Saving Lives With Better Care


When a physician forgets to tell his nursing staff about a patient’s new medication, Vincent Samuel MSN ’17 is there to catch it. And if a patient faints in an emergency room after waiting for hours, Samuel is part of a team that revamps the patient intake process. In short, he’s on the frontlines of improving hospital care by 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. 

Samuel’s a new breed of nurse, or at least he will be when he graduates from USF’s Master of Science in Nursing, Clinical Nurse Leader program (MSN/CNL) next year. The program is among the best in the country, according to U.S. News and World Report.

CNLs are seen as key to reducing the 100,000 deaths caused by medical errors each year and to modernizing health care in the era of the Affordable Care Act.

Advancing care

“CNLs are trained in leadership, teamwork, information technology, evidence-based practice, and quality improvement,” says Mary Seed, chair of USF’s master’s in nursing program. “This makes them ideal for improving the care at the bedside.”

Traditionally, nurses fill specialty roles inside a hospital or clinic: surgery, maternity, pediatrics. Clinical nurse leaders’ expertise is broader. They oversee 12-16 beds or a unit. They mentor others nurses. And they look for protocols and systems that can be advanced with better data and best practices.

Samuel, a full-time registered nurse (RN) who enrolled in the program through a partnership with his employer, Kaiser Permanente, credits the program for teaching him leadership and management skills. He’s also learning the business side of health care, how to conduct research, and a host of new computer programs and other technology.

Health care leadership

To graduate, CNL students like Samuel complete a master’s project, recommending real life health care advances based on evidence.

Like many graduates, Kimberly Perris MSN ’15, who was a student in the MSN/CNL online program, implemented her project on the job. At Humboldt State University’s student health center, she cut acute care waiting times from hours to minutes. She also reduced the time to get an appointment from three weeks to three days, and cut costs by 50 percent, Perris says.

Other student projects have reduced blood culture contamination by developing a clearer labeling system, and helped cardiac patients recover faster by encouraging them to track their health in a journal, says Elena Capella, who directs the online MSN/CNL program.

“My time in the program was so meaningful,” says Perris, who credits the program with helping her quickly land a leadership position in a new job looking at identifying and improving how different populations access health care, among other responsibilities. “I learned so much in the MSN/CNL program that I applied to USF’s doctor in nursing program and was accepted. I start in August! Can you tell I’m excited?”

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