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Kaiser Permanente taps nurses for leadership roles

A partnership with the University of California San Francisco helps educate nurses who aspire to move up. Pictured, Ifeoma Nnaji, DNP, RN who works at Kaiser Permanente Modesto Medical Center, attends the UCSF leadership center for nurses in San Francisco.

Kaiser Permanente Northern California’s Nurse Scholars Academy is offering career advancement training for up-and-coming leaders at the newly launched UCSF Health Center for Nursing Excellence and Innovation as part of an effort to fill positions vacated by a wave of recent retirements.

“As nurse leaders move toward retirement or shift into new roles, exciting new leadership opportunities are emerging to help fill the gap,” said Jim D’Alfonso, DNP, RN, Kaiser Permanente executive director, professional excellence for Patient Care Services and the Kaiser Permanente Scholars Academy. “We also have a lot of new graduate nurses joining Kaiser Permanente, so we need to support their career development too.”

Pandemic sped up retirements

The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated nurse retirements on top of a shortage of about 40,000 nurses in California that is projected to persist until 2026, according to a University of California San Francisco study from 2021.

“Through our Nurse Scholars Academy, which started over 7 years ago, we’ve developed new programs to support people on their personal and professional journeys, and the collaboration with UCSF is part of that,” said D’Alfonso. “You can’t just take a leadership job one day without the knowledge and skills to be successful. It’s a process.”

“As nurse leaders move toward retirement or shift into new roles, exciting new leadership opportunities are emerging to help fill the gap.” – Jim D’Alfonso

Currently about 80 Kaiser Permanente nurses from across Northern California are receiving 32 hours of in-person and virtual training over 6 months for their roles as nursing professional development specialists and nursing professional development directors. D’Alfonso estimates 370 Kaiser Permanente nurses will participate in different programs at the UCSF center in the coming year while they continue to work.

Professional growth and development is one of the pillars of Magnet Recognition of the American Nurses Credentialling Center that Kaiser Permanente is on the path to achieving.

Customized curriculum

The UCSF center offers 5 programs and will offer more in 2023. They range from new leader transitions up to health care executive fellowships. Kaiser Permanente’s partnership allows it to customize curriculum for its special nursing leadership and professional practice needs.

“The added value to our organization is our ability to partner on curriculum design, having a dynamic faculty, state-of-the-art facilities, and program flexibility coupled with UCSF’s global reputation,” said D’Alfonso.

Ifeoma Nnaji, DNP, RN, is a nursing professional development director at the Kaiser Permanente Modesto Medical Center and a member of the first group to attend the UCSF center.

In her role at Kaiser Permanente, Nnaji oversees professional development and competency training for new hires and existing staff. She also makes sure all the nurses she manages are trained in how to use new equipment and how to use Kaiser Permanente’s patient medical record system known as KP HealthConnect.

“We’re learning to think beyond what we need to know just to stay current on our mandated training,” said Nnaji. “I’m talking about breakthrough learning where, for example, you may figure out why you have high rates of infection despite doing everything you were trained to do, and you implement evidence-based changes from that learning.”

D’Alfonso said the partnership with UCSF is linked to a legacy of Kaiser Permanente’s learning and leadership development that goes back 75 years.

“The partnership is what we view as a direct values match,” he said. “UCSF has one of the top nursing programs in the nation, and it’s a high-quality program of distinction, so that’s the kind of partnership we are committed to nurture.



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