‘Every day, we’re here for patients’

Raines, VP and CNO for M Health Fairview U of M Medical Center, adds DNP to her resume

May 3, 2023
Susan Maas


After assisting in opening one of the nation's first dedicated COVID-19 hospitals, Maria Raines enrolled in the Doctor of Nursing Practice program. She says it cemented her passion for ongoing innovation and problem solving.

Had any doubt ever existed about the creativity, adaptability and fortitude of nurses, the COVID pandemic quickly dispensed with it.

Maria Raines — vice president and chief nursing officer for M Health Fairview University of Minnesota Medical Center since 2021 and recent graduate of the Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) Post-Master’s program — is a powerful case in point.

In March 2020, as the crisis exploded across the U.S. after erupting in Asia and Europe, Raines, DNP, APRN, ACNS-BC, was charged with a daunting mission: to swiftly open and lead one of the nation’s first dedicated COVID-19 hospitals. In under three weeks, Raines and her “amazing” team went from planning to opening Bethesda Hospital in St. Paul as a 100-bed center of care for a still-mysterious disease with a terrifying mortality rate. 

Obviously, there was no template for pulling this off.

“I would say there were two, maybe two and half weeks from when we started the planning to when we were able to open it,” Raines says. “The rallying of teams from all these other hospitals — the providers, infection control, therapy, spiritual care — was just amazing.” Bethesda’s 82 percent hospital-wide survival rate, 74 percent ICU survival rate, and its exceedingly low nurse and physician infection rates were astonishingly good compared to similar efforts around the U.S.

Passion for innovation

Somehow, Raines began her DNP program in the midst of it all. “My husband thought I had lost my mind,” she laughs. “I told him, ‘I need to start. I feel this is the time for me to do it.’” Her program specialty — health innovation and leadership (HIL) — fit well with Raines’ work experiences at the time. And it cemented her “passion for ongoing innovation and problem solving,” Raines says.

A native of Colombia, Raines came to the U.S. as a teenager with her family. She completed her undergraduate work at a private university in Illinois, then came to the University of Minnesota for her master’s degree as a clinical nurse specialist and in nursing education. Both remain close to her heart; for her DNP project, Raines led the implementation of a dedicated education unit model to better support students in their clinical experiences.

“I think of the model as a triangle: you have the student, who is learning and going through that clinical experience. You have the School of Nursing faculty member, who is teaching and helping support the student. Then you have the professional nurse, who’s bringing in their experience, their skills, their knowledge,” she explains.

“The professional nurse essentially becomes the clinical instructor. We found that students in the first cohort really felt they were part of the unit — they felt that camaraderie — and that their learning needs were really supported.” Moreover, the clinical nurses (“we call them ACE nurses: academic clinical educator,” Raines says) found that they were “more professionally engaged in their own development. They’re feeling, ‘I am able to help the next generation.’”

‘Looking at what is possible’

Raines thinks a lot about helping young nurses weather the field’s challenges, which COVID underlined and exacerbated, enabling them to grow. “How do we support that next generation?” she says. “How do we 
help them develop those skills of managing change and of looking at what is possible?” 

Prior to building the COVID center at Bethesda, Raines helped redesign the inpatient mental health program at St. Joseph Hospital in St. Paul. That experience “really helped me understand that engaging our nurses and physicians in the entire process was crucial to making the program successful,” Raines says. She began in her current role in January 2021; since then Raines has helped restructure M Health Fairview U of M Medical Center nursing teams and nursing departments.

For her leadership with Bethesda, Twin Cities Business magazine named Raines a 2021 Notable BIPOC Executive. And last year, Raines earned a leadership award from the Women's Health Leadership Trust. She’s enjoying a phase of her career in which she feels equipped to “give back” — including joining the Nursing Alumni Society Board of Directors. “I’m just so grateful for the opportunities I’ve had,” Raines says.

“I want to find ways to help coach and mentor the next generation” in the profession she loves more than ever. “Every day we’re here for patients, we’re here for staff — and if you keep that as your mission, you’re able to overcome anything.”

Categories: Education