Advancing Nurses at the Bedside: Clinical Ladder
by Adam Amdor
Wheaton Franciscan Healthcare-Iowa encourages bedside nurses to join our Clinical Ladder Program, an initiative to promote professional growth and develop leaders in our clinical staff. The ladder not only furthers career development, but also boosts excellence in the patient and family experience. The program gives clinicians incentives if they choose to continue up the ladder to its top tiers.
Nurses are able to work their way to higher ladder levels through certifications, memberships in professional organizations, pursuing continuing education, and earning a degree in higher education, such as a Bachelor of Science in Nursing or master’s degree. Nurses can also earn credit through cross-training in other specialties, teaching, leadership, community service and research projects.
“You do have to meet certain standards, but there’s always extra education in any project that you choose to dive into,” says Jenny Miller, who is a registered nurse in the Ambulatory Surgery Unit (ASU) at Covenant Medical Center. Miller has been a nurse for nine years, and has enrolled in the Clinical Ladder Program for the past few years. “There’s a personal satisfaction that comes with the things you have to achieve. You can compete with yourself. You set goals in specific areas and work to achieve those goals.”
Jenny says participating in the clinical ladder has provided her experiences that she otherwise would not have had, such as volunteering at the Catholic Worker House, a community organization in Waterloo dedicated to helping people in need. “That was the most humbling. I probably would not have been so involved with that had I not been in this program. It’s just an eye opener.” Since her first experience with the Catholic Worker House, Miller has gone on to put together meals to donate to the organization.
Amy Gehrke is also a product of the Clinical Ladder Program. She has been a nurse for 21 years, but recently moved into a leadership position as chief flight nurse with the Air Care team at Covenant Medical Center. She says being active in the clinical ladder prepared her for her new role: “I never thought I would enjoy management but I think by pushing me to get active in certain committees, the ladder really made me take a look at leadership and I really enjoyed it.”
Amy says the program can help others discover their potential as well. “I think it brings out the leaders in nursing... the ones that want to step up and do extra and be a leader. It’s very rewarding, seeing everything written in your clinical ladder portfolio and seeing what you’ve all accomplished.”
There are currently 68 nurses at Covenant Medical Center enrolled in the Clinical Ladder Program and an additional 30 applicants whose portfolios are currently being reviewed. Participants will be selected and recognized at the annual Iowa Wheaton Outstanding Nurses ceremony on Wednesday, May 31.