Leading with Hope: 7 Insights from Get Well’s CNO Council on the Future of Digital Health

Katherine Virkstis, ND, Vice President, Clinical Advisory Services

In an era where digital transformation is reshaping healthcare, the role of the Chief Nursing Officer (CNO) has never been more important. CNOs are strategic and visionary leaders, adept at blending clinical expertise and a deep understanding of care team workflows with technology innovations–to uphold patient-centered care at the forefront of all decisions.

Earlier this month, I had the privilege of co-hosting an extraordinary event: the CNO Council on the Future of Digital Health, alongside Michael O’Neil, the Founder and CEO of Get Well. We welcomed an exceptional group of 23 dynamic CNOs from diverse healthcare backgrounds, representing 21 healthcare organizations. Our goal was clear: to drive impact through meaningful change. What transpired was nothing short of inspiring—a collective brainstorm where ideas flowed freely in the spirit of collaboration and unity of purpose.

The Council convened to discuss the intersection of digital health and nursing with four objectives in mind: 

  • Be a catalyst for change. Explore evolving trends reshaping digital health and its role in enhancing nursing practices and patient care. 
  • Facilitate knowledge exchange. This forum was designed to enable participants to share and learn from each other’s experiences. Ample time was dedicated to the exchange of ideas, leading practices, and experiences.
  • Guide the industry and the profession of nursing. Insights learned from this discussion can help inform the industry on what nursing leaders need from tech innovators and what benefits those innovators can gain from the nursing leadership community. 
  • Inspire action. Council members gained actionable strategies for partnering with IT colleagues to implement digital health solutions and drive adoption within their own organizations. 

Four founding CNO advisors helped design this CNO Council. Their expertise and vision were key in shaping our agenda and guiding our discussions towards meaningful and actionable outcomes. These influential leaders include:

  • Jeanette Ives Erickson, RN, DNP, FAAN, Chief Nurse Emerita, Paul. M Erickson Chair in Nursing, Massachusetts General Hospital
  • Maureen Lal, DNP, RN, Director, Magnet Recognition Program, American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC)
  • Sharon Pappas, RN, PhD, NEA-BC, FAAN, Chief Nurse Executive, Emory Healthcare
  • Deb Zimmermann, CEO, The DAISY Foundation and President, American Organization for Nursing Leadership (AONL) 

The agenda focused on three main topics: improving clinician workflow and well-being, promoting civility and a safe care environment, and amplifying care team recognition. Throughout our discussions, several themes emerged, each resonating with our collective vision for the future:

  1. Nurse executives should play a central role in digital transformation.

Nurse executives understand the global profession, its history, and evolution. They are participants in technological change and key drivers who influence and steer its integration into healthcare. They understand that developing new tools and changing entrenched workflows is not as simple as downloading new software. Their insights, drawn from hands-on clinical experience, are vital to ensuring that technology investments are not only innovative but also practical, person centered, and reflective of the real needs and challenges in healthcare settings. Nurse leaders have the power and responsibility to shape the digital health journey by championing solutions that truly enhance patient care and nursing practice.

  1. Support nurses with technology that eases cognitive burden. 

Nursing is a multifaceted profession, blending physical, cognitive, emotional, and organizational work. Without mindful intervention, cognitive load can escalate, leading to overload, strain, and potential care delays, all of which can adversely impact patient care quality and nurse well-being. It’s critical to introduce technologies that are intuitively designed to streamline these varied aspects of nursing work and reduce cognitive burden. By doing so, we empower nurses with tools that augment the work of nurses, allowing them to focus more effectively on what truly matters: providing exceptional patient care. 

  1. Never make a patient care technology decision without involving direct care nurses.

Primary users must be included in the design process of technology solutions to improve user acceptance, implementation, adoption, and effectiveness. People closest to the work (often, direct clinical nurses) know best what is needed to improve care. When technology is implemented without the insights of its primary users, it often fails to seamlessly integrate into daily healthcare practices. The RHIP framework (Risks, Habits, Identity, and Power), developed by Michaela Kerrissey of Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health, provides a thoughtful approach to understanding the human factors that influence individual behaviors and adoption of technology in healthcare settings. By inviting direct care nurses to share their perspective, technology solutions can be implemented in ways that are more practical, user-friendly, and truly aligned with the needs and workflows of care teams. 

  1. Adopt a systems approach to promoting civility and a safe care environment.

Everyone has the right to be treated with dignity and respect. Bullying, intimidation, threatening behavior, racism, and violence are barriers to effective care and must never be tolerated. The creation of a safe and secure work environment is not just a matter of policy; it’s a necessity for the well-being of both healthcare workers and patients. Addressing this requires a multi-faceted approach and technology can play a key role. Get Well is committed to partnering with healthcare leaders in the pursuit of reducing violence and creating safer healthcare environments for all. To that end, Get Well has developed The AWARE Framework1, paired with Get Well’s technologies, to offer a new paradigm in tackling the issue of workplace violence in healthcare. 

  1. Gratitude: the special sauce in human connection.

In healthcare, gratitude directly ties clinicians to their purpose. Nurses who feel valued and appreciated–for who they are as a person and a member of the healthcare team–understand that their work truly ‘matters.’ Deb Zimmermann, CEO of The DAISY Foundation and President of the American Organization of Nurse Leaders, aptly stated, “Gratitude is not fluff. It is core to our profession, and it is core to our well-being.” Digital platforms, including systems that capture gratitude and appreciation from patients and peers, can amplify this core value by ensuring recognition is timely, specific, and professionally meaningful. The integration of these technologies has the power to enhance the emotional and professional well-being of nurses and foster a positive, purpose-driven work environment. 

