When it comes to leading the nursing department at Encompass Health Rehabilitation Hospital of Abilene in Texas, Chief Nursing Officer Katherine Crescenti lives by one simple motto she heard from her hospital’s CEO, Todd Wallace: Lead where you live. “In other words, you don’t have to be in a leadership role necessarily to be considered a leader,” she said.
She’s on a mission to help nurses become leaders and advance their careers with the Certified Rehabilitation Registered Nurse (CRRN) credential. CRRNs achieve specialized training in inpatient rehabilitation and bring that expertise back to their hospitals where they serve as a resource to their peers and are part of a team that provides exemplary patient care during post-acute recovery. Before Crescenti felt confident encouraging nurses to reach new heights through CRRN certification, she had to prioritize her own advancement.
Leading by Example
Crescenti was a hospital educator at Encompass Health Rehabilitation Hospital of Las Vegas when she interviewed for and accepted the job of chief nursing officer at Abilene. Having spent some time away from the bedside to be an educator, she wanted to refresh her skillset and lead by example. “If I was going to be leader of the nursing department, I really wanted to make CRRN certification a priority within my first year,” she said. “It was important to me to show my team that I was willing to go do it myself and to be able to participate with them.” After earning her CRRN, Crescenti became an outspoken advocate for CRRN certification among nurses. Her efforts have paid off. In the past seven months, six nurses at Encompass Health Abilene have earned their CRRN, with more to come.
Achieving CRRN Certification is a Team Sport
Studying for and passing the CRRN exam is no easy feat, and Crescenti put her passion to work to ensure her nurses had the resources and support they needed to succeed. Encompass Health hosts CRRN boot camps regionally, where nurses can gather for training, studying, practice and community. Crescenti encouraged her nurses to travel together and try to mix in a little fun on their trips to boot camp. She recalled telling her nurses, “It’s a buddy system. Let’s go do this together and together get through this process.”
Fresh off a recent CRRN boot camp, the nurses at Encompass Health Abilene started a study group at the hospital and worked with a hospital educator to create study guide binders complete with flash cards and notes. Recently certified CRRNs including Crescenti shared as much information as they could to package in the study materials. It’s leading where they live in living color.
These hospital efforts were in addition to Encompass Health’s companywide resources. All nurses seeking CRRN have access to free study materials, discounts on testing and a pay raise once the designation is achieved. “We acknowledge those on our team who have achieved the credential. It truly makes them a resource at our hospital,” Crescenti said.
Why CRRNs are Valuable
CRRNs have demonstrated a high level of expertise in rehabilitation with an eye toward the future, meaning they know what it takes to help patients recovering from life-altering injury and illness get back to their highest possible level of function while also ensuring they are comfortable and cared for during inpatient rehabilitation. Because rehabilitation nurses spend about two weeks with their patients, they build trusting relationships that benefit everyone. They know their patients well and are able to react quickly to their needs.
They are experts in treating conditions such as stroke, brain injury, hip fractures and amputation and have additional training in specialties related to post-acute care like bladder and bowel issues and wound care. “CRRNs are the key educators bridging the gap with patients who are learning what their new baseline is and training them to take care of themselves better. That’s a big, big important role, and it deserves all the credit,” Crescenti said.
Celebrating a Job ‘Well Done’
It’s often joked that “everything is bigger in Texas,” and that seemed to be the case for CRRN celebrations, too!
Wallace promised to treat a recently certified group of CRRNs to dinner at an upscale steakhouse after they passed the exam. Wallace made good on that promise. “We all got to go out and have a nice dinner with the CEO and celebrate. It really showed an investment in the group,” Crescenti said.
Another ‘Success Story’
Career advancement is a top priority at Encompass Health. Crescenti is proof of that. Not only did she pass the CRRN exam, she also earned her master’s degree in healthcare administration with the help of the company’s tuition reimbursement program. “They elevate people, and I count myself as one of those success stories,” Crescenti said. She pointed out that she was never a floor nurse at Encompass Health, but that it didn’t matter. Crescenti joined Encompass Health as a hospital educator and is now a CNO.
“We don’t live in silos at Encompass Health. You can go anywhere within this company.” And with a nationwide footprint of 150 hospitals, nurses can actually go “anywhere.” Want to move to a different state or move into a different department? “Encompass Health wants to support that,” Crescenti said. “We’re going to give you the opportunity, because it’s better for us to invest in hardworking people and give them an opportunity to do something completely different within our organization than to lose them to the outside.”
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