University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Nursing Executive DNP Pathway student Michael Vaccaro, MHA/MBA, RN, was recently featured in the Voice of Nursing Leadership magazine discussing the importance of promoting and supporting resilience during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It’s something that is vitally important for nursing. It was important before the pandemic, and we were focused on resiliency and wellbeing before pandemic,” said Vaccaro, senior vice president for acute care nursing at Novant Health in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. “Everything we have faced recently—turnover, retention, an aging workforce, resiliency—all of those challenges were present before the pandemic. Now, they’re magnified by the pandemic itself.”
At Novant Health, Vaccaro and his organization implemented financial, technological and emotional support to address the intensified stress and burnout resulting from the pandemic. From pace of change to a higher number of patient deaths, nurses throughout the health care system were facing increased burden and challenges, Vaccaro said, and these conversations and tools were an important step in supporting our team members.
“This has to be something health systems are thinking about and working on within their teams,” Vaccaro said. “You may not have all the answers, but it starts with having a conversation and talking about the challenges that have been experienced. These are topics that are not easy to talk about, however we will never move forward if we don’t acknowledge how difficult this pandemic was and create space for healing.”
Vaccaro has a dual masters degree in health administration and business administration, in addition to his bachelor of science in nursing. He chose to pursue a DNP in order to enhance his ability to lead and hopefully show the benefits of continuing your education.
The School’s Post-MSN to DNP Pathway for Nurse Executives prepares experienced nurse managers and leaders for executive health system leadership roles including the Chief Nursing Officer or Chief Nursing Informatics Officer roles.
“Part of doing this is to be a role model in pursuing my education,” Vaccaro said. “I have seen a few people go back to school since seeing me go through this program, and I encourage everyone to go back to school to pursue further degrees, including through this program. I appreciate that they’re bringing real life experiences into the classroom.”
Vaccaro will graduate from the program in December 2022, but his work in the DNP pathway already supports his efforts at Novant Health. His DNP project is focused on wellbeing in nurse managers, and coursework has continued to include real world experience and application.
“Going to school has been helpful and has forced me to think differently about how we implement new practices, which strategies we pursue, and how stakeholders are engaged,” he said. “It has forced me to be even more intentional about what I do day-to-day in leadership. It has helped me be more purposeful in the steps I take every day.”