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Staff Spotlight: Kristin Merritt, DNP, MBA

Thursday, October 3, 2019
K Merritt

As Associate Chief Nursing Officer for Neuroscience for the Duke University Health System Kristin Merritt, DNP, MBA, oversees communication, best practices, and more for neuroscience-related nursing across DUHS’ three hospitals. For this week’s spotlight interview, Merritt talks to us about this work and the joys and challenges that keep it exciting. She also talks about the doctoral degree she earned this summer, her work to establish Duke Raleigh as the  Joint Commission Advanced Thrombectomy Capable Stroke center in the Carolinas last year, and finding time to practice yoga, ski, and travel with family outside of work.

What are your current responsibilities as an Associate Chief Nursing Officer? What does a typical day for you look like?
As the Health System ACNO for Neuroscience, I am responsible for providing oversight and direction in establishing and maintaining a system for developing, reviewing, and disseminating clinical practice standards for areas such as quality, education, safety, advanced practice, and clinical operations within the clinical service units (CSUs). I am accountable for plans, operations, and programs across the Neuroscience CSUs at all DUHS facilities. I am also working towards facilitating communication and consistency by providing a direct link among all three hospitals for neuroscience nursing while removing the barriers to effective practice at the front line.

In my role, each day looks very different. I spend time rounding on nursing units getting to know staff, the nursing leadership teams, and providers at each facility.  I have also been shadowing front-line staff, rounding on patients and families, attending meetings, and participated in several Tier 1, 2, and 3 Quality Management huddles at each hospital. I believe it is vital to network and build relationships so I can understand the culture at each entity.

Before coming to DUHS you were the Neuroscience Service Line Director at Duke Raleigh. What did that work involve?
As the Neuroscience Service Line Director for Duke Raleigh Hospital, I was responsible for the clinical, quality, safety, operational, financial, and administrative activities. The Neuroscience Service Line is comprised of the Cerebrovascular, Neurology and Neurosurgery programs, Intensive Care Unit, Neuroscience Stepdown, Neurology, and Neurosurgery Advanced Practice Providers, and Neurodiagnostics department that supports over 21,000 patient encounters per year. In this role, I expanded the service line to include the first stroke intervention program in Wake County in collaboration with Dr. Ali Zomorodi and Abbie Faircloth, Cath Lab Nurse Manager, implemented Telestroke services, inpatient transcranial doppler services, and co-lead the execution of a Neurohospitalist program. In October 2018, we became the first Joint Commission Advanced Thrombectomy Capable Stroke center in North and South Carolina and 13th in the United States to receive this accreditation.

This summer you completed your DNP degree.What was the focus of that work, and how will it complement your current work?
In July, I graduated with my Doctorate of Nursing Practice (DNP) in Leadership. One of the DUHS nursing strategic goals is workforce planning and nurse retention. We hire a large number of new graduate nurses each year but struggle to retain them in our organization. The literature supports career advancement and mentoring programs as two vital methods of professionally developing and retaining nurses at the bedside. For my DNP project, I chose to implement a mentorship program to foster professional development and improve nurse retention in early to mid-career nurses working in a community hospital. I am happy to say the initial program results have shown a promising trend that supports the program to be implemented throughout the health system. Providing these opportunities to support nurses fosters growth and helps develop confident, skilled, and well-prepared nurses to serve and deliver the best quality care to our patients.

What do you enjoy most about your work?
There are so many elements I enjoy about my work. I really appreciate getting to know the nursing staff, leaders, and physicians, the work cultures at each facility, and the diversity of the work that insures every day is different. Right now, there are so many balls in the air. However, everyone on the neuroscience team shares the same vision and is dedicated to the mission that it creates a team environment where everybody is there for each other. I am excited to see what our future has in store!

What’s the most challenging part of your job?
Healthcare is filled with rapid and successive change that requires strong leadership at every level to set operational priorities and align daily work with strategic goals and objectives. I cannot envision a more challenging environment at this time: the uncertain future of reimbursement; the increasing demand for services (aging, acuity); increasing demand for nurses; increasing regulation; demand for value-based services; engaging patients/families in self-care; engaging employees in their work, and the list goes on.

What passions or hobbies do you have outside of Duke?
Outside of work, I enjoy spending time with my family (husband, John, and daughter, Sarah) and friends, being outside, yoga, cycling, hiking, skiing, and traveling as much as we can.

K Merritt
Above, Merritt hikes in Sedona, Arizona while below, she and family enjoy skiing in Vail, Colorado.

K Merritt skiing