1. Section Editor(s): Rust, Jo Ellen MSN, RN

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CURRENT POSITION: Senior Director, Nursing Research and Innovation-Nursing Institute, and Clinical Nurse Specialist, Kaufman Center for Heart Failure-Heart and Vascular Institute


CURRENT AFFILIATION(S): Cleveland Clinic, Ohio; Adjunct Professor, Aalborg University, Denmark; Adjunct Associate Professor, Case Western Reserve University, Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing, Cleveland, Ohio; Adjunct Associate Professor, University of Akron, Ohio; Adjunct Faculty, Kent State University, Ohio.


AREA(S) OF SPECIALIZATION: Heart failure/cardiovascular nursing


PROFESSIONAL EDUCATION: PhD in nursing science


CERTIFICATIONS: Critical care clinical nurse specialist (CCNS); Heart failure nurse (CHFN); Critical care RN (CCRN); Nurse-executive, board certified (NE-BC)


FELLOWSHIPS: American Heart Association; Critical Care Medicine


The National Association of Clinical Nurse Specialists is honored to profile the 2011 winner of the NACNS Sue B. Davidson Award for Service. Dr Davidson served 2 terms as president of the organization in its early years and facilitated the development of the first Statement on Clinical Nurse Specialist Practice and Education. She was instrumental in the development and implementation of our membership survey process.


Dr Nancy Albert was awarded this honor at the 2012 NACNS annual conference in Chicago, Illinois. Dr Albert was recognized for her service to the organization as chair of the NACNS Research Committee.


Describe why service at the professional level is important to you and what motivated you to commit to these particular aspects of service for which you were recognized?

I believe it is important to give back to the profession of nursing! I have been blessed to grow and develop in multiple fields, as a clinician, consultant, educator, and scientist. In turn, I enjoy sharing knowledge and experiences and offering assistance that leads to growth of nonprofit nursing organizations. I find it truly rewarding to be able to give time and effort toward bettering the foundation, goals, and mission of an organization that was developed to enhance the professions of others. Additionally, I learn so much through volunteering. Opportunities to meet and interact with people who also have a passion for nursing as a profession are enhanced. Organization leaders and other volunteers encourage new knowledge through critical thinking that, in turn, furthers my professional and personal growth and education and stimulates me in new directions. My world is broadened, my views of nursing and healthcare are more global, and I am constantly inspired to define my views in a way that encompasses more than my local community.


The NACNS Research Committee has been a joy to participate in. Current and previous members have been extremely collegial and participatory, fostering a desire to want to "do more" in terms of making resources available to members. NACNS leadership understands the role of volunteers and has been extremely accommodating in helping us make our vision a reality in terms of our desire to create new research resources and provide new services to members. I feel that research committee members have been able to learn from each other, in addition to helping CNSs learn about research principles and encouraging dissemination of new knowledge.


What first motivated you to become a clinical nurse specialist?

My desire to become a clinical nurse specialist was shaped after I met the newly hired clinical nurse specialist for the mixed medical-surgical intensive care unit of my previous employer. The unit had not had a clinical nurse specialist previously, and the person they hired did not let any grass grow before digging in. She was intelligent, energizing, collaborative, and encouraging of staff nurses and their professional growth. With her recommendation, I became an educator (in-hospital, to our unit nurses and locally, at educational forums we put on), clinical instructor, dialysis nurse, and intra-aortic balloon pump nurse and then took on leadership responsibilities as an assistant nurse manager. I watched and learned from her until she moved on to an academic medical center and eventually decided that I needed to change jobs and move to an academic medical center as well. Once there, while as a nurse manager, I was able to see how multiple clinical nurse specialists carried out their job responsibilities and realized that I loved the varied work duties that encompassed clinical nurse specialist work; educator, change agent, consultant, clinician, and researcher. When the opportunity to become the clinical nurse specialist of heart failure, arrhythmias, and cardiac transplantation was available, I jumped on board. That decision gave me so many new opportunities to grow, including in nursing research.


What, if any, professional or career issues did you face early in your career as a clinical nurse specialist?

My career as a clinical nurse specialist has been multifaceted. Early on, I had a dual reporting structure: directly with my nursing director and indirectly with Heart and Vascular Institute physician leadership. Nursing leadership had expectations regarding how a clinical nurse specialist functioned (job expectations) and physician leaders provided oversight but gave me wonderful opportunities to think out of the box and be innovative in developing new programs and goals related to heart failure services. Finding the right balance between ensuring I met both nursing and medical leadership goals/desires was fun, but did require political correctness and great flexibility on my part. On the plus side, it was a wonderfully rewarding time in that I had opportunities to be innovative and assertive in making changes happen. Furthermore, I worked with multidisciplinary groups in new ways that promoted leadership and intradepartmental collaboration.


What do you perceive are the key areas of service for clinical nurse specialists today in regard to patients? To other clinical nurse specialists?

I believe key areas of service are multifaceted, based on the immediate needs of the work setting. Having said that, ensuring evidence-based, high-quality clinical practices are a foundational piece of any clinical nurse specialist's duties. Developing, implementing, and evaluating specialty-based global performance measures are a priority, to ensure patients receive optimal care. Additionally, clinical nurse specialists must foster innovative thinking among nurse clinicians, because it is innovation and research that leads to excellence in nursing (optimal quality and adherence to performance measures show only competence, not excellence). We need to spend more time learning from our clients. What are their preferences in care? What is needed to promote adherence to the plan of care after hospital discharge? Most national guidelines focus on delivery of drugs and devices, yet we know that lifestyle plays a large role in general health. It would be great if clinical nurse specialists took a more active role as patient advocates and developed programs to strengthen communication and actions that were patient-centric.


To date, what do you perceive as your greatest accomplishments as a clinical nurse specialist?

Locally, I am very proud of the heart failure programs I developed (with physician colleagues) that promoted use of evidence-based therapies for heart failure within our heart failure critical care area, palliative care areas, emergency department, acute care floors, and in our ambulatory areas. Although the programs have morphed over time, the structure and foundational pieces are still in place. My excitement about these programs is largely due to knowing that patients may receive better care because of the resources, structures, systems, and processes that were developed. Also, the patients I care for are more likely to receive optimal evidence-based care from all healthcare providers. Our healthcare system mission of "patients first" is an underlying priority and, for me, is intertwined with what I perceive as my greatest professional accomplishments: those that improve the lives of patients served, both, directly and indirectly.


Second, I thoroughly enjoy accomplishments associated with my research coaching role. Every study is unique, and each research team has a distinctive energy and presence. When the data interpretation and dissemination stages of research are completed, I am always so proud of the accomplishments of the entire team and of my role in providing guidance of the research process and to the team.


What do you enjoy or value most about the role of a clinical nurse specialist?

Clinical nurse specialists have a voice in making recommendations for improvements and innovations at the local, national, and international level and at the patient/family, nurse, and organization level. They are champions of staff nurses and role models for higher learning, leadership, and advancement of nursing science. There are not that many nursing job roles that actually promote such great flexibility in expectations. I think it's the multidimensional aspects of the role of clinical nurse specialist that is so appealing to me.


What advice would you give a new clinical nurse specialist starting out in this role?

I believe that we are constantly developing in our profession and can learn from colleagues and by reading high-level, high-quality research literature. I would suggest finding mentors or coaches-local or from afar-who you look up to and can learn from (directly or indirectly). Develop goals and milestones for yourself, and review your current status regularly to assess whether you are meeting or exceeding expectations. Embrace the many facets of your role, and look for growth opportunities. And most of all, enjoy your job!