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Texas Health Resources Chief Nurse Executive Receives National Award

ARLINGTON, Texas — Texas Health Resources’ top nurse executive has received a national award for her leadership in advancing a new nursing role designed to improve patient care. Joan Shinkus Clark, D.N.P., R.N., NEA-BC, CENP, FACHE, FAAN, senior vice president and chief nurse executive at Texas Health Resources, was presented the 2013 CNL Visionary Leader Award from the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN). She received the award, one of only two presented, at the Clinical Nurse Leader (CNL) Summit held Jan. 17-19 in New Orleans.

Joan Clark

Under Clark’s leadership, Texas Health has been a pioneer in the development and implementation of the CNL nursing model, a fast-emerging R.N. role developed by the AACN to improve the quality of patient care and better prepare nurses to thrive in today’s health care system. These master’s-prepared clinicians put evidence-based practice into action to ensure that patients benefit from the latest innovations in care delivery.

“Introducing a new nursing role into the health care delivery system takes vision, courage and leadership,” said AACN President Jane Kirschling, Ph.D., R.N., FAAN. “And Joan has even gone above and beyond that.”

Clark helped establish a Nursing Excellence Fund to support advancing nursing excellence at Texas Health, including covering the cost for Texas Health nurses to become clinical nurse leaders. Today, Texas Health has 30 CNLs and patient care facilitators (nurses studying to become CNLs) serving hospitals throughout its system.

“A number of forces — from more complex, high-risk patients to the need for improved continuity — created the need for CNLs,” Clark said. “The CNL brings a dedicated leader with clinical knowledge, depth and expertise as a regular presence back to the bedside.”

In practice, clinical nurse leaders oversee the care coordination of a distinct group of patients and actively provide direct patient care in complex situations. The nurse leaders evaluate patient outcomes, assess risks and have the decision-making authority to change care plans when necessary. They also serve as a focal point for the patient, family and health care team in coordinating the patient’s plan of care.

Cory Franks, M.S.N., R.N., C.N.L., Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital Alliance, was one of the system’s first CNLs.

“As a clinical nurse leader, you are in a position to accurately assess what is needed at the bedside, you have the time and expertise to come up with an evidence-based solution, and you are empowered to implement changes,” he said. “Plus, I’m a consistent presence on the floor for staff, other members of the health care team, and most importantly, for my patients and their loved ones.”

According to Emily Jestes, M.S.N., R.N., C.N.L., Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Plano, a CNL’s most important responsibility is to look at the whole patient.

“We round on patients five days a week, as well as follow their progress 24/7 as needed; help manage the patient’s expectations throughout their hospital stay; and promote a team-based approach to care by keeping an open line of communication between the care team and the patient,” she said.

Clark has served on the AACN CNL Implementation Task Force and the CNL Steering Committee. Her leadership as a member of the American Organization of Nurse Executives has been key to promoting a national dialogue and awareness of the clinical nurse leader, according to the AACN.

“AACN commends the ground-breaking work led by Dr. Clark to introduce the CNL into her health system as a mechanism for enhancing care coordination, strengthening outcome-based practice and enhancing patient safety,” Kirschling said.

About Texas Health Resources
Texas Health Resources is one of the largest faith-based, nonprofit health systems in the United States. The health system includes 25 acute care and short-stay hospitals that are owned, operated, joint-ventured or affiliated with Texas Health Resources. It includes the Texas Health Presbyterian, Texas Health Arlington Memorial and Texas Health Harris Methodist hospitals, Huguley Memorial Medical Center, Texas Health Physicians Group, outpatient facilities, behavioral health and home health, preventive and fitness services, and an organization for medical research and education. For more information about Texas Health Resources, call 1-877-THR-WELL, or visit

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