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A dynamic nursing degree that’s designed for the times

Clinical Assistant Professor Dr. Barbara Medvec

Dr. Medvec uses her vast experience to articulate the advantages of the University of Michigan’s online Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) in Leadership, Analytics and Innovation (LAI).

Clinical Assistant Professor Dr. Barbara Medvec uses her extensive history as a scholar, nursing executive, mentor, and educator to capture the benefits of Michigan’s cutting-edge LAI program. Driven by the belief that it is her role to assist students and colleagues in continuous improvement and ongoing learning, Dr. Medvec is an ideal advocate and unique resource for nurses hoping to elevate their career and become the industry leaders of tomorrow.

How is the LAI program different from a general nursing administration degree?

What is so special about this program is that it allows you to look at the big picture of populations, of systems of care, of health systems of care, and of leading groups of nurses. We have focused on how to build your analytic skills and how to continually tap into what nurses are well known for, which is innovation.

How has technology changed the requirements for nursing leaders in recent years?

Thanks to an array of changing strategies and new tools, nurses are creating a new track for leadership proficiency that is required in a growing age of technology. Today, action-oriented nursing leaders are necessary for all aspects of patient care. Chief Nursing Officers and Senior Executives are looking for individuals with specific sets of skills. In 2021, the path to leadership for many nurses involved an expectation to leverage technologies. This involves embracing change through evidence-based knowledge and innovation that takes place across healthcare teams and healthcare delivery. Many leadership roles require candidates to be data-driven and action-oriented so they can easily step in and lead across the practice, program, and system for care. Other new expectations of nursing leadership include understanding the needs of patients and healthcare systems, as well as an ability to identify gaps or obstacles that already exist within a given system. Equally valuable is the ability to address plans and obstacles with data, analysis, and specific actions.

In today’s world, finding new nursing leaders is a challenge. Through our LAI program, we focus on sharing the tools and strategies that nurse leaders need to develop change, create new innovation, and lead with action. Proficiency in these categories is not only highly desirable but has also become a growing expectation among modern nursing leaders.

What are some examples of analytics that are most helpful to nurses today?

With the continued advance of technology, electronic records, and data availability, nurses need to understand where data comes from, what constitutes the data, and how the data is defined and collected. The ability to review and analyze data has become essential. Understanding and creating visual representations of data that can help others to understand the data and how it guides best practices or next steps is also critical for nursing leaders. The LAI program allows participants to gain competency in analysis, data visualization, and planning for action orientation. It offers students a road map for comprehension, so they can move from being told what the numbers say to actually internalizing what this means, allowing them to uncover and share their own insights about a program or problem, reinforcing just how crucial a nurse’s assistance really is.

What does ‘innovation’ mean as it relates to nursing in 2021?

Nurses use innovation to improve nursing practice in all aspects of healthcare; it is one of the reasons why we remain one of the top trusted professions, year over year. Since the beginning of our profession, nurses have been innovators. As active participants in guiding the patient experience, nurses use creativity to solve problems and ensure the quality of care a patient receives. With that said, the pandemic has highlighted just how crucial the contribution of nurses is to society. Some healthcare professionals even refer to last year (2020-2021) as the “Year of the Nurse,” because the pandemic tasked nurses with creating innovation at every turn across the continuum of care settings. Does innovation only mean a product or service? Definitely not; innovation in nursing for 2021 means looking at the critical gaps and opportunities in the field, then creating solutions that will resolve and improve care, care delivery, and dissemination of industry changes to other healthcare workers.

How are analytics and innovation integrated into this program?

As we redesigned all of our courses, we made sure that the elements of data and analytics would be in them, along with elements of decision-making and evaluation. And we really built our scaffold competencies so that as you move through a course, you’re gaining information and material from a couple of different vantage points. Not only do you have opportunities to talk about evidence-based practice, but also, you can explore them through the lens of a new piece of equipment, a new element of practice, or a new strategy for innovation.

What is the online experience like at Michigan? What did you do to make the online experience high quality and interactive?

Fortunately, we have devised the program so it is led by excellent experts from across the country and from around the world. Our faculty are well prepared, and they want to engage with students in learning. To welcome our students to the online program, we not only provide an extensive orientation, but also, we offer ongoing interactive engagements, like our happy hours, so that students don’t feel isolated when they start their digital education. Let’s face it, we’re not the first digital education program to come along, but we have gone out of our way to maintain a high standard of quality to really sustain that Michigan difference.

Given how busy nurses are, is this program flexible for students who are working full-time?

We’re highly flexible about working with students to change program plans so that they can continue their education while working, and do it the way they want to. Part of being a digital student at Michigan is being able to be comfortable and able to do it on your own terms. If you’re an LAI student, we’re going to work and flex with you to meet your professional needs.

What kinds of jobs have graduates secured after the program?

The leadership, analytics and innovation focus that we’ve created is something that students can really leverage in the job market. Students are finding roles in quality and safety and in traditional leadership on the supervision and director levels. They’re finding roles across the continuum of healthcare. They’ve stepped into roles in specific industries, like insurance and other consulting groups. They have also uncovered roles in innovation. Many startup companies are seeking out the engagement of nurses who can really add to their innovation and to the product viability, joining the leadership throughout the organization.

How has COVID-19 impacted the nursing field in terms of career opportunities for nurses who may be looking to make a career change?

We know that nurses will always be needed. Through COVID-19, what we have seen is a pretty dramatic amount of retirement, both in the leadership ranks and in the frontline ranks. As a result, there are many, many opportunities that are opening up right now to step into new roles as we come out of this post-pandemic phase, especially for those who are well-prepared and who have received the ‘right’ type of training.

What specific tools does this program give students after graduation in order to excel in a leadership role?

Not only will you have the competencies around leadership, analytics and innovation, but you’re going to have the confidence to take on new challenges, new activities, and use the tools that you’ve acquired for decision-making, for planning, for presenting in ways that many students didn’t think they ever could. That is one of the great benefits of the program: gaining tools and techniques and the strategies that you are then able to apply to your current work life, deepening those skills as you continue on your leadership trajectory.

Why is now the right time to get an MSN in LAI degree?

The way healthcare is trending, we will continue to see these dramatic changes throughout the industry for the foreseeable future. Nurses are going to need to be prepared and at the forefront of leading changes in innovation in their industry. Nurses need to use their voices and know how to use them to create seats at the table so they can help change healthcare practices as they continue to evolve.