Better Protocols, Better Outcomes

Clinical nurse leader finds — and fills — gaps in health systems

Kimberly Perris ’15, USFCAShe and other clinical nurse leaders, as these new professionals are called, focus on identifying errors, ensuring patients are handed off to the next shift with up-to-date records, and communicating next steps to caregivers, patients, and families. They mentor other nurses. And they look for protocols that can be advanced with better data and best practices.

In short, they’re health care systems experts.


It’s a different function from the roles nurses traditionally play as experts in surgery or maternity care, for example. Those roles are vital, and they’re not going away. But Perris, who has worked as a registered nurse for years, saw the potential for filling the gaps where the health-care ball often gets dropped, so she enrolled in USF’s Master of Science in Nursing, Clinical Nurse Leader (MSN/CNL) program — ranked sixth in the country by U.S. News & World Report.

“CNLs are trained in leadership, teamwork, information technology, evidence-based practice, and quality improvement,” Perris said. “This role called to me. I knew these were skills I needed to bridge the gap among professional disciplines, so that I could be seen as a partner in improving patient care.”

After graduation, Perris wasted no time putting into practice what she learned. She implemented new protocols at Humboldt State University’s student health center, where she worked, that cut acute care waiting times from hours to minutes, reduced the time to get an appointment from three weeks to three days, and slashed costs by 50 percent.