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UCHealth Chief Nursing Executive Kathy HowellA letter from Kathy Howell

It is a great honor to serve as the Chief Nursing Executive for UCHealth and Chief Nursing Officer for University of Colorado Hospital. Every day I observe nurses throughout UCHealth in the role of partners and key strategists in creating an environment of life-long learning, teaching and collaborating with interprofessional teams to carry out our mission of improving lives.

Communities across Colorado rely on UCHealth and UCHealth nurses to be health care leaders, providing exemplary patient- and family-centered care. Our nurses have a genuine focus on patients and their families. I am proud of the advancements our nurses make in nursing practice and care delivery across the system, from the patient’s bedside, to the clinic office, to the board room.

Clinical nursing practice is supported across UCHealth by the UEXCEL program, the Nursing Clinical Practice and Credentialing Model. This model supports nurses in advancing their careers through professional-development opportunities while continuing to provide direct patient care, thus upholding our belief that clinical excellence is our highest priority. Leaders are cultivated and mentored through customized education and development events, cohort-based development programs, and the Leadership Academy.

Collectively, UCHealth nurses are dedicated to improving lives through excellence in patient care, embracing innovation and using research and evidence-based practice to propel nurses as leaders in health care.

Katherine Howell, MBA, BSN, RN, NEA-BC


UCHealth Nursing 2018 Annual Report

UEXCEL program

Residencies at UCHealth

Careers at UCHealth

ANCC Magnet Recognition Program

Colorado Board of Nursing

Nursing at UCHealth hospitals

Medical Center of the Rockies

CNO: Jessie Willard, MSN, RN, CENP, NDF

[Nursing Professional Practice Model (image attached)]

Nursing philosophy

Our nursing staff believes in a Patient- and Family-Centered Care model where our patients are the center of care. High-quality care is provided along the health continuum. Patient care is provided through collaborative relationships among the patient, family, nursing staff and other healthcare providers.

Quality patient care is guided by a Nurse Practice Council comprised of Advocacy, Community, Education, Professional and Quality components.


  • Magnet-designated in 2010, 2016
  • Beacon Award of Excellence
  • The Joint Commission National Quality Approval
  • American Heart Association Primary Stroke Center
  • Certified Baby-Friendly
  • U.S. News & World Report’s Best Hospitals

Contributions of professional nursing at MCR

Magnet nurse awards at MCR

Transformational leadership: Marcia Keiser

Marcia is an engaged leader in Surgery South. As a Certified Perianesthesia nurse, she mentors and inspires others to become certified – serving as a personal study coach, using her own resources to help others achieve certification. Marcia presented “28 Feet and Counting”, an overview of gastrointestinal surgeries at a national conference, inspiring nurses within our unit and around the country by sharing her knowledge. She is currently the Rocky Mountain Peri-Anesthesia Nurses Association District 4 President and a candidate for the National American Society of Perianesthesia Nurses Secretary position.

Marcia is leading a project to improve patient experience and preparation for discharge and home care after surgery, empowering nurses to change how and when we educate. She has enlisted the entire team to be involved because she believes that empowering nurses to lead teaching and education initiatives will result in improved patient experience.

Marcia is a transformational leader because she takes the time to listen. She leads by her example to be bold: To serve when and where is needed, even at the national level, to change our nursing processes when it is best for the patients, even if it’s not comfortable.

Structural Empowerment: MaryBeth Hritsick

Marybeth has been a peri-anesthesia certified, registered nurse in MCR’s SAC/PACU for 11 years. She is an involved charge nurse, active on our unit based council, and serves as Vice-Chair of MCR’s Magnet Steering Committee.

Where MaryBeth has shined this year is through her incredible amount of time and energy to mobilize MCR in support of a local chapter of a national foundation in our community, Support the Girls. This foundation locally supports women and girls in need by providing bras and feminine products. In January, MCR held a drive for the local chapter. It was immensely successful collecting over 1,000 bras and 10,000 feminine hygiene products and MaryBeth was the heart and soul of it all. The drive gained national attention and articles were written highlighting MCR.

