Veterans Week: Former Army nurse leading Michigan Medicine safety efforts

November 7, 2017  //  FOUND IN: Our Employees,

Nicole Templeton has always felt a desire to serve — first her country, and now patients and colleagues at Michigan Medicine.

“Before I even started college I knew I wanted to serve in the military, so when I came to U-M as an undergrad, I also signed up for Army ROTC,” said Templeton, MHSA, B.S.N., R.N., CPPS, who now works as the administrative director for the Office of Patient Safety.

“At the time, the ROTC program was only offering scholarships for nursing, so I switched my major during my freshman year and started taking nursing courses,” Templeton recalled. “I didn’t know much about being a nurse when I started, but I took a chance and it all worked out — I loved both the School of Nursing and the ROTC training.”

Military service

After graduating from U-M, Templeton spent four years as an Army nurse, treating active U.S. military members, veterans and their families.

“Hospitals on military posts don’t just serve active duty military personnel,” Templeton said, “they also take care of their families. So I was exposed to a wide variety of care settings, including combat medicine, field training and general practice.

“I’m very thankful for the experience I gained in the Army — and not many nurses can say they are paratroopers,” she added with a laugh.

Templeton continues to see the value of her military experience, pointing out that military veterans offer distinct perspectives that benefit the organization.

“There are so many veterans working in areas all over Michigan Medicine, and I believe we’re a better organization for it,” said Templeton. “Veterans have unique skills that enable them to look at problems from different angles and offer solutions that others may not have considered. In general, veterans also tend to be very calm under pressure, making them perfect candidates for working in a health care setting.”

A new direction

After her time in the service, Templeton headed back to Michigan and worked as a nurse in the Surgical ICU at St. Joseph Hospital in Ann Arbor. She also enrolled in the Master’s in Health Services Administration (MHSA) program at the U-M School of Public Health.

It was during her graduate coursework that she was first introduced to health care quality and felt something “click.”

“Even though I hadn’t always worked in a ‘traditional’ health care setting, my experience as a nurse had taught me that quality and safety in any setting are so important — that no matter what the environment, there is always room for improvement,” Templeton said. “Health care organizations need people who are constantly focused on safety and quality, and I quickly learned that I was extremely interested in doing that work.”

Following completion of her graduate program, Templeton performed quality work for a health care organization in Jackson, Michigan. She eventually took a job at Michigan Medicine so that she could work closer to where her family lives in Ann Arbor.

“I was extremely fortunate to work in the Nursing Quality Department and Office of Clinical Affairs for my first two roles in the organization,” Templeton said. “Working closely with our nurses, faculty and allied health professionals helped me understand the complexity of care delivery and the amazing work that happens here every day.”

Commitment to safety

In her current role with the Office of Patient Safety, Templeton is focused on reducing patient harm and creating a culture of safety for employees.

“My number one goal for Michigan Medicine is to eliminate preventable or unnecessary harm,” said Templeton. “I believe that when a patient enters our care, they should never have negative consequences as a result of their interaction with us.”

On first glance, the job might seem to have little in common with her military career — she’s yet to jump from an airplane for Michigan Medicine — but there are more connections than meets the eye. Templeton is able to call on her military training, knowledge and skills every day, she said.

“In the military, there are clear standards for safety and they are inherent to what you do. I think a lot of those same principles can be translated to the health care setting and used to focus on improving quality of care and patient safety,” Templeton said.

Thank you for your service, Nicole. Your colleagues at Michigan Medicine salute you!