  1. Generational diversity is a strength–not a weakness.

For the first time in history, nurse executives manage a diverse workforce that spans five distinct generations. While this is often perceived as challenging due to differences in attitudes, behaviors, and skills, it represents a significant, often underappreciated strength. This diversity unites the tech-savvy of younger generations with the rich experience of more tenured nurses. By celebrating our differences as individuals, both within and across generations, we create a dynamic and innovative environment. This approach transforms potential challenges into opportunities for collaborative growth, advancing healthcare practice and technology integration. Embracing generational harmony and individual uniqueness in organizations, through programs that leverage these diverse strengths, fosters a culture of collaboration and continuous learning.

  1. We are better together, and our greatest asset is hope.

Defined as ‘the belief that tomorrow can be better than today, and that we have the power to make it so,’ hope not only fuels our journey towards a brighter future, but is in fact a strategy to achieve it. The CNO Council embodies the power of collaboration, reminding us that together, we can shape the future of nursing and healthcare. As leaders, it’s our shared responsibility to ‘grab the microphone’ and drive change. This is more than a discussion; it’s a collective call to action. By uniting, we amplify our impact. Let’s seize this opportunity to craft a future where technology enhances patient care, improves experience, and fulfillment, that ultimately elevates the nursing profession. Drawing insight from Joseph Echevarria, ”The best way to predict the future is to create it together.”

Looking ahead

The CNO Council on the Future of Digital Health has sparked energy, momentum, possibilities, and promise. The meeting offered invaluable insights that can help steer the nursing industry towards a promising future. As we reflect on these discussions, I am excited to deepen our exploration through a series of forthcoming articles. Each piece will offer an in-depth look at the council’s key insights, continuing our journey of innovation and hope in digital health. We welcome your insights on the Future of Digital Health. As a collective community we can create the future together. In this dynamic era of digital health, we see nurse leaders actively shaping a harmonious blend of technology and human care, driving progress and change that promises a brighter future for both nurses and patients.

CNO Council Participants

  • Vi-Anne Antrum, DNP, MBA, RN, NEA-NC, CENP, FACHE, System-wide Chief Nursing Officer, Cone Health
  • Leigh Chapman, MS, RN, CIC, Chief Nursing Officer, LifeBridge Health
  • Linda Cole, RN, MBA, FACHE, NEA-BC, Chief Nursing Officer, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta
  • Jay Douglas, MSM, RN, CSAC, FRE, President, National Council of State Boards of Nursing Board of Directors
  • Stuart Downs, DNP, RN, NEA-BC, CENP, CPHQ, FACHE, FAONL, FAAN, Vice President and System Chief Nurse Executive, Northeast Georgia Health System 
  • Marilyn Dubree, MSN, RN, NE-BC, FAAN, Executive Chief Nursing Officer, Vanderbilt University Medical Center
  • Cole Edmonson, DNP, RN, FACHE, NEA-BC, FAAN, FNAP, FAONL, Clinical Executive, Board Member, Innovator, Author, Researcher, Speaker
  • Kate FitzPatrick, DNP, RN, ACNP, NEA-BC, FAAN, EVP/System Chief Nurse Executive Officer, Jefferson Health System
  • Shanon Fucik, MBA, RN, CPN, NEA-BC, Chief Nursing Officer, University of Missouri Health Care
  • Jeanette Ives Erickson, RN, DNP, FAAN, Chief Nurse Emerita, Paul. M Erickson Chair in Nursing, Massachusetts General Hospital
  • Stephanie Jackson, DNP, MBA, RN, NE-BC, FAONL, Vice President/Chief Nursing Officer, Sentara Obici Hospital 
  • Simmy King, DNP, MS, MBA, NI-BC, NE-BC, CHSE, FAAN, Chief Nursing Informatics & Education Officer, Children’s National Hospital
  • Melissa Kline, DNP, RN, NEA-BC, CENP, Senior Vice President, Chief Nurse Executive, Metro Health
  • Maureen Lal, DNP, RN, Director, Magnet Recognition Program, American Nurses Credentialing Center
  • Sandy Leake, DNP, RN, NEA-BC, FAAN, Senior Vice President & Chief Nursing Officer, The University of Tennessee Medical Center
  • Cody D. Legler, DNP, APRN, NP-BC, RN-BC, NEA-BC, CNL, System Vice President and Chief Nursing Officer, Perioperative Service Line, MedStar Health
  • David Marshall, JD, DNP, RN, CENP, NEA-BC, FAAN, FAONL, Senior Vice President, Chief Nursing Executive, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center
  • Sarah Matney, MSOL, BSN, RN, CPON, CENP, SVP Clinical Operations, Chief Nursing Officer, Connecticut Children’s
  • Nancy May, DNP, RN-BC, NEA-BC, Chief Nurse Executive, University of Michigan Health 
  • Michael O’Neil, MBA, JD,  BA, Founder & Chief Executive Officer, Get Well
  • Heather O’Sullivan, MS, RN, AGNP, President, Healthcare at Home, Massachusetts General Brigham
  • Sharon Pappas, RN, PhD, NEA-BC, FAAN, Chief Nurse Executive, Emory Healthcare
  • Theresa Trivette, DNP, RN, CENP, Chief Nurse Executive, Valley Health
  • Katherine Virkstis, ND, BS, Vice President, Clinical Advisory Services, Get Well
  • Deb Zimmermann, DNP, RN, NEA-BC, FAAN, Chief Executive Officer, The DAISY Foundation

For more information, read our latest press release.

  1. Virkstis, Katherine ND; Balá, LouAnn MSN, RN; Taylor, Jennifer MSN, RN; Forester, Robin BSN, RN. The AWARE Framework: A Technology-Driven Approach to Creating a Safer Care Environment. JONA: The Journal of Nursing Administration 54(3):p 139-141, March 2024.