It takes a benevolent person to volunteer and become involved in one’s community. It takes an even higher level of selfless heart, thoughtfulness and commitment to mobilize a whole hospital to become involved. Marybeth took our MCR community and empowered us to serve, through her excitement, rounding, and dedication.

Exemplary Professional Practice: Jenelle Baer

Jenelle is compassionate, intelligent and the definition of integrity. Two years ago, Jenelle returned from a national conference inspired to make a difference for patients and families in the ICU when she identified a gap in care. Jenelle set out to combat Post Intensive Care Syndrome, also known as PICS. She started her project with education to staff on awareness of PICS and the impact it has on patients. She created an ICU journal for every patient in the Cardiac ICU. The project received grant money to implement the journals in other units. The PICS project is set to roll out in SICU and PVH ICU and eventually will go system-wide.

In January 2018, Jenelle and her co-workers held the first-ever UCHealth ICU support group. The support group and PICS awareness was also featured on 9News. This gives patients and families hope after an ICU stay. Jenelle has committed numerous hours to this project and it is successful because of her passion for patient and family-centered care.

Jenelle exemplifies professional practice, nurse autonomy and patient and family centered care.

New Knowledge, Innovations, and Outcomes: Amber Cano

Amber has been instrumental in implementing resuscitation training in the MCR ED. This evidence-based practice integrates performance improvement, critical procedures, and in-hospital patient safety initiatives. Amber developed a pre-education PowerPoint and quiz to help staff absorb and implement this new knowledge. She was a part of ensuring optimal functionality of special defibrillation pads that provide real time information to staff about the quality of their CPR and allow for unnecessary interruptions in chest compressions.

As a champion for this innovative practice in the ED, she continues to support staff in their ongoing education. She can be found coming into the ED on days she is not scheduled on the floor to assist with refresher trainings for staff. Amber is also a part of researching how this training is resulting in improved patient outcomes through evaluations of all of the Code Blues that occur in the MCR ED and serving on the MCR Code Blue committee. Amber is very passionate and approachable, welcoming any questions that staff may have to help the implementation of this new technique be as successful as possible.

Empirical Outcomes: Alex Phelps

Alex is an exceptional leader and mentor for great patient outcomes. He has an indescribable passion for patient safety and nursing practice. He is a champion for many patient safety quality committees and patient safety indicators.

Alex has been an advocate for staff safety regarding hazardous drugs. He conducted audits to identify patients on Hazardous Drugs and ensured signage and protection were in place. Audit findings encouraged him to create tip sheets for staff, as he identified many were not aware what protection to use. He educated charge nurses on how to easily identify in EPIC if a patient was on a Hazardous Drug. This has dramatically improved staff safety of encountering potentially harmful exposures.

As a new graduate RN, Alex developed the foundation of the c-diff policy many of us use today. Alex sits on the regional C-diff subcommittee, reviews literature, and facilitates many conversations that have resulted in revising the testing policy to include restricting ages, no stool softeners/laxatives, and no tube feed.

Alex serves as a mentor and education liaison to the Medical unit, as well as a collaborator with many other departments. Ensuring empirical outcomes is his passion.

Cardiac Surgery Unit/Advanced Life Support

Melanie Roberts, DNP, RN-BC, CNS, CCNS, CCRN

As a clinical nurse, Dr. Melanie Roberts demonstrated extraordinary commitment to improving patient outcomes in the critical care setting. The Cardiac Surgery Unit-Advanced Life Support (CSU-ALS) protocol improved mortality rates for cardiovascular surgery patients at Medical Center of the Rockies.

The CSU-ALS guidelines focus on prevention of cardiac arrest in post-operative patients through early intervention of the protocol. Initially, there was a decrease in the incidence of cardiac arrest, but we did not see a survival to discharge benefit. However, in 2017, we achieved a survival to discharge of 70%, which is consistent with the literature. There was also a significant decrease in the number of patients who required chest compressions—73% compared to 25% prior to the implementation of the new protocol. This is clinically significant because of the risk of injury during chest compressions and potential injury to the sternal incision. This was the first protocol of its kind in the nation, and outcome measures changed how and when we intervene with cardiovascular surgery patients.