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What’s a Chief Nursing Optimization Officer? Meet Betty Jo Rocchio

Chief Nursing Optimization Officer Betty Jo Rocchio, MS, BSN, CRNA, CENP, and her team at Mercy are using technology, data and analytics to create environments that provide nurses more time at the bedside doing what they do best: caring for patients and developing innovative solutions.

Nurses are uniquely positioned to develop solutions that have the potential to change human health, but sometimes due to time constraints, insufficient resources, and low levels of resiliency, nurses find themselves in environments where they don’t feel empowered to make their great ideas reality. Nurse leader Betty Jo Rocchio and her team at Mercy in Chesterfield, Missouri are committed to changing that.

Johnson & Johnson recently spoke with Betty Jo Rocchio, MS, BSN, CRNA, CENP, chief nursing optimization officer and former vice president of perioperative performance at Mercy, to learn more about how she and Mercy use data and analytics to create environments that support and empower nurses to bring their innovative solutions forward. Mercy, one of the top five large health systems in the nation according to IBM Watson Health , employs nearly 15,000 nurses and is making nurse-led innovation a priority by positioning nurses as care team leaders. Betty Jo hopes other health systems can learn from how they are championing nurse-led innovation to improve patient outcomes.

J&J:
Your title of Chief Nursing Optimization Officer is unique. Can you tell us about how you deliver on that title?
Betty Jo:
My title is significant in that we’ve replaced “chief nursing executive” with “chief nursing optimization officer,” which reaffirms our commitment to nurses and to being action oriented. The nursing industry is moving toward optimization by using technology, data and analytics to merge clinical, financial, and operational knowledge, and Mercy is at the forefront of that.

During my time at Mercy, we’ve been able to use technology and data to standardize workflows, help surgery go more smoothly by optimizing the tools clinical teams need, reduce waste, and develop clinical benchmarks for our frontline co-workers. We’re committed to optimization and implementation becoming part of our culture.
J&J:
You were recently honored as a “Most Powerful Women in Healthcare IT” by Health Data Management . How has technology been a part of how your nurses deliver optimal care?
Betty Jo:
One of the ways we’ve delivered on optimization is in our perioperative area with our inventory management system. A nurse working in the OR can scan the barcode on products they are using, and that information automatically enters our electronic health records. It reduces waste, informs what we need for patients in the operating room, and helps us determine what the actual cost per case is. This helps us drive better value by improving cost and quality outcomes. It’s a great example of how nurses can collect the raw data and turn it into information needed to drive better outcomes.

We’re also striving to have our nurses spend more time at the bedside than behind a computer completing electronic health records. Our team is experimenting with voice activation nurse charting so nurses can transmit their documentation more quickly and spend more time delivering quality care.

One of our long-term goals is to use technology to design a better customer-centric model of care by training our nurses to look at data and provide a predictive element of healthcare in the virtual space. Nurse input will be crucial in making this a reality for both inpatient and outpatient care.
J&J:
In your role, you’ve said you’re focused on “positioning the professional nurses as the leader of the care team.” Can you describe what that means?
Betty Jo:
We’re real innovators at Mercy because we understand how important it is to support our co-workers on the frontlines. Every year, our senior leadership team highlights innovation by our frontline co-workers with our Ministry-wide leadership team, giving them the opportunity to highlight their great work over the past year. It provides an opportunity for nurses to speak on what they are doing to improve patient care. One of our winning innovative ideas was a mentorship program in St. Louis that helps new nurses get acclimated to their clinical role as well as into the culture of their unit. This has proven successful and is aimed at reducing nurse turnover rates.

I wouldn’t dream of doing any optimization initiatives without nurse involvement. Because nurses are on the frontlines, they should be involved in the design, build, and implementation of their idea. They are the group with key insights on patient risk factors like patient falls and pressure ulcers that we can’t always understand completely from an analytics platform. Instead of dreaming up an idea in the boardroom and handing it off, our programs at Mercy gives them a chance to own their great ideas and develop it from the ground up.
J&J:
What does nurse-led innovation mean to you?
Betty Jo:
Nurses are on the frontlines with the patient 24-hours a day, seven days a week. There is no better representation of patient care than a nurse, and no better group to develop innovative solutions. It doesn’t take much to be an innovator; it just means designing a process better than what you have today. It’s finding a new way to clean an IV pump or creating an electronic platform for analytics. It’s opening your eyes and ears to your environment, so everyone gets involved in how we can do our core job better. Nurse-led innovation has the potential to open pathways far beyond the walls of a hospital and improve quality of care across the industry.

I think that the “squeaky wheel” within a health system is just a frustrated nurse innovator. I look for those squeaky wheels. Nurses are doing the same things every day, and they recognize when these things don’t make sense. We need to encourage nurses to bring their ideas forward, so we can help them take their ideas and turn them into experiences that benefit patients and the nation.
J&J:
What do you think are the biggest barriers to nurse innovation? How can we work to overcome these barriers?
Betty Jo:
I also believe more health systems should partner with other industry partners like Johnson & Johnson, who are providing programs like the Johnson & Johnson Nurses Innovate QuickFire Challenge* series that are tapping into the power of nurses and are helping them to develop their innovative voice. The program provides the opportunity for nurses to see what their ideas would look like in industry and supports nurses in developing their voice as frontline innovators and entrepreneurs. I would encourage all healthcare systems to put resources behind a program like this.
J&J:
What advice would you give a nurse about how to embrace an innovative mindset?
Betty Jo:
First, I would say never quit dreaming. You have the potential to transform patient care. I would start with an evidence-based practice— reading the literature, doing research, and finding a mentor in a leadership position that you can talk to about a great idea and leverage the health system structure to bring it to life.

I would also say look beyond healthcare and look at what’s going on in other industries like technology, business, and finance. My greatest learnings have come from non-clinical people. Speak to people you know are innovators or entrepreneurs and combine that with what you know.
J&J:
How can fellow nurses be inspiring each other to embrace innovation?
Betty Jo:
We must support the nurses developing these ideas, otherwise the industry will remain the same. We’re seeing new nurses enter the work environment with lots of energy, but not necessarily the experience to be an innovator. Mercy is creating an environment for innovation by pairing experienced nurse managers with less experienced nurses to discuss ways to solve today’s problems and really drive these solutions.

*Mercy is not a partner in the Johnson & Johnson Nurses Innovate QuickFire Challenge series, which is run solely by Johnson & Johnson. Mercy has shared information about the Johnson & Johnson Nurses Innovate QuickFire Challenge with their nursing staff and has encouraged nurses to apply.

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