Mercy Health Saint Mary’s VP Honored for Growth of Clinical Nurse Leader Role

Julie Bitely

| 4 min read

Liz Murphy has a passion for patients. When her nursing career started, she experienced great joy working with her charges and their families. Despite loving what she did, there was also a sense of frustration over established systems that didn’t always work to serve her patients. “There was just a lot of churn of people and the patients were getting lost,” she explained. “The system and handoffs were not working well from a patient’s perspective.”
Liz Murphy That initial frustration led Murphy to pursue leadership roles within nursing, with the hope of transforming her field. She was recently honored for doing just that, receiving the 2017 CNL (Clinical Nurse Leader) Visionary Leader Award from The American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN). As Vice President and Chief Nursing Officer at Mercy Health Saint Mary’s, Murphy has been instrumental in working to start and grow a robust CNL program in West Michigan and has been a resource for other health care systems around the country and the globe. CNLs are master’s educated nurses trained to not only deliver complex care to patients, but to also identify system improvements that can improve health care costs and patient outcomes. Murphy said prior to the role’s creation in 2004, nurses could either pursue a nursing degree focused on caring for patients or in the academic realm, creating curriculum and training future nurses. Because they functioned independently, there was often disconnect between training programs for nurses and the work nurses were actually tasked with in the field. “I am passionate about the role of the CNL and the impact this role can make in health care. If this role had existed early in my career, I would have pursued this degree,” Murphy said. “This role answers the gaps in health care for understanding not just this patient’s story and addressing their needs – which CNLs do – yet also identifying, assessing and improving the systems of care that drive outcomes.” Murphy was on board when Mercy Health Saint Mary’s became the first hospital in Michigan to incorporate CNLs into the care delivery system by embedding them in different units within the hospital. Today, the health care system has 12 practicing CNLs and is the clinical site for the University of Detroit Mercy (UDM) and Grand Valley State University, ensuring future CNLs have practical training before entering the field. The integration of CNLs into health care units has been shown to have statistically significant improvements when it comes to cost, patient outcomes, and length of stay. It’s also been shown to improve staff retention and turnover. Murphy sees the CNL role as critical to addressing health care’s emerging quadruple aim, which focuses on cost, quality, patient satisfaction and provider and caregiver experience. “They help the team come to the right solution using evidence and data,” she said. This is the 10th anniversary of the first CNL graduates and today, there are more than 5,440 certified CNLs across the country, with about 100 schools offering the program and about 3,500 students currently enrolled. Murphy and the CNL program at Mercy Health Saint Mary’s are leaders in the field, often hosting officials from other health care systems who want to see how it’s done. “These CNLs serve as clinical preceptors, and virtual mentors for CNL students across multiple programs across the United States and an international joint program with a school in Japan, whom we have hosted three times and will host again this year,” Murphy said. Grand Valley State University’s Associate Dean for Professional Practice, Dr. Tricia Thomas, was also recently honored by the AACN with the CNL Vanguard Award, which recognizes the innovative work of CNL-certified nurses and CNL nurse educators. Thomas served as the UDM lead for the original CNL program in close partnership with Trinity Health and Mercy Health Saint Mary's. If you enjoyed this post, you might also like:
Main image photo credit: wp paarz Photo of Liz Murphy, courtesy Mercy Health Saint Mary's
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