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Highlighting the CNO’s role: An interview with Linda Stoverock

By: Lydia L. Kim, Digital Content Editor

The American Nurse team is delighted to have had an opportunity to speak with Linda Stoverock, a nurse who is retiring after a 43-year long career in the nursing field, 20 of which has been as the chief nursing officer (CNO) at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. During her work with Nationwide Children’s, Linda helped lead the hospital in achieving four consecutive Magnet designations, helped launch a quality and safety initiative, and has actively educated and advocated for other nurses in the organization.

American Nurse would like to highlight some of Linda’s many accomplishments and her insights into leadership and the nursing profession.

American Nurse: Linda, it’s nice to (virtually) meet you, and I have to extend a big congratulations on your retirement from all of us at American Nurse!

What are two or three of your proudest accomplishments of your 43-year long career as a nurse?

Linda: Building a strong patient/family advocacy group of parents to help our organization meet their needs, not our needs. Having a highly engaged nursing workforce all committed to the purpose of quality care for their patients. This allowed us to achieve Magnet 4 times. Engaging nurses in many community partnerships to expand access and well care in schools, and care coordination for those who are more vulnerable from social determinants of health.

What was the most challenging experience you had during your time as a CNO and what did you learn from it?

Linda: When I arrived, here, nurses viewed themselves as being able to provide less than stellar care – their view was that other Children’s Hospitals were better. What I saw was very different and that they needed a way to see themselves in a different light. That took us on our first Magnet journey and a whole new level of pride in their work, engagement in their professional organizations, presenting at conferences and being more engaged with leadership for continual improvement in the care they provide.

Editors’ note: When we spoke to Linda about her experience in raising the self-perception of her nurse colleagues, we spoke at length about the importance for nurses to feel empowered and confident. The self-perception of nurses is just as important as helping the public to understand the nursing field and the pivotal roles nurses play within our healthcare system.  

Can you describe the path that you took from when you first started working as a nurse to becoming a CNO at Nationwide Children’s?

Linda: I was a Diploma grad in St. Louis and began working in a NICU. After a year and a half, I knew I wanted an environment that encouraged nurses to do more with families. I went to a Pediatric Infectious Disease Unit. From there into my first management position where I quickly learned the importance of education beyond a diploma in nursing. Over the course of ~17 years earned my RN to BSN and then a Master’s in Nursing Education. While doing this, I worked in several different nursing leadership positions. I moved to Austin Texas for my first Director position in a Pediatric Hospital, and then to Columbus in 2000 to be the CNO.  When the RWJ and IOM came out with their paper on the Future of Nursing, I not only challenged our staff to be life-long learners, but decided to pursue my DNP from The Ohio State University and completed it in 2014.

Can you speak on the importance of Nationwide Children’s Zero Hero program and how you played a part in launching the program?

Linda: Nurses are key in ensuring the safety of their patients and we learn a lot from them about systems that are flawed allowing for errors. When our CMO arrived, he had the vision for Zero preventable harm. Together we set up leadership teams co-led by a doctor and nurse. In doing so, we improved the culture for nurse/physician communication, an understanding of workflows that can contribute to errors, and a consistent language for improvement to reduce errors. I have always said, that my role is to remove the barriers to allow nurses to collaborate and provide excellent care. Having the interprofessional teams, moved us faster to the desired improvement.

The Zero Hero program is a monumental achievement – I wanted to speak more on the nurse’s role in this program itself, but your thoughts how nurses in other organizations can go about reducing the frequency of in-hospital errors.

Linda: All safety initiatives are co-led by a nurse and an MD. To say a pressure injury is from nursing care is ignoring the fact that MDs may not be looking at nutrition and oxygenation for best skin, or to say a MD is responsible for medication errors, does not look at the process from ordering, to dispensing, to delivery. Our nurses were trained in quality improvement and understanding of data and created many, many small tests of change until the correct system was identified.  In order to engage and have nurses’ value this type of work, the CNO must advocate, remove barriers from allowing them time to work on improvements, and celebrate the successes.

Staff engagement can be difficult for leaders, given all the challenges of today’s healthcare environment. What strategies did you find most effective for engaging staff?

Linda: Staff like to be involved in important subjects to them, rather than generalized meetings. Each time we create an improvement team, we select individuals with a passion around the subject, for example one nurse may be more interested in the information systems while another may have a passion around reduction in medication errors. Each unit has a strategic priority group that is co-chaired with a staff member, the manager and the medical director. This has allowed us to have front line staff involved in meaningful clinical work and unit life and that they have a voice in the clinical care rather than a top down approach.

Other ways to engage them is through recognition programs. Providing feedback from team members and patients and families goes a long way in engaging them.

What’s the best piece of leadership advice you have received?

Linda: The best leadership advice I received was to be a Servant Leader. It is not about my title, but it is about helping the patients and families we serve during their most vulnerable moment have compassionate and connected care. When we serve our staff in this manner, they will in turn serve their patients in the same manner.

What advice would you give nurses who would like to become a CNO?

Linda: Work to provide the best evidence-based practice, become involved in system change, and along the way you will be recognized as a change agent who can make great outcomes happen. Be a life-long learner, there is always something new! This combination will help you become a CNO.

What will retirement look like for you?

Linda: Very busy, but instead of a paycheck for my business, an opportunity to pay it forward through volunteer work, time with family, and time with nature.

What do you think is in store for the future of nursing? What are the challenges that lie ahead for the field? What improvements do you hope to see?

Linda: We all know that there are inequalities in social determinants of health. Nurses are uniquely prepared from their broad education to promote wellness.  Nurses are also equipped to make changes in health care policy. Nurse leaders can support their roles in community initiatives and engage the RN and Nurse Practitioners in changes and experiences to be partners at the table to achieve better outcomes for people.


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