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KCON graduate makes a difference as clinical nurse leader

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Posted on March 16, 2017

As a nurse with more than two decades of experience, Michelle Smith has positively impacted the lives of countless patients.

Yet it is in her new role as clinical nurse leader for the Bronson Kalamazoo emergency department that Smith, a Grand Valley State University graduate, said she feels like she is truly making a difference. 

Smith and other CNLs will be recognized on Friday, March 17, Certified Clinical Nurse Leader Day, a day dedicated by the Commission on Nurse Certification to raise awareness of the role and recognize nurse leaders in that role. 

As a clinical nurse leader (CNL), Smith follows patients who frequent the ED to help connect them to various resources in an effort to reduce unnecessary emergency room visits. Smith, who earned a master's degree from Grand Valley's Kirkhof College of Nursing in 2013, follows approximately 1,400 patients.

"Many of the patients who frequent the ED lack basic resources like shelter, transportation and employment. These issues have a significant impact on chronic medical issues,” Smith said. "If patients cannot meet their basic needs, they’re not equipped to manage complex medical needs."

Smith works with community partners to find permanent housing, employment or other resources for patients. A recent success: Smith teamed with Goodwill Industries of Southwest Michigan to address barriers that were limiting patients from seeking medical care. Half of those patients, once stabilized, have not returned to the ED for non-emergent care. 

CNLs like Smith are relatively new to nursing. They help ensure quality care by coordinating care across settings, facilitating practice innovations and monitoring quality improvement efforts. Graduates of a nursing master’s degree program accredited for CNL education, like the Kirkhof College of Nursing, must take a CNL certification exam in order to use the title.

“Michelle is an excellent example of how CNLs focus on strengthening continuous quality improvement and monitoring and improving patient outcomes. This is a critical role for organizations and patients,” said Karen Burritt, associate dean for graduate nursing programs.

• Staff members from KCON will host an information session for graduate nursing programs on Wednesday, March 22, from 4-5 p.m. at the Cook-DeVos Center for Health Sciences, 301 Michigan St. NE in Grand Rapids.

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