PICU Education Manager: Interview with Jessica Klaristenfeld, RN-BC, MSN

My Specialty

PICU Education Manager: Interview with Jessica Klaristenfeld, RN-BC, MSN

Childrens Hospital Los Angeles

By Keith Carlson, RN, BSN, CPC, NC-BC
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 Jessica Klaristenfeld, RN-BC, MSN Education Manager, Pediatric Intensive Care Unit Children’s Hospital Los Angeles


Describe for us your career trajectory.

My entire career has been at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles [CHLA]. I began as a new graduate nurse in the Versant RN Residency in Pediatrics in February 2002. I worked in the pediatric intensive care unit for four and a half years. I loved it! I was growing professionally and clinically in my PICU role when I developed a keen interest in mentoring and supporting the new grad nurses who came after me. I began serving as a liaison between them and the managers and preceptors. I had personally experienced how difficult it can be to transition from nursing school to being a PICU nurse and I wanted to help. At this time, the RN residency manager was an ex-PICU nurse herself. She knew me and could see that I was really connected with the new nurses. She was planning to leave, so she encouraged me to apply as her replacement. I recognized that it was a little early in my career to leave the bedside, but it was a great opportunity and I wanted to seize it. I became RN residency manager in 2006.


What was it like to become the RN residency manager?

Looking back, I was young and I definitely wasn’t fully prepared to be a manager. Creating a budget, managing people and running a department were challenging. However, I loved having the chance to mentor and support the new grads in the PICU. Being able to provide that kind of support for new nurses throughout the hospital was very rewarding. We made many changes to the residency program during those years. I had two other staff members — one nurse and a secretary — and we had a steering committee of nurse education managers from every unit, plus HR representatives and staff nurses. We really worked collaboratively to keep it growing and moving forward. I was a manager surrounded by expert nurse leaders. Selfishly speaking, it was extremely beneficial for me to have their mentorship and guidance along the way. The opportunity arose for me to return to the PICU and provide education and professional development to the nurses there. I made the transition in April 2015. A great deal changed in my nine years away, so in my new role I’m still constantly learning and growing.


What are your responsibilities as education manager?

First and foremost, the education manager is there to ensure that staff are knowledgeable and competent. We assess for knowledge gaps, facilitate training and education and evaluate learning. I am also a professional development specialist. We support our nurses in returning to school, pursuing a certification, moving up the professional ladder, furthering their own education or pursuing a leadership or management position.


Tell us a little about your day-to-day.

The work environment in the PICU is very collaborative, with a significant focus on teamwork and patient safety. My job is to help foster that, as well as positive patient outcomes, nurse satisfaction and success. Our management structure at CHLA is unusual: Every inpatient unit in the hospital has a clinical manager, an education manager and an operations manager. We all work very closely together. All of us are on call multiple days a month. In the PICU, there are two education managers. We have both separate and shared responsibilities. Between the two of us, we oversee the 400-plus nursing students who shadow on our unit; support our staff-led, unit-based committees; and help organize multiple workshops and skills labs each year.

We constantly filter information that comes from all directions. If the hospital brings forward a new initiative or process, we make sure the nurses have the information and training they need to succeed. We also frequently assess our staff’s learning needs to identify gaps and create opportunities for them to gain specific knowledge. If on the unit there is an incident, a point of confusion or a near-miss, we keep our eyes on those areas and provide refreshers for the staff. I plan and coordinate the onboarding of our new nurses to ensure that their experience gives them exactly what they need to care for our patients. I also work with and support the preceptors who train the new nurses at the bedside. Our critical care orientation occurs twice annually. All new nurses attend those didactics. I don't teach all of the courses, but I am responsible for coordinating and facilitating the classes and working with the speakers and experts. I provide them with feedback and work with them to make improvements to their lectures and teaching modalities. We continue to learn and devise new strategies to keep our learners engaged. Everyone learns differently, whether they’re from different generations or divergent backgrounds. For example, the younger ones are more comfortable with online competencies and computer-based learning. For those with less experience with computers, we have paper versions of everything.


What are the joys of your work?

The best aspects of my work are getting to help and support nurses in providing excellent patient care at the bedside. I also get to help them develop professionally and discover their interests beyond bedside nursing, which I thoroughly enjoy. We’re really in touch with our staff’s professional goals. Helping them achieve those goals is one of the most rewarding parts of my job. Some nurses want to become CCRN-certified or become involved in an evidence-based practice project. Some will apply to become a preceptor or take part in committees or research. I have also really enjoyed supporting staff in achieving their goal of presenting a poster at a national conference. I am so proud of our nurses. They are a joy to work with.


What are the most challenging aspects of working with critically ill children and their families?

The workload is heavy. Nurses only have one or two patients at a time, but those patients are very challenging, physically and mentally. It’s also an emotionally exhausting area of nursing, which takes a toll on nurses. We try to help them learn coping skills and to not take their work home. We encourage them to take a break, take a deep breath, rejuvenate themselves and come back to work refreshed and ready to go again. Sometimes, we have challenges navigating the fears and concerns of families who are experiencing one of the most stressful moments of their lives. We have to find a way to work closely with them despite the stress they feel in relation to their critically ill child.


How do you encourage self-care amidst the emotional challenges of the work?

Many of the nurses on our unit love being outside, traveling and taking a mental break whenever they can. Whether it’s hiking, going to the beach or taking vacations, they know they need to separate from their work and rekindle their spirits. I personally feel being able to reflect is an important and useful skill, whether they write entries in a journal or just talk through their challenges with coworkers, family or friends.


How do you become an educator?

If you have a passion for education and love to teach, get involved in your unit and provide education to any group you’re drawn to. Through that experience, you can become the “go-to” person for the unit’s educational needs and begin mentoring and guiding others. In a sense, you can also be a nurse educator at the bedside. Professionally, it helps to have a board certification in nursing professional development (RN-BC), which requires passing a course and an exam. I have a master’s degree in administration because I had my certification in professional development and wanted to do my master’s in something slightly broader than education. However, getting a master’s degree in nursing education is very helpful if you are interested in becoming a nurse educator. What are your future career goals? I’m definitely staying here for a quite a while. I love my unit and I’m learning so much. I’d like to publish eventually. I like change and I love to be challenged — being a novice again is exciting to me. I’m passionate about precepting, education, staff engagement, competency and research. There’s always something new to learn.


Keith Carlson, RN, BSN, CPC, NC-BC, has worked as a nurse since 1996 and has maintained the popular nursing blog Digital Doorway since 2005. He offers expert professional coaching for nurses and nursing students at www.nursekeith.com.

This article is from workingnurse.com.

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