Get to know Kimberly Hunter, Head Nurse

Coming to Iowa from the Cleveland Clinic, Kimberly Hunter is used to working in a large, fast-paced university health care system. This is one of the strengths she brings to her new role as head nurse in hospitals and clinics of the IU.

Kim Hunter, Director of Nursing for UI Health Care

For Hunter, DNP, MBA, RN, NEA-BC, it’s also a reminder that learning about the day-to-day business and culture of healthcare from IU, like the Cleveland Clinic or the Mayo Clinic, where she also worked in his career, takes time and collaboration.

“I was amazed at how welcoming everyone is and how willing they are to share information and ideas with me,” says Hunter. “As a new person arriving, I have a lot to learn. I feel like I know nursing and I know nursing leadership. I know how health systems work. But the details of how we do things here – and even simple things like acronyms, elevators, and building layouts – are part of putting all the pieces together. “

The loop met Hunter to discuss his first two months on the job and the future of his job.


What experiences or perspectives from your former nursing leadership roles do you bring to your new role as a head nurse?

First of all let me say the first couple of months have been a lot of fun and my interactions with everyone have been really great.

In terms of past experience, I believe a lot in processes. I have worked a lot on improving processes and the way we do our work. I will be able to use that experience and apply it to my role here.

Any surprises for now?

Not really. The people I have met and interviewed [for the position] gave me very good information about the role. The conversations I have had since my arrival, and what I have observed, have been affirmed.

What attracted you to this job and to Iowa?

Being able to further develop my career was an important consideration, of course, but what I knew about UI hospitals and clinics, in particular, was already very positive. During my interview, I left with a very good impression. It was also important that we were a four-time Magnet designated hospital.

It was things about IU hospitals and clinics that I already knew from being in the industry that made this job appealing. But I have to say that when I came here and had the opportunity to interview in person, I was really struck by the authenticity of the people. There is a real desire to do the right thing and to do a great job. I have seen this over and over again. When I came here to interview, I noticed that people here seem to move with a sense of purpose. And in my first two months here, I observed the same things. We have work, of course, but we have very good people. And we have the desire to do our best and keep improving. It means a lot.

Were you able to identify opportunities for improvement?

I am still in the phase of collecting and evaluating information, but certain themes are emerging. One of them is employee engagement. We will want to focus on the results of last fall’s employee engagement survey and work with all of our nurses and those working in patient support services to determine how to increase engagement.

Also, leadership development. We have a lot of leaders who are newer in their positions, and they’ve expressed an interest in continuing to grow, and that’s important.

When you talk to nurses, one of the first things they mention is staffing. Colleagues like Pam Johnson-Carlson, who was the CNE ad interim, have already done a tremendous amount of work; Emily Ward, CNE Associate; and others. Working with our colleagues in Nursing Recruitment and Human Resources is a high priority, but retention is just as important. When you come here for work, or if you choose to go to another unit, we want you to want to stay. So what can we do to combat retention?

And then, it is important to look at our patients. We know that we have room for improvement in terms of quality and safety measures. There is also room for improvement in the area of ​​the patient experience.

As you learn more, you start to see themes emerge, which indicates what your priorities will be. And then you work with your teams to refine those priorities.

But you have to be strategic. And selective. You can’t boil the ocean. There will always be a list of things that we can work on, but you need to stratify your priorities and also balance them with the priorities of the larger institution, as well as things that appear or reach the top depending on the circumstances or the unforeseen. . changes.

How would you describe your management style?

Some people use the term transformational leadership: you set direction, set priorities, and support your team in achieving those priorities. I do a lot. I like to be collaborative and I like working with many different people. I love face-to-face interactions and I think this approach has great value.

I believe the nursing leaders that I work with and all the nurses are really good. They do a very good job, so my role is to support them. It’s not necessarily me saying, “This is what we have to do. It’s also about other people’s ideas and how we think we can best tackle a problem together. Then let’s go ahead and work together on it.

As a newcomer to our organization, what is the “outside” perception or reputation of UI health care?

I think it has a very solid reputation, especially from a nursing perspective and the application of evidence-based practice. This reputation comes, in part, from seeing people from Iowa at national nursing conferences and learning more about their practices and results.

Outside of nursing, people working in health care view UI hospitals and clinics as very strong. When the people I worked with in Cleveland found out I was coming to Iowa, a lot of them said, “You’re going to be very happy there” and “They’re doing a great job. Some of the physicians I had worked closely with praised the caliber of our physicians and staff.

And I’ve heard people talk about the humility of the people of Iowa, and that’s definitely one of the things that makes this place special.

What is your sense of culture here?

For me, this is the one where people want to do the right thing for the patient. But there is also a culture of discovery here with the research side of things. Ditto for education: there is a strong commitment to education and training. All three are part of the overall mission, as you know.

Also, I think it’s recognized that we may need to re-evaluate, if not reconsider, some of the traditional ways we’ve done things. Healthcare is constantly evolving and changing – and the challenges being what they are with payers, volumes, throughput and other things, I think that’s going to push us to change outside of our area. comfort. That is exactly what has happened here, and across the country, in response to the pandemic. People found new ways of doing things, worked as a team, and were very flexible in the work that was done.

And I think with all the pressures in health care, and all the things that are going on in the United States regarding access to health care — the social determinants of care and all kinds of disruptors in the marketplace — we are going to have to deal with this even more.

You mentioned recruitment and retention. Are there any other challenges that you have been able to identify?

Generally speaking, the patients we see have complex and often multiple conditions. I have heard that a lot. Where we had ups and downs in terms of patient volume that we saw over the year, we don’t see as much anymore. And that creates different challenges for us in terms of personnel and resources. It is clear to me that our employees are not afraid to work hard, but as leaders we must support our teams and work to remove any obstacles they may face. And just as important to listen to their ideas and concerns and communicate frequently and transparently.

Thus, 2022 will be the start of another process of redefining Magnet.

There has already been a lot of work going on. Our Magnet application document will be due in fall 2022. Magnet will review it and ensure that we have answered the questions fully and appropriately. Once they feel that we have met these requirements, they will plan the site visit, sometime in 2023. It seems like a long way, but there is already a lot of work behind the scenes with all the data that needs to be done. be collected and the different stories we write.

As you know, Magnet has certain standards that we have to meet, and we have to show how we meet them: adequacy of our resources, accessibility of our leadership, and other things. What we do to improve quality, safety and the patient experience. It takes a lot of work, but we have some really good people involved. As we move forward, we will seek to involve even more nurses, so more to come.

In my experience, nurses appreciate the Magnet process because you have the opportunity to shine. You can tell surveyors about the great things you are doing. We will also be sending some of our nurses to the Magnet conference in November, and this is a great opportunity to meet and speak with nurses from other Magnet hospitals who recently participated in the survey process. That in itself is affirmative as long as you can see how you stack up against your peers. And a lot of times you see presentations and talk to people, and you end up thinking, “Wow. We are already doing it. You see for yourself just how advanced our nurses are here in their nursing practice and what they are doing to improve patient care.

Final thoughts?

I look forward to getting to know and working with everyone. I trust our people and all the great things that are happening here. And there is so much more we were going to be able to do together.

Also, I want our staff to know that I am accessible. I am Kim. I have a husband, I have a son. I have a dog (laughs). And I’m really happy to be here.

Helen L. Cuellar

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