UCMC immersion program embeds nurse leaders alongside frontline staff

How many frontline nurses have the opportunity to gain insight about their health system’s nursing leadership decisions? At the University of Chicago Medicine, the goal is for every single nurse to have that visibility. That’s why, in August 2020, the health system’s nurse executives created the Leader Immersion Program. For two days every month, nursing leaders trade in their suits for scrubs and go rounding with frontline staff. By immersing leaders within patient-facing care settings, the program minimizes the gap that might otherwise exist between leadership and frontline staff.

With visibility comes the opportunity for frontline staff to more quickly escalate any problems — and speed up the process of fixing them. Likewise, rounding with and shadowing nurses gives leaders the chance to see what’s happening on the ground and assess whether or not their policies are working. As Alesia A. Coe, DNP, RN, NEA-BC, FACHE, Vice President and Associate Chief Nursing Officer, puts it: the program lets her “fact check” her leadership priorities.

After witnessing any issues on the ground, nursing leaders meet together to discuss and address these problems. The changes made as a direct result of the leadership immersion program include everything from ensuring that hand sanitizer dispensers and paper towels are fully stocked to developing an escalation process for paging trauma providers during emergencies.

Perhaps the most exciting display of the program’s success came from the establishment of the “Reverse Leader Immersion Program.” Grateful for the opportunity to have more line of sight into their leaders, several frontline staff requested the opportunity to shadow the leaders themselves. Now, frontline staff who may consider pursuing a leadership role have the opportunity to see what that would look like up close and afford future leaders the chance to form meaningful connections with current leaders.