Inova Health System, a four-hospital system based in Falls Church, Va., is cornering a niche in the marketplace as it builds a base of nurses-turned-executives.
The system, which has more than 13,000 employees, was recently named a magnet hospital for nursing by the American Nurses Credentialing Center and received a Companies as Responsive Employers Award from the Northern Virginia Family Service.
Jolene Tornabeni, a registered nurse who is executive vice president and COO at Inova, said the system's culture "balances patient care with being good financial stewards." She is one of five Inova nurses who graduated to the executive ranks.
Tornabeni, 55, became the first nurse to climb into the executive level at Inova when she was named administrator at the system's flagship, Inova Fairfax Hospital, in 1994. "We are unique because we have a broader array of registered nurses at the top than you would see at most organizations," she said.
Nurses who graduate to the top level bring their experiences of working with both patients and physicians and have a good knowledge of quality and clinical issues, she said.
Ellen Menard, 50, senior vice president of human resources and organization development, is another registered nurse who became an executive at Inova, which boasts that 43% of its senior management consists of women. Her nursing experience has brought "a lot more credibility talking with board members because I have up-close and personal knowledge," she said.
The nurses-turned-executives have a better understanding of the issues facing the usually overworked nursing staff, Menard said. "We understand the business is in their hands and they are the first point of contact with patients," she said. "It is about deriving deeper (insight) into what the problems are and what the solutions are."