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Linda Knodel
Linda Knodel

St. John's exec plots nursing future

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Throughout her career, Linda Knodel has pushed the belief that nurses are crucial staff members of health care facilities.

Through her work with St. John's Health System as vice president and chief nurse executive, and as an author of a McGraw-Hill-published book, "Nurse to Nurse: Nursing Management," Knodel advocates for nurses not just at her own workplace but also countrywide.

Knodel was the June 14 featured guest at Springfield Business Journal's 12 People You Need to Know monthly series held at Hilton Garden Inn.

"The work of a nurse is hard, but it's a very important job," Knodel said, noting that nurses keep a hospital functional 24 hours a day, seven days a week. "It's the nurses that really hold the patients' lives in their hands."

Knodel, who worked at Bismarck, N.D.-based St. Alexius Medical Center for 36 years before joining St. John's in February 2010, decided to move to Springfield after being sought by a St. John's recruiter.

An incognito visit to the hospital left her impressed with its cleanliness and staff. St. John's was seeking to develop a shared-governance model and pursue the Magnet Recognition Program offered by the American Nurses Credentialing Center, two programs Knodel was well-versed in.

At St. John's, Knodel leads approximately 2,100 nurses across six hospitals within the health system, taking a bottom-up approach to management rather than a standard leadership model, most specifically in two ways - a shared governance program and open forums, similar to town hall meetings.

"My goal is that I want to make sure our nurses have the resources to do their job well," she said.

The shared governance model allows committees of staff nurses to lead discussions about policies related to their craft, while the open forums allow nurses to give feedback on medical products and practices, which can be communicated throughout St. John's parent entity, St. Louis-based Mercy.

"Because of our commitment to the Mercy mission, I have heard voices being heard but in a very professional manner," Knodel said, adding that, in her experience, nurses tend to voice concerns for patients most readily.

Knodel said the system of open communication allows her and other hospital executives to identify nurse leaders in an efficient fashion, which benefits employees and St. John's. She noted that a nurse's average salary in the U.S. is $52,000 to $60,000 but that a forward step in one's career, such as becoming a nurse practitioner, for example, could lead to a salary as high as $199,000.

Knodel said for the time being, nurses have a secure place in the industry, specifically at St. John's where the vacancy rate for nurses is about 1.3 percent, compared to 5 percent to 15 percent countrywide.

Nursing got a boost in 2010 as about 283,000 new positions were added, she said, but she noted that by 2020, industry officials predict a national shortfall of roughly 20,000 nurses.

Knodel plans to face the problem head-on by keeping her open models of communication flowing; maintaining relationships with the Southwest Baptist University St. John's College of Nursing and Health Sciences - which graduates about 150 a year - Missouri State University and Ozarks Technical Community College; and continually crafting the "nurse of the future," who continually responds to new technologies.[[In-content Ad]]


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