‘Nursing is a calling’: Q&A with Nancy May, D.N.P., RN-BC, NEA-BC, interim chief nurse executive

May 8, 2019  //  FOUND IN: Strategy & Leadership,

It’s Nurses Week and in celebration, Michigan Medicine is honoring the commitment that its nursing staff makes to ensuring the organization offers world-class care to patients and families.

Whether it’s at the bedside, in the operating rooms or at ambulatory clinics across the state, Michigan Medicine nurses are life savers to those they serve.

Recently, Headlines caught up with Nancy May, D.N.P., RN-BC, NEA-BC, the organization’s interim chief nurse executive, to discuss her own journey to becoming a nurse and what her priorities are as she carries out her new role.

Here’s what she had to say:

Q: Can you tell readers a little bit about your career path before joining Michigan Medicine? 

NM: I started my career as a graduate nurse in 1975. I held leadership roles early in my career and when I left my first organization, I was responsible for several large service lines in acute care and ambulatory care. I had a great career there, but I always wondered what it would be like to share my knowledge somewhere else. I took a position at another health care system as a chief nursing officer for their ambulatory clinics in 2011. There I worked on standardizing care, helped with Patient Centered Medical Home accreditation for all primary care sites, implemented EPIC, decreased harm events with needle sticks and mislabeled specimens, improved access to care and started a shared governance model. I was recruited to U-M in 2015 for the chief nursing officer position for the U-M Medical Group. Michigan Medicine has been by far my favorite place to work throughout my career!

Q: What made you want to become a nurse in the first place? 

NM: I had a high school classmate that was being treated for lymphoma, and I would drive to see her on the weekends and after school. She was 17 years old and was treated on an adult oncology unit. I would sit with her to keep her company and admired the nurses who would be in and out of the room to care for her and her family. I remembered how impressed I was with their ability to meet the needs of my friend and her mother. I watched her eventually pass away and this experience put my priorities into perspective; I decided to go into nursing. I was not sure if I could do the work or not, due to my own emotions dealing with life and death. I had also lost my grandmother around the same time. I often think of my friend and how courageous she was until the end. I just wanted to give back to patients in need — and I have never regretted my decision.

Q: What are your top priorities as you carry out your role as interim chief nursing executive? 

NM: Our nursing strategic plan needs to be updated, and I plan to engage with staff on many levels to help align our nursing strategic plan with our organization’s goals. I hope to make our shared governance structure stronger to increase staff engagement. I also feel that reducing harm events and keeping our patients safe will make us a stronger organization as it places emphasis on the work nurses do every day. It’s important for our staff to know their outcomes data, talk about it during huddles and help find solutions for practice issues as they arise. That is what shared governance is all about.

Q: What is the No. 1 thing you would want employees to know about the nursing team at Michigan Medicine?

NM: Our nursing teams provide amazing care to our patients. Nursing is a calling and we all want to provide the best care possible. Being a Magnet organization is the hallmark of nursing excellence and being one of the 450 Magnet organizations out of more than 5,000 hospitals should not be taken lightly. Our outcomes, our research arm, our partnerships with the school of nursing, and our impact to patients and families help make the Michigan Difference through our strong nursing practice! I am very proud of our nurses and all that we do.

Q: What’s something interesting about you that very few people are aware of?

NM: My work to promote the profession does not end for me at the end of the day when I go home. I have become nationally involved with boards. I served as a past president of American Academy of Ambulatory Nursing (AAACN), where I formed a task force to start developing Nurse Sensitive Indicators for Ambulatory Care Nursing and worked with the Medical Surgical Nursing Certification Board (MSNCB) to develop a certification on Care Coordination and Transition Management.

I also am on the Magnet Commission and engaged with the American Nurse Credentialing Center to drive nursing excellence and set the standards for the Magnet recognition program. I was also recently put into a board-appointed position for the American Organization of Nurse Executives to represent care coordination across the continuum. I have participated on several national groups to help promote safety and improve quality for nursing practice. In addition, I used to teach a certification review course for nurses and traveled across the country on weekends to help nurses prepare for certification.

Being a board-certified nurse in your area of practice helps differentiate you as a content expert. I am hoping more nurses sit for certification this year as I value those that take the extra step to become board certified in their specialty and set the bar for others to achieve.