My Specialty

Clinical Education, Mary Reed, USC Care and Ambulatory Services

Designing and delivering education for nurses and interdisciplinary teams

USC Nurse Mary Reed wearing red scrubs and standing outside in front of the USC Ambulatory Care.

Mary Reed, RN, BSN, MHA
Director of Clinical Education and Practice Integration
USC Care and Ambulatory Services, Keck Medicine of USC
Los Angeles

Please tell us about the arc of your nursing career.

I wanted to try a little bit of everything, so I started off on a med-surg floor and then moved to neuro ICU, CCU, and the ER. I later worked in home health, urgent care, and even school nursing. When I came back to work after having children, I got a job in the oncology clinics here at Keck. I was subsequently asked to help manage the Pasadena clinic. That was when I decided to go back to school and earn my MHA.

Until that point, the Keck outpatient side had always been under inpatient nurse management. When they hired a new outpatient CNO, she asked me to help organize the movement of multiple clinics into a new space on campus. She needed someone who knew the ins and outs of clinic operations to get everything running smoothly.

From there, my role became a hybrid, combining clinical staff education with what we call “practice integration,” which is the growth of clinics with new and expanded service lines.

In essence, I serve as the clinical voice who provides insights on elements like staffing, equipment, and operations. I also help with medical record optimization and policy development and review.

Can you describe the education part of your position?

Keck has more than 100 clinics. I provide nursing education and competency validation for the clinic staff on the ambulatory side. Because our clinics are staffed by a complex mix of NPs, RNs, LPNs, medical assistants, and ophthalmology and radiology techs, I design and provide education for all of them.

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This means the education I design is not necessarily nursing-specific. For example, one of our clinics recently added a new radiation oncology service, so we organized a “Day in the Life” covering everything from how patients are checked in and roomed to what procedures will be performed and where supplies and equipment are kept.

The idea was to set appropriate expectations for the whole service line, from the front desk to the nurses, so that everyone is ready to go when this new service launches.

What do you love about educating nurses?

When you move from patient care to the administrative side, you lose that patient contact, which is why most of us go into nursing in the first place. However, that gets replaced by your interactions with the staff.

I really feel like I can make a difference in how staff function in their day-to-day lives. I try to emphasize how valuable and important their work is, to help them reconnect with the reasons they do what they do while boosting them up and providing support.

When new processes are added, we make sure everyone is on board. It can be overwhelming to have something new added to the dozens of things staff members already do, so I reassure them and make sure they know that I’m there to help. It’s really rewarding to know you’re helping the staff feel more competent and confident.

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How has nursing education in the clinical space evolved over the years?

We’re much more understanding these days about differences in adult learning styles, and more open to giving people the time they need. Nurses are bombarded with information from all sides, especially as new grads, so it’s important to meet learners where they are and deliver information in a way that works best for them. Being patient and empathic is key.

What path would you recommend for a nurse who is interested in education?

To be hired as an educator, having a master’s (or higher) degree is strongly recommended, although it might not be strictly necessary if you’ve already proven yourself — I didn’t have one when I first became an educator. While my master’s degree is an MHA rather than an MSN, there’s a lot to be said for the MSN in education, which will teach you about different adult learning styles, with a nursing focus.

What do you say to nurses seeking guidance on their career development?

I first try to get to the core of what they need to feel satisfied. Sometimes, they want to grow and learn something new, but other times they’re just dissatisfied with where they’re working and want to fix it by moving elsewhere. I connect them with people who work in the roles that interest them so they can learn about it from a firsthand perspective.

What are your career plans?

My CNO recently asked me, “So, Mary, what’s your five-year plan? Do you want to be a CNO? Do you want to go back to school?” I said, “No, I’m good. I’m older and closer to the end of my career, and I’m very fortunate to be where I am.”

KEITH CARLSON, RN, BSN, NC-BC, has worked as a nurse since 1996 and offers expert professional coaching at

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