Meet the Innovators: a nurse’s journey from the bedside to clinical transformation leader
Meet Whitney Staub Juergens
Whitney graduated in the top 10% of her high school class and was preparing to start college. The future looked bright for the outgoing 17-year-old overachiever. But in the blink of an eye, a tragic car accident left her with a broken neck. She wasn’t sure if she would be able to walk or talk again.
After receiving care from skilled paramedics, compassionate nurses and a gifted neurosurgeon, Whitney made a full recovery. The accident transformed her life and inspired her to pursue a career in nursing.
Flash forward to 2022. Whitney Staub Juergens, DNP-HSL, MSN, RN, CCRN-K, NE-BC, joined HCA Healthcare’s department of Care Transformation & Innovation (CT&I) as assistant vice president of clinical operations and was recently promoted to the role of vice president of clinical operations. CT&I is a department within the organization’s Clinical Services Group (CSG) that focuses exclusively on future-forward innovations designed to solve today’s challenges in healthcare delivery.
A nurse’s passion inspires innovative approach to care delivery
In Whitney’s role, she leverages her more than 15 years of experience in hospital-based nursing roles, care delivery and clinical leadership to help HCA Healthcare rethink what models of care could look like to better support clinicians in order to continue advancing exceptional, patient-centered care long into the future.
“I practiced as a nurse, nurse practitioner and nurse leader for 12 years across two health systems in nine unites before I decided I wanted to make an even greater impact by transitioning to a position where I could bring the voice of the nurse into the clinical innovation process,” said Whitney. “Nurses are problem solvers. They’re insightful and creative. And, it’s essential that their voices are heard to improve patient safety and outcomes. That is the guiding principle that drives me every day.”
Whitney’s leadership role in CT&I has three primary areas of focus:
- Clinical analytics and process engineering
- Clinical design work
- Execution of CT&I work at Innovation Locations
Clinical analytics and process engineering represent the starting gate for CT&I work. The CT&I team partners with a wide range of key stakeholders, including direct caregivers and leaders from across the organization, to develop a deep understanding of the current state of a process they are looking to transform. This includes addressing pain points and streamlining workflows to save nurses time. Whitney leads discovery efforts in our hospitals, making sure “our process engineering team has the right resources and relationships established to effectively study the right processes in the right environment.”
“The questions we ask are, ‘What would make this easier? Can it be automated? How can we reimagine the workflow in a way that is truly easier for our care team members and leaders?” Whitney says equally important to her work is “understanding behaviors that might need to change as a result of a reimagined workflow, innovation and transformation.”
The second part of her role, clinical design work, involves collaboration with key stakeholders in coming up with potential solutions to a challenge based on findings in the clinical analytics and process engineering stage. To Whitney, this is where a key phrase in CT&I’s intent statement, “clinically-led integration of technology,” really comes to life.
Rounding out Whitney’s scope of responsibility is the execution of CT&I work at Innovation Locations: HCA Florida UCF Lake Nona Hospital in Orlando, Florida; TriStar Hendersonville Medical Center in Hendersonville, Tennessee; Henrico Doctors’ Hospital in Richmond, Virginia; and Medical City Dallas in Dallas, Texas.
“HCA Healthcare colleagues at our Innovation Locations help us in discovery, testing and prototyping early design work before moving to a pilot phase,” Whitney says. “Once alpha piloting concludes, products are then beta tested. The compilation of this work under synchronized, fluid clinical operations permits us to thread the clinical design all the way to execution, helping to ensure consistency throughout for end users.”
Innovation at work: developing Staff Scheduler
For example, Whitney and her team have recently been focused on helping to transform staffing and scheduling for nurses, which are major challenges in the healthcare industry, especially given current labor shortages. As a nurse herself, Whitney uniquely understands the manual, time-consuming process of creating a schedule.
