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Two Takeaways from the Nurse Leader Exchange

Analysis  |  By Jennifer Thew RN  
   November 14, 2019

The issues of workplace violence and retaining experienced nurses were top of mind at HealthLeaders 2019 CNO Exchange.

Close to 30 nurse executives gathered this week in Ojai, California, as part of the HealthLeaders 2019 CNO Exchange, to share how they are addressing pressing issues facing the nursing profession.

"This forum will again be the opportunity to share ideas, frustrations, and some lessons learned with a network of peers," said HealthLeaders' Leadership Programs Director and Editor Jim Molpus in a welcome to the group.

True to nurses' collaborative nature, the event attendees quickly dove into sharing ideas and best practices during a series of roundtable discussions that began Thursday and will continue Friday.

Topics include how to address workplace violence, retaining the wisdom of seasoned nurses, and fostering positive work environments.

Here are two highlights from Thursday's discussions:

1. Filling the gaps as experienced nurses retire.

Losing decades of skill, knowledge, and wisdom as seasoned nurses begin to retire is of great concern for many nurse leaders. Erin LaCross, DNP, NEA-BC, CENP, CNO at Parkview Health in Fort Wayne, Indiana, shared a presentation on her organization's Emeritus Nurse program that is aimed at mitigating the effects of the retirement of the baby boomer generation.

The program not only provides an alternative to retirement by offering different scheduling options, it also serves to create a mentoring environment to transfer knowledge to new nurses. By offering flexible work hours and roles designed to enhance mentorship, Parkview has rehired 21 nurses who retired between 2013 and 2016.

Additionally, as discussed in one roundtable session, organizations must proactively assess and prepare for future openings rather than being reactive to vacant positions.

"We want to look at how we can strategically hire and 'save a seat' for [future nurses]," says Jean Putnam, DNP, RN, MS, CPHQ, executive vice president and network CNO at Community Health Network in Indianapolis. "Our nursing schools have done a great job ramping up the number of graduates in response to the potential nursing shortage."

2. Addressing workplace violence

"Violence is what happens when we don’t know what else to do with our suffering,"— Parker J. Palmer​, author, speaker, and activist.

Debra McQuillen, RN, BSN, MAS, vice president and chief operations executive at Scripps Mercy Hospital in San Diego, California, shared this powerful quote during a presentation on how her organization reduced assault with injury cases by 50% from FY18 to FY19.

During a roundtable discussion, Gloria Carter, MSN, RN, CNO at St. Mary Medical Center in Long Beach, California, pointed out that workplace violence often occurs, "Because patients don't have access to places that can make them whole."

Recognizing patients with the potential to become violent and instituting safeguards is something many of the nurse leaders say they are working toward. They agree that leadership must support employees by crafting policies and procedures to keep them safe. In the case of an attack or injury, leadership should connect directly with the employee and offer to listen and help them find resources if necessary.

The HealthLeaders CNO Exchange annually gathers leading hospital and health system CNOs for a custom dialogue on only the critical issues facing the future of nursing. For more information, please email

Jennifer Thew, RN, is the senior nursing editor at HealthLeaders.

Photo credit: Photo by David Hartig

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