Clinical nurse specialists recognized for ‘unstoppable advocacy’

November 10, 2022  //  FOUND IN: Our Employees, ,
L-R: Regi Freeman, Lakeshia Benn, Nikki Taylor, Rachel Orfei, LaToya Freeman, Amanda Tomasik, Jennifer Dammeyer

Approximately a 3-minute read.

Key takeaways:

  • A clinical nurse specialist is an advanced practice provider that focuses on evidence-based care, complex patient management and improving patient outcomes. 
  • Michigan Medicine has 39 clinical nurse specialists, who total hundreds of years of experience and dozens of nursing certifications between them.
  • Much of their focus is on quality and education and their role functions in three spheres — patient care, nursing staff and systems.

Rachel Orfei has been a registered nurse for seven years and has worked in the Frankel Cardiovascular Center as a clinical nurse specialist for three years. For her, and so many clinical nurse specialists at Michigan Medicine, it is the broad reach and impact of the work that they do that continues to fuel them each day.

A clinical nurse specialist is an advanced practice provider that focuses on evidence-based care, complex patient management and improving patient outcomes. 

“There’s a level of mystery at the health system of what we are, and what we do,” said Orfei. “Overall, we are valuable partners to our care teams — and due to the mystery, many times we are an under-utilized resource.”

A day in the life

No two days are alike for a clinical nurse specialist, and every workday comes with a variety of responsibilities and tasks.

They focus on quality and education and their role functions in three spheres — patient care, nursing staff and systems.

“Our work can touch all three spheres in a single day,” said Orfei. “For instance, we may go rounding with staff, identify any patient issues, interview patients or carry out taskforce and committee work that strategize to improve workplace systems.”

L-R: Regi Freeman, Rachel Orfei, Scherolyn Leggett, Nancy Tena, Lakeshia Benn, Amanda Tomasik

 “I am so proud of the work that our CNS’s do,” said Nancy May, U-M Health chief nurse executive. “They are quick to solve challenging problems. The knowledge they share is critical in providing specialized care for unique practice challenges that our staff encounter daily.”

Unstoppable advocacy

Embedded in the daily work of our CNS’s is advocacy.

Last month, Michigan Medicine recognized CNS Week with the theme, Unstoppable Advocacy, highlighting the continued work our clinical nurse specialists do to champion for patients, families, staff, policies and nursing at Michigan Medicine.

“As the clinical experts within their units, the CNS’s exemplify using evidence-based practice every day,” said May. “They are advocates for their patients, colleagues and the profession of nursing.”

Michigan Medicine has 39 clinical nurse specialists. In a recent survey of 29 CNS’s, they accumulated 645 total years of experience as RN’s, 290 total years of experience as APRNs and hold 27 different nursing certifications.

“Often, there can be a gap where research meets the bedside and how we communicate and implement new ideas, processes and protocols,” Orfei said. “That’s part of our overall advocacy.”

In the end, Orfei said her role and the role of her colleagues is unique and special.

“We improve the communication between patients, physicians, nurses, PT/OTs, social work and case management,” she said. “There aren’t many other roles at Michigan Medicine that touch as many teammates and influence as many people as ours. And I’m thrilled to be able to use my voice to help advocate and advance patient care here.”

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