Partnering for health

Preparing for the future is at the core of Essentia Health partnership

November 14, 2023
Steve Rudolph

Dean Connie White Delaney and Essentia Chief Nurse Executive Rhonda Kazik at the Nursing Knowledge: Big Data Science Conference in June.

Above: Dean Connie White Delaney and Essentia Chief Nurse Executive Rhonda Kazik at the Nursing Knowledge: Big Data Science Conference in June.

Rhonda Kazik, DNP, RN, CENP, Essentia Health’s chief nurse executive, says she approached the collaboratory with the School of Nursing ready to let go of any preconceived notions of what should happen in an academic-practice partnership. Instead she asked, “How do we best prepare the future? And that is both from an educational perspective and from a clinical experience perspective.”

“Rhonda and her team aren’t bound by traditional silos and don’t have a ‘this is how we’ve always done it’ mentality,” says Connie White Delaney, PhD, RN, FAAN, FACMI, FNAP, professor and dean. “This enables us to truly break new ground and move at speeds often unheard of in large organizations. The potential for our collaboratory with Essentia Health to affect real change in nursing and nursing education is breathtaking.”

The fresh approach to the relationship has helped the collaboratory, which was formed in the fall of 2021, achieve early successes and has it poised for more partnerships, particularly in rural settings. 

“The more remote locations can offer an enriched experience from a student perspective,” says Kazik. “Locations in rural areas showcase community health care, how communities come together to represent each other and their needs. And really create that independence and nursing professional practice in a way you don’t get in some of the other locations.”

Kazik and Carolyn Hughes, DNP, RN, NE-BC, NPD-BC, system nursing director for Essentia Health, believe creating more opportunities for students to holistically explore the nursing continuum of practice in all locations, not just urban centers, can help with recruiting and retaining nurses in these locations as well.

"If they have a clinical experience in their hometown or maybe their grandmother’s hometown and can see firsthand the impact of that care, they’re likely to look at career options a little differently," says Hughes.

In addition to thinking innovatively on how they remove logistical barriers to rural clinical placements and create more immersive experiences for students, nursing research has been at the forefront of the collaboratory’s work. This includes welcoming two School of Nursing faculty members as voting members on Essentia Health’s research and innovation council.

Through this collaboratory the School of Nursing has been sharing new research opportunities with Essentia Health and the partners are exploring an internship position where recent graduates could partner with Essenia Health’s nurse scientist. 

In May, leaders of the School of Nursing visited Duluth where they toured St. Mary’s Medical Center prior to its opening and further discussed nursing innovation. In June, Kazik participated in the nurse executive panel at the 2023 Nursing Knowledge: Big Data Science Conference hosted by the University of Minnesota where she shared how Essentia Health is using nursing data and informaticists to demonstrate the value of nursing.

Kazik and Hughes say another positive outcome of the collaboratory with the School of Nursing has been the ability to have intentional connections with and learnings from leaders in other University collaboratories. They stated Mayo Clinic nursing leaders were gracious in sharing information on their virtual nursing program that was helpful in accelerating Essentia’s development of a similar offering as well as sparking thinking about future care delivery models.

Partnering for health is a recurring feature that highlights a school partnership working to advance health care to improve the health and wellbeing of all.