Karen M. Mayer, PhD, MHA, RN, NEA-BC, FACHE, is an assistant professor at Rush University College of Nursing and teaches leadership and gerontology courses in the Clinical Nurse Leader and Doctor of Nursing Practice programs. Her practitioner role is as a liaison for nursing excellence for the Rush system with the ongoing efforts in meeting the standards and documentation for the ANCC Magnet t® designations in all 3 hospitals. Karen also serves as a quality advisor for Lewis University. She is active in nursing research serving as the principal investigator for a study of community support of mealtime difficulties post discharge from the acute care setting, and as a site PI on a study of clinical nurse leader utilization, implementation, and outcomes. Karen is the chair for the Research and Awards Committee for Gamma Phi, the local chapter of Sigma Theta Tau.
She co-authored an article with the Journal of Nursing Administration on the critical role of nursing governance in the early crisis weeks of COVID-19 impact and alterations in care management. Karen has recently published the results of a study on nursing attitudes regarding social determinants of health. Regarding strategies in optimizing the empowerment of nurses, her article in The Voice of Leadership, Empowerment in Action: Creating a Culture of Top-down Decision-Making, identifies a healthy ownership of nursing professional practice throughout an organization. She was a member of the editorial board for the AONL Voice of Nursing Leadership publication for four years. She is a national speaker on topics of nursing millennial leadership, expanded roles of advanced practice registered nurses, the success of a clinical nurse leadership bedside model of care, and the expansion of clinical site availability for nursing students. Lastly, Karen is an independent contractor as an American Nurse Credentialing Center surveyor for Magnet® accreditation.
Karen’s journey with nursing governance began as an intensive care unit staff RN on the night shift in an organization without a nursing governance structure. Working conditions were resulting in continuous RN and nurse manager turnover in the unit. Upon becoming a co-charge RN within four months, Karen and the other night staff began meeting to establish ways to orient new staff, fix schedule gaps, re-organize the location of equipment, provide partners for patient care assignments, and build team collaboration. The elimination of RN turnover on the night shift and positive teamwork was noted and led to Karen’s career movement into a nurse manager role, despite essentially being a new graduate nurse. Karen’s respect for the critical thinking and planning abilities of front-line nurses was a strong thread throughout her career trajectory. As a chief nursing officer at Rush Oak Park Hospital, she fostered the initiation of a nursing shared governance structure. The first years included leadership development in the front-line nurses to understand their roles in being representatives of nurses within their department. Nurse administrators needed to be coached in bringing clinical issues to the clinical nurses rather than finding solutions and making decisions for them. Soon the committee members were developed in meeting management allowing them to become effective chairs of their nursing committees. The nursing governance Executive Committee was established with elected representative members for every nursing area of the organization. Karen established a nursing organizational chart that placed the president of the Nursing Shared Governance Organization on even par of the CNO. The CNO was an integral member of the Executive Committee as the representative of nursing administration, one of the many nursing specialties, and an ongoing coach of how to get things done in a complex organization system. Karen credits the insights, expertise, and innovations of front-line nurses for all the current successes of Rush Oak Park Hospital as a top hospital as measured by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid, the Leapfrog Group, ANCC ©Magnet designation, and several specialty service line certifications through The Joint Commission.