Career Corner - Anne Ireland

Anne IrelandQ & A

Anne Ireland, MSN, RN, AOCN is Director of Clinical Practice and Innovation at Fletcher Allen.  Recognized by her peers with Fletcher Allen’s highest leadership honor, Anne has worked as a nurse for 28 years – steadily advancing her skills and serving in many leadership roles along the way.  She’s cared for patients in their most vulnerable moments, and spearheaded the clinical implementation of Fletcher Allen’s electronic health record – among many other diverse accomplishments.  Here, Anne reflects on her career and the future of nursing at Fletcher Allen – and why now is such an exciting time to be a nurse.

Q: What inspired you to begin a career in nursing? 

A: I grew up on the East coast of Canada, and when my older cousin decided to go to nursing school, that inspired me.  I had such high regard for her and thought, “if she can do it, I can do it to”!  In fact, I went to the same nursing school in Canada that she did.  To be honest, I didn’t know a lot about nursing at the time – I was as green as the grass – but I loved caring for people and wanted a career where I could do that.

Q: You’ve enjoyed a pretty varied and interesting career path in nursing.  How did you end up where you are today?

A: When I graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Nursing, I followed my future husband to Toronto where he had found work.  It was 1984, and there were a lot of jobs in the big cities.  In one day, I interviewed for three positions and got three offers!  I accepted a position at the hospital closest to where we were living, working as a staff nurse on an oncology unit.  And for the next 20 years, I stayed in that field. 

In oncology, you get to know the patients and families you work with very well because the care is long-term.  It’s been so gratifying to form really good and lasting relationships with people.  I love to see them outside the hospital setting when they get better – we’re always happy to see each other.

During my time in Toronto, I also earned my Master’s degree in Nursing.  I became a clinical nurse specialist, a position that focuses on education for staff and engagement with patients and families, while continuing my work in oncology.

In 1992, we moved to the US when my husband was transferred.  We liked living here and decided to stay.  It was my good fortune that Fanny Allen was looking for an oncology clinical nurse specialist at the time.  My job was a joint one between the hospital and a private practice.  I eventually became a nurse practitioner in the private practice.  When the Fletcher Allen merger took place, I was doing some stem cell transplant work.  I left the private practice setting and came to work at Fletcher Allen full time and was nurse manager in Hematology/Oncology for five years.

In 2004, I decided I wanted to be a director – so I became the Director of Medical Surgery nursing, which took me from the outpatient to the inpatient world.  A few years later, I was encouraged to pursue the clinical lead role in the implementation of our electronic health record, PRISM.  In June 2011 I took my current role as Director of Clinical Practice and Innovation.   

Q: Whew!  Tell us about your current role.

A: This is actually a new role for the organization.  In terms of the clinical practice piece, I’m working with other operational nurse leaders on establishing a philosophy of nursing for the organization.  This includes developing a strategic plan, and putting structures and processes in place to advance the practice of nursing at Fletcher Allen.  Basically, I’m working to engage staff nurses in the decisions that impact them every day.  I want our nurses to feel empowered, and to have a seat at the table, in terms of the work we are doing at this organization.  We’ve just completed a series of focus groups, and are creating work groups around our key initiatives for the year.  

The innovation part of my job is focused around improving and leveraging technology for the benefit of our patients.  For example, I’m very focused on enhancing our electronic health record from the nursing perspective, to support the work our nurses do as they care for patients. 

Q: Where is nursing at Fletcher Allen – and the nation – headed? 

A: There is a lot of foundational work going on here at Fletcher Allen.  As I mentioned, we’re creating a new structure for engaging staff and also really investing in our nursing leadership.  We’re also thinking about nursing’s role in health care, especially with the advent of health care reform.  As a department and profession we are often very humble and don’t always speak to the value we bring to the patient experience, but there’s a lot of data that shows nurses really “own” many of the quality indicators of patient care – we play a huge role in infection prevention, for example.  So much of reimbursement is also based on our outcomes – if we can show how the actions we take in patient care affect patient outcomes, we are showing our worth.
So, we really want to advance the image of nursing as a profession, and I am working in collaboration with the entire nursing leadership team to ensure that we are telling our story and demonstrating the value that we provide in health care and for our patients. 

Nursing organizations across the country are excited, because health care reform is happening with or without us, and we want to be part of the solution.  We can do this by practicing at the highest levels of our degree, engaging with the rest of the clinical care team, and making a difference in the lives of our patients. 

Q: What do you love most about nursing?  Why would you recommend it to someone considering the field?

A: Nursing is an exciting profession – it’s an opportunity to be with people at their most vulnerable times and care for them.  When you become a nurse, you can do so many things within that job title.  I’ve done so much within the field, and I’m still a nurse!  There are so many specialties to consider, skills to learn, people to work with and knowledge to gain.  You can do pretty much anything! 

Considering a career in Nursing? 

It’s an exciting time to join us, and Fletcher Allen is hiring!  See employment opportunities for more information.