what we’re tracking … and where we’re able to make a measurable impact,” she says. But the results so far are truly encouraging.

The HealthLeaders Mastermind series is an exclusive series of calls and events with healthcare executives. This Virtual Nursing Mastermind series features ideas, solutions, and insights on exceling your virtual nursing program. Please join the community at our LinkedIn page.

To inquire about participating in an upcoming Mastermind series or attending a HealthLeaders Exchange event, email us at

Eric Wicklund is the associate content manager and senior editor for Innovation at HealthLeaders.


The Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) is one of a dozen health systems taking part in the HealthLeaders Virtual Nursing Mastermind program.

The health system is on version 2.0 of its Virtual Nursing program, with a platform in five hospitals and a focus on how floor nurses and virtual nurses communicate and separate tasks.

MUSC’s Emily Warr says it’s important to focus on specific tasks and processes, rather than complex issues like patient length of stay, to determine KPIs and see how they can lead to improvements.

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