“During the discovery process at Henrico Doctors’ Hospital, nurses and nursing leaders validated that traditional hospital staffing and scheduling were major pain points in their day-to-day workflow,” Whitney explained. This included both the processes themselves, but also the outcomes, which often resulted in staffing that was mismatched with uncertain patient demand and self-scheduling practices that make it difficult to see where actual needs are…resulting in calling in/off staff. Bottom line: scheduling wasn’t optimal for nurses and lacked the ability to plan for actual variations in overall patient care needs.
Whitney and her team used feedback from direct caregivers and leaders to design a CT&I product called Staff Scheduler, an automated scheduling solution that uses machine-learning to better predict staffing needs, measure the complexity of different procedures and optimize scheduling by accounting for caregiver proficiencies and allow more input about individual schedule preferences. “Having the right people at the table ensures that our design work is guided by end users who will engage with the process or solution, and my team’s clinical operations lens helps ensure that the work evolves into the right, most comprehensive solution,” says Whitney.
In the case of Staff Scheduler, it was during these pilot and testing phases that the CT&I team discovered leveraging a schedule solver had the potential to significantly reduce the hours it takes to produce schedules, empower caregivers to highlight their schedule preferences, and help ensure they were scheduled for hours when they are truly needed. “Previously, it often would take hours to create a staff schedule, whereas the total time for Staff Scheduler to generate one staff schedule during its alpha pilot was four minutes, and down to seconds in beta testing. With additional satisfiers in the mix, Staff Scheduler is a win-win for care teams and our facilities,” said Whitney.
Building and sustaining a culture of innovation
Whitney is part of CT&I because it gives her the opportunity to improve care and the caregiver experience by challenging the industry status quo and modernizing systems and processes.
That could be in the cards for CT&I’s Staff Scheduler, as the team works toward implementing the solution across HCA Healthcare’s 182 hospitals and more than 2,300 sites of care.
Does Whitney find that task daunting? No, she says.
“The challenge is the way we even think about scalability,” said Whitney. “Is there a new way of thinking about scaling? Are there pockets of units that need Staff Scheduler more than others? Perhaps we have two hospitals in a geographic region that are in need of the solution now versus a blanket approach.”
Whitney also stresses the many benefits of leveraging change management, interprofessional education and training to help bring nurses and other caregivers along on the journey as the CT&I team start to scale solutions.
“Being part of the best solution going forward is a privilege for me and an opportunity to drive new productive narratives and solutions,” she explains. “Having the gift of resources and ability to break down barriers and silos in operations, which opens the door for true transformation in healthcare, is what I find most rewarding.”
Advice from the Innovator
How does someone go from almost losing everything at age 17, to a promising nursing career, to heading up one of the boldest healthcare transformation initiatives in the country right now? Whitney credits most of her career with a mindset of gratitude and giving back.
“I will never forget what the nurses who helped me after my accident did for me, what some of my nursing and physician mentors have done for me, and I always will have the desire to keep doing that for others.”
For those who might be looking to follow in Whitney’s footsteps and focus on innovations that revolutionize the nursing and patient experience, she offers some words of advice.
“I would offer new nurses to our workforce the same advice I would offer my 17-year-old self: Do not give up,” she says. “Don’t play into the rhetoric about how hard it is to be a nurse and that there are no solutions on the horizon. Dig into the profession and be a part of the solution. Don’t give up!”
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About HCA Healthcare
HCA Healthcare, one of the nation's leading providers of healthcare services, is comprised of 182 hospitals and more than 2,300 sites of care, in 20 states and the United Kingdom. Our more than 283,000 colleagues are connected by a single purpose — to give patients healthier tomorrows.
As an enterprise, we recognize the significant responsibility we have as a leading healthcare provider within each of the communities we serve, as well as the opportunity we have to improve the lives of the patients for whom we are entrusted to care. Through the compassion, knowledge and skill of our caregivers, and our ability to leverage our scale and innovative capabilities, HCA Healthcare is in a unique position to play a leading role in the transformation of care.