A vision for staff development: Is a vice presidency in your future? 

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Professional practice

After reading this article, you will be able to:

  • Identify how synergy applies to a model of  professional nursing practice
  • Explain how the role of vice president relates to staff development

Staff development specialists have always believed in the intrinsic value of our services. We know we make significant, measurable contributions to organizational effectiveness. We also firmly believe in a future when staff development specialists routinely achieve executive level status in organizations. This month, I had the pleasure of speaking with a colleague who has realized this vision. 

Dora Bradley, PhD, RN-BC, is vice president (VP)of nursing professional development at Baylor Health Care System (BHCS) in Dallas, a 14-hospital system covering a geographic area of about 75 miles. Three years ago, BHCS adopted a corporate nursing structure and, thanks to an innovative leader, a CNO was hired to oversee a shared vision across the system. The CNO created the position of VP of nursing professional development.

“Our goal was to create consistent nursing education practices across the Baylor Health Care System,” explains Bradley. They did this by using the Baylor Health Care System Professional Nursing Practice Model, which is based on the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses’ Synergy Model and the concepts of a healthy work environment as an educational framework. “It’s a powerful model,” says Bradley. “When patients’ needs and nursing competencies come together or match, there is synergy.”

Importance of synergy to BHCS

Synergy is an important concept at BHCS. According to its 2005 model, “when assessed patient needs are matched to the nurse with the competencies to best meet those particular needs, then Synergy occurs. This then is Synergistic Nursing Practice and leads to Safe Passage for our patients.” 

The Safe Passage concept refers to an optimal outcome of nursing practice. Much of BHCS’ education is based on promoting nursing competencies that will meet the needs of specific patient populations and decrease complications. 

The VP of nursing professional development assists in the quest for synergistic nursing practice. 

Role of the VP

Bradley is responsible for facilitating evidence-based education services that are consistent throughout the healthcare system and have a positive, measurable effect on patient outcomes.

“I’m in a rather unique position,” she says. “None of the educators report directly to me.” Instead, directors and managers of education at each of the 14 hospitals report directly to the CNO and are linked by a dotted line to Bradley, who provides educational expertise.

Bradley says their educational mission is accomplished through a shared leadership structure. BHCS has a Professional Development Council that is responsible for operationalizing the nursing educational vision. 

Without direct authority, how does Bradley accomplish her goals? “Relationships are important because I don’t have line authority,” she says. “I rely on relationships, credibility, and influence.” 

Bradley was hired five years ago as director of nursing education and research at Baylor University Medical Center, the system’s flagship hospital. In this position, she developed collegial relationships and established a track record for education excellence. 

Measuring success

As a VP, Bradley’s success is measured by evidence-based professional development initiatives at the corporate level. For example, she is responsible for such outcomes as new graduate retention. To facilitate retention, she has developed strong partnerships with local nursing schools to match competencies upon graduation with BHCS expectations. In addition, she has promoted the revision of internship programs that are aligned with the technological savvy of new graduates. 

Bradley is also evaluated based on patient satisfaction with nursing skills as well as specific patient outcomes. “I am evaluated not only on the excellence of education services, but on evidence that shows education services facilitate the achievement of corporate goals, such as those pertaining to recruitment and retention, patient satisfaction, and clinical excellence,” she says.

Bradley mentors nurses to publish in professional journals and present at nursing conventions. She also makes sure that educators at Baylor have opportunities for their own professional growth and development and holds educator retreats about twice per year.

Bradley’s assumption of the VP role is a credit not only to her excellence as an educator, but an acknowledgment of the importance of education to organizational success.