1. Ponte, Patricia Reid DNSc, RN, FAAN, NEA-BC

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Pat Reid Ponte: Hi Jeff, thanks for taking the time to talk with me during a national crisis on so many fronts; the pandemic, the resulting financial devastation, and the need for massive change in our society steeped in structural racisms and other forms of discrimination. How are you and your team doing? It must feel impossible at times.

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Jeff Doucette: Thanks, Pat. As you can see, I'm in scrubs and I pretty much am every day. If I'm not on a Zoom call with the leadership team or running a town hall Zoom session for the system level nursing and patient care services staff, then I'm on the units to show my direct support and help problem solve where needed. I have to say, the expertise, strength, and creativity of the care teams are so inspiring to me. It is exhausting, but at the same time, I feel proud to be part of the profession and the team who are saving lives and assuring the highest quality and safe, patient- and family-centered care. I really mean it, I'm in awe every day.


Pat Reid Ponte: I understand that. I'm no longer in a chief nursing officer (CNO) role, yet daily, I am so grateful to nurses for what I know is happening around the world in caring for patients and their families who have had or who have been impacted by COVID.


So, let's switch gears now. You have been a CNO in several organizations, took some time away from that role to lead the ANCC Magnet Program, and came back to a large healthcare system chief nursing executive (CNE) role about 18 months ago. What keeps bringing you back to these challenging position in healthcare?


Jeff Doucette: I'm passionate about elevating the role of the clinical nurse and the practice environments that they work in. I think my major purpose in this role is serving those who serve others. So, nurses, support staff, interdisciplinary colleagues, administrative staff-every person who is in direct contact with patients and families and all the people that support those people-are the focus of my day-to-day work.


Pat Reid Ponte: I teach DNP nursing students a leadership course, and they learn about leadership theories. I would venture to say that you think of yourself as a "servant leader" in that servant leadership emphasizes that leaders be attentive to the concerns of their followers, emphasizes with them and nurtures them.


Jeff Doucette: For sure, that and more. I do hope that, in partnership with clinical nurses specifically and others, we co-create a vision together. One that focuses on a professional practice model in which the nurse is the cornerstone of who assures quality and safety and they are held in that regard relative to decision-making and governance.


Pat Reid Ponte: I get that and agree with that being a #1 priority. It's hard work. One of the most challenging dynamics in the aspiration of doing this well is staying close to and connected with practice and the people who deliver care. How do you stay connected to nurses and others, and how do they stay connected to you?


Jeff Doucette: I formally greet every newly hired nurse in orientation. I make no bones about it when I say to them, I want to hear from you if you encounter challenges that you can't overcome. I give them my cell phone number then and have it available on all units and online. I work closely with the nurse executive and nurse management leadership teams, so they know I do this to support them, not get in their way, or diminish their autonomy or authority. This connection to my team and to the frontline clinical nursing staff is crucial to elevating the role of the clinical nurse. This is my main priority. We all know that nurses are the engine of care delivery, and for that reason and more, they need to be held in the greatest regard and supported in both practical and symbolic ways. Nurses are inherently smart, they are well educated, and they know how to ask questions in a way that drives evidence-based care. They know what is safe, what high quality is, and what inclusive and respectful care is. They also know how to work effectively in teams, to both lead them and participate in them. They know what psychological safety is. I mean that both for the care team and for partnering with patients and families. We want everyone at all times to feel at their best, to ask any question, and to stop the line when things don't feel right. This is the essence of a professional practice environment that produces the best care processes and outcomes.


Pat Reid Ponte: Listening to you express your values and commitments reminds me to pause and ask you to reflect back on what brought you into the nursing profession?


Jeff Doucette: In high school, I decided to volunteer at a local hospital and I was placed in the emergency department (ED) where I routinely observed physicians and nurses interacting. I really liked the idea that the nurse was the main caregiver directly with the patient while the physician kept a distance. I knew then that I wanted to become a nurse. I started a licensed practical nursing (LPN) program and then transitioned to a registered nurse (RN) role, working as a clinical nurse in critical care and ED for several years. Later, I was asked to become the nurse manager of an open-heart stepdown unit. I knew that I wanted to make a difference in the work culture and knew I could do that in a leadership role. The voice of nurses was not where it needed to be, and I wanted to change that. This desire pushed me toward higher level administrative roles and more education.


Pat Reid Ponte: I appreciate hearing your story; I think it resonates with so many of us-wanting to make change and improvement. Given that priority, what would you like JONA readers to take away from this interview?


Jeff Doucette: I would say, go against the grain, take the steps necessary in your practice setting to assure that clinical nurses are truly engaged in the governance of their practice, that they have control of practice to drive better processes and outcomes. They know the work; they know what patients and families need. Don't hold back; be bold, courageous, and forthright. Clinical nurses should be chairing and co-chairing quality and safety committees and policy groups and workforce and diversity and inclusion committee. They should be participating in nurse executive committees. They know and, on a daily basis, they live the phrase, "Necessity is the mother of invention." Nurse executives and managers need clinical nurses at their sides, at their tables, and at their patients' bedsides. Make it happen.