A Career Comes Full Circle

Nancy Zionts, chief program officer for the Jewish Healthcare Foundation (JHF), documents the steady rise of nurse Maureen Saxon-Gioia, whose career got a boost from RWJF and JHF.

    • September 6, 2012

Maureen Saxon-Gioia, RN, BSN, CNRN, received her bachelor’s degree in nursing from Penn State University as a member of the Sigma Theta Tau International Honor Society of Nursing, and was a nurse for 25 years at Allegheny General Hospital Neurosurgical ICU and Labor and Delivery Unit (L&D). She used her critical care expertise to identify improvements in the health and safety of both the child and mother. Driven by her commitment to best practice care, in 2005 she was accepted as one of only nine nurses in the Nurse Navigator Fellowship (NN), jointly launched by the Jewish Healthcare Foundation (JHF) and Susan Hassmiller of RWJF. This program trained nurses to improve patient outcomes by applying JHF’s Perfecting Patient CareSM, a lean-based methodology. Maureen would have no way of knowing the profound impact it would have on her career.

As a Nurse Navigator, Maureen used newly acquired skills to improve processes and outcomes in the L&D Unit. She worked to define processes for maternal emergencies; championed changes that ensured maternal and neonatal medications met emergency needs, and decreased response times. She was also active as a nurse leader on the committee working to achieve ‘Magnet’ status, providing evidence for streamlining clinical care. She was invited to present the Perfecting Patient CareSM principles to health professionals and nursing students. Through her involvement with the Nursing Research Council, she promoted lean-based improvements at the bedside and point of care and was recognized her QI engagements and development.

Following the fellowship, JHF hired Maureen for their team. In the spring of 2007, she became a trainer providing frontline support staff (e.g., dietary workers, nursing assistants) with tools to improve their work environments and play a role in change processes. Her teaching skills and nursing experience allowed her to effectively connect with students. She took on greater responsibility as part of the Safety Net Medical Home Initiative, supporting primary care safety net practices to improve quality, efficiency and patient experience. She played a key role in leading two other fellowships—one for clinical pharmacists addressing polypharmacy, and another to help EMS professionals pioneer advances in safety and quality. Maureen continued to further her leadership and coaching abilities. It was important to her that she provided other professionals with opportunities she had received as a Nurse Navigator—those that made such an impact in her own career.

In 2008, Maureen was appointed to the leadership council for the Pennsylvania Center for Health Careers. She promotes workforce development and retention, working with deans of nursing schools and leaders of health care education. She was invited to examine the IOM’s recommendations for advancing nursing education and increasing their contribution to the redesign of health care.

At a recent meeting of the coalition in Philadelphia, Maureen met the keynote speaker—Susan Hassmiller. Maureen’s journey has come full circle. She started as a Nurse Navigator in a RWJF and JHF initiative, and she now serves as a leader in advancing nursing education and health care reform on the same council as the woman who helped launch her career transformation. We thank Maureen for her leadership in quality improvement education and passion to restructure health care, and RWJF and Sue Hassmiller for their support and foresight that enabled this story to evolve.

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