Change Requires Leadership. How to Invest in Nurse Leaders to Advance Care in California.

September 2022Lisa Klope

Nurses comprise more than half of the world’s health care workforce. However, nurses are underrepresented in senior health care leadership positions, despite improved regulatory and working conditions for nurses when they hold these roles.  

Kaiser Permanente health care leaders participate in the UCSF Leadership Institute's Excellence in Nursing Education Certificate program.Kaiser Permanente health care leaders participate in the Leadership Institute's Excellence in Nursing Education Certificate program. The UCSF Leadership Institute is poised to tackle this issue for California. Through robust leadership development programs, the institute invests in nurses across the career trajectory to elevate the state’s health care workforce.

Investing in Nurse Leaders in California

A partnership between the UCSF School of Nursing and UCSF Health Center for Nursing Excellence and Innovation, the institute launched programs in fall 2021 as California health care workers continued their relentless fight against the coronavirus.

“Our goal is to help advance the leadership capacity and the expertise of nurse leaders at all levels within health care,” said Justin Pohl, MEd, the Leadership Institute’s director. “From the excellent bedside nurse or attending physician or frontline employee all the way to the C-suite executive, we have a program tailored specifically to advance and help them grow.”

By training nurses for leadership roles, the institute is changing health care in California for the better.

Justin Pohl, MEdJustin Pohl, MEd “In response to the exodus of nurses in California, we’re offering robust programming to retain our best leaders, create pipelines for leadership roles so that we don’t rely on interim leaders, and empower folks to do their best work because they are prepared,” said Pohl.

The institute offers leadership training, evidence-based practice training, an innovative Population Health Management Certificate Program and specialty programs designed collaboratively with partners including Kaiser Permanente.

Cohorts enroll a maximum of 25 participants to foster peer-to-peer learning and connection. Their dynamic learning environments integrate coaching and mentorship, and virtual and in-person engagement.

KT Waxman, DNP, MBA, FAANKT Waxman, DNP, MBA, FAAN “The Leadership Institute is cultivating higher-level leaders. The curriculum not only provides participants with tools to be successful, but offers small group discussions, strategy sessions and coaching to facilitate growth,” said KT Waxman, DNP, MBA, FAAN, co-director of the Leadership Institute and director of the school’s Doctor of Nursing Practice program. “Each organization that the learners are from benefits from the outcomes of the programs.”

Outcome-Driven Leadership Training Programs

The institute’s five leadership training programs are tailored to participants’ leadership experience and career goals.

James Darby Jr., RNJames Darby Jr., RN “Foundations for Excellence in Healthcare Leadership affirmed my desire to be a transformational leader and taught me to capitalize on my unique strengths,” said James Darby Jr., program alum and UCSF Health unit director. “The program provided me with additional tools and an advantage over my peers in similar roles throughout the country.”

Institute faculty and coaches are industry-leading experts in the field of nursing. It’s the expertise and real-life proven leadership of faculty that positions the institute to offer unique leadership training – training not typically found within health care systems themselves.

Scout Hebinck, MS, RNC-OBScout Hebinck, MS, RNC-OB “The exposure to the leadership tools presented during the Academy for Healthcare Leadership, was not only priceless, but invaluable to apply as I plan to advance my career at UCSF,” said Scout Hebinck, MS, RNC-OB, clinical operations perioperative improvement specialist at UCSF.




Developing Nurse Leaders Through Statewide Partnerships

Through partnerships with Kaiser Permanente, the Association of California Nurse Leaders and Stanford Medicine Children’s Health, the institute is serving nurses across the state of California.

“Kaiser Permanente was our first partner and they really helped us dream and dream big,” shared Pohl. Institute and Kaiser Permanente leaders customized four training opportunities specifically for Kaiser Permanente employees.

Jim D’Alfonso, DNP, FNAP, FAANJim D’Alfonso, DNP, FNAP, FAAN We value the opportunity to co-create, customize and partner strategically with the UCSF Leadership Institute, enabling us to offer a comprehensive range of programs for frontline and advanced leaders, educators and care teams,” said Jim D’Alfonso, DNP, FNAP, FAAN , executive director of professional excellence for Kaiser Permanente and founding executive director of the Kaiser Permanente Scholars Academy. “The added value to our organization is the engagement in curriculum design, dynamic faculty, state-of-the-art facilities, and program flexibility coupled with UCSF’s global reputation.”

The partnership with Kaiser Permanente now includes around 80 participants from 18 Kaiser Permanente facilities across Northern California and is growing.

Building off this success, the institute is adding two new partnerships this year.

The Association of California Nurse Leaders (ACNL), California’s premier professional nursing association, will partner with the institute to launch executive level nurse leadership training for leaders across the state. Stanford Medicine Children’s Health is working collaboratively with the institute to provide leadership training to mid-level managers and frontline nurses.

UCSF Leadership Institute participants. From left, Lori Fritz, RN, NPD from Kaiser Permanente (KP) Vallejo Medical Center; Sarah Villarreal, RN, NPD, from KP Santa Rosa Medical Center; JMarc Javelosa, RN, NPD, from KP Redwood City Medical Center, and Ifeoma Nnaji, RN, NPD, from KP Central Valley Services.Leadership Institute participants. From left, Lori Fritz, RN, NPD from Kaiser Permanente (KP) Vallejo Medical Center; Sarah Villarreal, RN, NPD, from KP Santa Rosa Medical Center; JMarc Javelosa, RN, NPD, from KP Redwood City Medical Center, and Ifeoma Nnaji, RN, NPD, from KP Central Valley Services. The institute has also expanded its partnership with UCSF Health, providing leadership training for all areas within the UCSF Health Office of the Chief Operations Officer including pharmacy, labs, IT, finance, facilities and operations.

Meeting the Needs of Nurse Leaders Today While Preparing for Tomorrow

In just its first year, the institute has made a lasting impact on California’s health care workforce, and it’s just getting started.

With plans to offer specialized workshops in financial and data literacy, institute leadership is committed to providing personalized and innovative learning experiences that meet the needs of nurse leaders.

“We launched the institute during a global pandemic, when health care workers and particularly nurse leaders are working tirelessly to provide high-quality, continuous care,” said Pohl. “We hope our programs provide an opportunity to take a step back from the many competing demands on their time and make an investment in themselves.”

Shannon Fitzpatrick, MS, RN, CCRN-KShannon Fitzpatrick, MS, RN, CCRN-K “Participating in the program provided me the space and tools to evaluate how I show up as a leader,” said participant Shannon Fitzpatrick, director of pediatric critical care services at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital. “This dedicated time for introspection and ability to focus on my own development has been refreshing and necessary after being more outwardly focused during the COVID-19 pandemic. Further, the program’s one-on-one coaching is guiding me to a better understanding of my opportunities for development as I consider future career options.”