Mr. Gregory J Clark began his career in health care in 1979 as a Medical Corpsman in the United States Air Force (USAF). Following his four-year military commitment, he earned his associate degree in nursing from Parkland College, Champaign, IL in 1985. He immediately enrolled and completed his bachelor’s degree from the University of the State of New York in Albany, NY in 1987. Following a perioperative internship, he received a commission in the USAF Nurse Corps as an officer in 1988. He served in various locations throughout his military career as both a perioperative staff nurse and later as Operating Room (OR) Manager, including assignments in the United Kingdom, Nevada, North Dakota, Ohio, Republic of Korea, Turkey, and three military deployments. While on active duty, he graduated from Central Michigan University External Degree Program with a Masters’ Degree in Administration in 1996 and a Graduate Certificate in Healthcare Services Administration in 1997. He retired in 2005 at the rank of Major and having earned multiple military awards including the Meritorious Service Award with three oak leaf clusters.
Upon his retirement from the USAF in 2005 he joined Veteran’s Affairs Southern Nevada Healthcare System (VASNHS) as a perioperative nurse, becoming the OR Manager in 2009. During this time Mr. Clark was a member of the new facility activation team and lead his OR team in the development and set up of a new medical center, the first new VA hospital built from the ground up in 19 years. He successfully led his team to earning Competency and Credentialing Inc., True North Award® for Perioperative Nursing Excellence in 2018. In 2018, Mr. Clark became the Nurse Recruiter and Pathway to Excellence® Coordinator for VASNHS.
Mr. Clark has presented posters at national nursing conferences and has published in peer-reviewed nursing journals.
How are you and your organization handling the current COVID? How do you feel the PTE framework has support you during this time?
These last few months have been tumultuous to say the very least. Our facility had the first COVID-19 positive patient in the state of Nevada in early March. It took just hours for contingency operations to begin and for normal business practices to change. During this event and the changes, the Pathway to Excellence® framework supported our staff and our leadership. EOP 2.3.a asks about the Chief Nursing Officer (CNO) being accessible to staff. Dr. Strawn, Associate Director for Patient Care Services/Nurse Executive, is our CNO. She has held weekly on-line town hall meetings with the nurses in separate sessions for inpatient nurses and for outpatient nurses. Nurses were provided status updates of the current situation, updates in planning, and had an opportunity to present questions and concerns. When so much negative information was in the news about Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), our leadership was able to transparently share with the nurses how much of, and what type of PPE was available in the facility. Our facility tracked and shared the expected use rate and what the re-order and re-supply dates would be. This information was shared right down to the number of gowns, boxes of gloves, and how many disinfectant wipes were in stock. I personally did not work on the COVID unit, but many of my peers shared with me that they felt safe and secure on the unit with the PPE available. EOP 2.4a and b are concerned with nurse managers being accessible to nurses. On the COVID unit, the managers led by example, donning and doffing PPE along with and working hand-in-glove on the unit with the direct-care nurses. EOP 3.1 speaks to safeguards for unforeseen events and EOP 6.5 relates to nurses being competent with new equipment. Both of these elements applied to the new situation. The nurses were secure in their training and understanding on how to don and doff protective gear. The powered air purifying respirators (PAPRs) are not “new” equipment items for the facility. However, using and cleaning them was a new process to most of the staff. Each member working in COVID ICU was provided and assigned their own PAPR, our nurse educators worked tirelessly in providing training for all members prior to going onto the unit. In the COVID ICU the nurses worked in buddy teams of two. They had each other’s backs by helping one another to be safe in decontamination practices when leaving the COVID ICU. These are just a few examples of guidance and support that the Pathway Program Standards have provided.
What did getting the Pathway designation mean to you?
I have been told by newly hired nurses that when they walk into our facility in North Las Vegas for the first time, they often can “feel the culture.” This has been described to me as an environment that positive, encouraging energy is palpable. “Living Pathways” has become part of our culture. Achieving Pathway to Excellence® designation is evidence for all our nurses that they are valued. Our nurses deserve to work in an environment where they are encouraged to grow professionally. An environment where their voices, concerns, and suggestions are heard. They deserve to work in an organization where they can work at the top of their profession, that is psychologically safe, and that offers work/life balance. Earning this designation was a show of pride in our organization and support for the many direct-care nurses that have worked so long and hard on this journey. Earning the designation was a great feeling; a celebratory, “let’s party” feeling. It is through the journey to excellence that our nurses felt empowered, engaged, and that their voices were being heard. Starting the journey was slow and difficult. We had a couple of false-starts along the way and a couple of stall-outs as well. Eventually our nurses embraced shared decision-making. We started in 2012 with two Unit Based Councils (UBCs). It took time to catch on, but nurses talk, and by 2017 we had ten UBCs. When nurses began to see that using shared decision-making was creating positive changes in practice, workgroups, and in their personal lives such as schedule changes generated by UBCs, word got out. Nurses wanted to make a difference and impact their work lives. We now have 22 UBCs representing nearly every nurse in every clinic and on every unit.
What do you hope to do in the future to support your PTE designation?
Our facility will be due for re-designation in 2023. There will always be processes for our organization to improve upon. It is important to understand that designation does not equal perfection. We are better today than we were four years ago, and even better today than we were one year ago. It is not the end point that is important, it is the journey. In these next three years we will learn more than we know today, and we will continue to strive to be better than we are today. There are two quotes from Florence Nightingale that summarize the journey for me:
1. “So never lose an opportunity of urging a practical beginning, however small, for it is wonderful how often in such matters the mustard-
seed germinates and roots itself.” And, reminiscent of Standard 6: Professional Development,
2. “Let us never consider ourselves finished nurses.... we must be learning all of our lives.”