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

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NAME: Mary Fran Tracy, PhD, RN, CCNS, FAAN

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CURRENT POSITION AND AFFILIATION: Critical Care Clinical Nurse Specialist, University of Minnesota Medical Center, Minneapolis




PROFESSIONAL EDUCATION: BSN, University of Iowa, Iowa City; MS, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis; PhD, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis


CERTIFICATION: CCNS (American Association of Critical-Care Nurses)


Mary Fran Tracy, PhD, RN, CCNS, FAAN, a critical care clinical nurse specialist (CNS) at the University of Minnesota Medical Center, and Adjunct Clinical Professor at the University of Minnesota School of Nursing in Minneapolis, is the recipient of the 2014 Brenda Lyon Leadership Award presented by the National Association of Clinical Nurse Specialists (NACNS). The award recognizes extraordinary leadership in service to NACNS. It is named for Brenda Lyon, a founding member and the second president of NACNS, and was presented at NACNS's annual conference.


A member of NACNS since 1999, Tracy was cofounder and Charter President of the Minnesota Affiliate of NACNS. She has served on the NACNS Practice Committee and the Conference Abstract Review Panel. Tracy was a member of the task force that wrote the NACNS response to the Institute of Medicine's groundbreaking report, The Future of Nursing: Leading Change, Advancing Health, and was a part of the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses (AACN) Workgroup that wrote the AACN Scope and Practice Standards for the Acute and Critical Care CNS. Tracy currently serves on the NACNS Research Committee.


"Dr Tracy's numerous contributions to improving nursing and patient care, through her research, as a CNS and in service to NACNS and our members are truly inspirational," said NACNS 2014 President Les Rodriguez, MSN, MPH, RN, ACNS-BC, APRN. "Her dedication to helping establish NACNS as the voice of the CNS and increasing awareness not only of the association but also of the importance of the CNS in improving healthcare is exemplary. We are delighted to present her with this prestigious award."


Tracy holds a PhD in nursing and a master's degree in medical-surgical nursing from the University of Minnesota. She earned her BSN at the University of Iowa.


Describe your definition of leadership, and why it is so important for CNSs to provide leadership today in healthcare?

Leadership to me is the ability to motivate and encourage others, whether individuals or groups, to put forward their best effort in achieving goals and outcomes. Leadership isn't based solely on formal power, but on the ability to form relationships with others, communicate honestly, listen sincerely, provide meaningful recognition and feedback, and provide vision and direction. I believe a good leader needs to adapt his/her leadership style to the situation-the needs of the particular person or group and/or the particular situation whether it's crisis management or innovative brainstorming. Each nurse can be a leader in his/her own daily environment, regardless of role or level of official authority.


It is imperative for CNSs to provide leadership because of the chaotic nature of healthcare today. Clinical nurse specialists are in a position to provide leadership through bridging the gap between nurses who are directly caring for patients (including themselves) and senior leaders who need accurate information in a more global perspective to make rapid, difficult decisions.


What uniquely qualifies CNSs to serve in this capacity? As CNS faculty, what are the curriculum components you feel best prepare CNSs to be leaders?

Clinical nurse specialists are educated to have a broader view of the healthcare environment in addition to their knowledge of a particular population. Many CNSs don't have formal leadership power to facilitate the changes we know need to occur, but rather we use persuasion, influence, and our knowledge of the evidence to ensure we are continually making the changes needed to improve care for our patients. Clinical nurse specialists are members of many interdisciplinary groups in order to do their work and therefore have the advantage of seeing many different aspects to similar problems. Clinical nurse specialists contribute important leadership skills to those interdisciplinary groups whether they are group members or group leaders. Not only do CNSs have the details of where care needs to be improved, but they also have the skill to put those details into the larger context of an overall vision.


When I precept CNS students in the clinical setting, I think the core curriculum components that are most valuable in the leadership area include gaining skill in developing systems thinking; the ability to gather, analyze, and synthesize evidence; and the ability to use that knowledge and skill throughout all 3 spheres of CNS practice-patient, nurse, and organization spheres.


Define your view of a mentor?

A mentor, in my view, is more than simply being a preceptor. It is a person who can commit to providing advice and counsel not just in the skills of performing the role but in problem solving, growing professionally, expanding and broadening thinking, and being available as a sounding board. Initiating a mentor-mentee relationship should involve a conscious agreement to do so and should include a clear understanding of expectations on the parts of both individuals.


What do you think it takes to mentor others to become leaders?

To be a mentor in the skills of leadership, I think you need to be aware of and comfortable with your own leadership style-both your strengths and your areas for improvement. Being cognizant of your own leadership beliefs and biases will help you assist the mentee in optimizing his/her own leadership style and skills, which may be different from your own.


What advice would you give a new CNS starting out in this role who would like to identify a mentor?

Be clear in your own mind in what exact areas you would like mentoring-this will help you identify colleagues who have skill in the areas in which you want to be mentored. Don't limit your thinking in terms of who could be a mentor. An ideal mentor may be another CNS or may be someone from an entirely different discipline or work area, depending on the skills you want to develop. Also consider that with today's technology, a mentor doesn't have to be someone in your own work setting or your immediate geographic area. Long-distance mentoring is entirely feasible, although it may take more coordination to optimize. Networking at conferences, getting to know faculty at nearby colleges, and looking at colleagues and leaders in settings in your geographic area are good places to identify potential mentors.


What do you perceive are the key issues for CNS practice today?

The key issues for CNSs today in many ways are similar issues to what the role has always faced, only now it is in a healthcare world that is moving exponentially faster in optimizing outcomes for patients in a financially sound way. Ensuring we are making sound care decisions based on evidence whenever it is available and appropriate, setting up adequate evaluations of innovative interventions when evidence is not available to ensure they don't result in negative outcomes, and always being cognizant of how to describe and quantify the CNS role in today's healthcare environment-these will continue to be key issues for CNSs.


What can CNSs do or how do you see CNSs leading nursing in regard to these key issues?

It is more important than ever that we stay abreast of the evidence in our area of specialty and continuously learn new skills, such as technology and communication skills, to ensure we are making the best decisions that we can for patient care improvements. Although there are constant pressures to make quick changes, we must recognize that inappropriate change can also create harm. It is important that we take time to be innovative and try new ideas; however, we can't be innovative if we are continually moving from meeting to meeting. It takes conscious effort to pause for creative thinking.


What do you enjoy or value most about the role of a CNS?

I love the fact that the CNS role encompasses so many aspects and skills. No 2 days are the same, and it allows me to use and expand many different skills in varying situations in carrying out my role.