Patient Resources

2020 Nursing Annual Report

Susan Hernandez, D.N.P., MBA, RN, Chief Nurse Executive, UT Southwestern Health System

Message from the Chief Nurse Executive


There are so many words that come to mind when reflecting on a year that, in many ways, we are still processing. But if I had to choose a word that personifies the UT Southwestern nurse throughout 2020, it is that: Resilience.

In reviewing our 2019 Nursing Annual Report, I am struck by the statement that ended my letter: “Our horizon is a lot less overwhelming knowing we have a strong team in place that is ready for the challenge.” Those words could not ring truer today. When faced with a barrage of challenges, this team of nurses was indeed ready. When I consider the year we just left behind and how our nurses showed up – for our patients and for each other – it leaves me awestruck.

UT Southwestern nurses shouldered the work. They navigated uncertainty and change. They led, and pivoted with grace, through every twist and turn.

I’m so proud of what our nurses accomplished in 2020, not only against the backdrop of a global pandemic but in the same year that UT Southwestern opened a new tower at William P. Clements Jr. University Hospital and laid the groundwork for the smooth opening of the UT Southwestern Pediatric Group at Plano. The Pediatric Group includes 12 specialties that transitioned from hospital-based clinics under Children’s Health to office-based clinics operated by UT Southwestern. With that transformation, we also successfully transitioned nearly 300 advanced practice providers from Children’s Health to UT Southwestern.

It’s impossible to capture all the amazing highlights from such a monumental year, but I want to share a few.

Teamwork, COVID-19, and Beyond

No matter where they practiced, all members of the UTSW nursing community were touched by COVID-19 in one way or another.

Those on the front lines worked through exhaustion, stress, and heartbreak to be there for our patients and their families. I am beyond grateful for their compassion, skill, and unshakable dedication.

Notably in the early months of the pandemic, our nurses demonstrated the ability to adapt in the face of so much rapid change. Almost overnight, we needed to reduce activity in our clinics and regional medical centers. Following the science, we introduced new, evolving clinical processes and updated guidance on masking, PPE use, social distancing, and other precautions. Our nurses did what they had to do to protect our patients and our staff, as well as to keep their own families safe.

In early 2020, we had our first team meeting about COVID-19, and one of the discussion topics was the urgent need to set up an outdoor screening area. In the blink of an eye, new teams formed to get the job done, and before we knew it, screening tents were erected beside the Emergency Department outside Clements University Hospital, ready to go. The same effort went into setting up the drive-thru COVID-19 testing sites on campus.

Earlier in the year, we had exceeded expectations with our project to set up patient flu shot kiosks in ambulatory clinic locations – providing nearly 2,000 influenza vaccinations. We applied lessons learned from that work to what would become a massive COVID-19 vaccination effort, which launched in December.

Because things moved so quickly and it was brand-new territory for all of us, new teams were formed, which enhanced relationships and created a workforce that felt more empowered to make suggestions for quality improvement.

Incredible teamwork was at the heart of all these efforts.

And what a lift we got from a grateful North Texas community. Gifts came in the form of meal donations for staff and messages of gratitude and moral support. People’s generosity materialized because of the reputation for the care we provide – throughout and beyond the pandemic.

Quality and Safety

Thanks to our ongoing focus on teamwork and care excellence, we continued to glean exceptional quality and safety outcomes and patient experience scores. In a year dominated by the pandemic, we can say that all patients – both those affected by COVID and not – received innovative, high-quality care. The following pages highlight the work of the UTSW nursing team and underscore the impact teamwork and a determined focus to improve the experience and outcomes for the patients and families in our care have had in the past year.

Third Tower

After years of planning and construction, in December we marked the first of two phased openings of our third-tower expansion of William P. Clements Jr. University Hospital. In order to staff the new tower, some nurses were assigned to entirely new units or floors – a challenging change for those who had felt settled in where they were. We thank our nurses for sticking with us through the move and sharing their expertise in new units.

Looking Forward: Redesignation and Building on Education

As a Magnet®-recognized organization, UT Southwestern in August submitted documents to accompany our application for redesignation, required by the ANCC every four years. The process helps reaffirm our continued efforts in driving clinical excellence through nursing practice. As of this writing, we are eagerly awaiting confirmation of a site visit this summer.

We saw an extraordinary effort around nurse leaders prioritizing not only support of staff and patients but also the advancement of their education. With all going on throughout 2020, these nurses’ determination was impressive: 20% of our nursing directors either attained their doctoral degrees or were in the process of completing a doctoral program; and 14 of our nursing leaders either attained or were actively pursuing their master’s degrees in nursing.

As we have lived through the most extraordinary circumstances we could ever have imagined, I know my reward has been the privilege of supporting these resilient nurses in action, at their very best.

There was more great news about advanced nursing education: Thanks to a $5 million endowment from the family of Rory Meyers, we will be able to strengthen our commitment to supporting the growth and development of nurses. The Rory Meyers Advanced Education Program for Nursing Excellence will provide more funding for nurses to pursue their bachelor’s and master’s degrees, certifications, and other educational training to enhance their nursing practice.

I know the work of the past year has had an overwhelming physical and emotional impact on our team, and I want to remind every member of it to take a breath, a moment for themselves, and take advantage of the wellness resources available to them through UT Southwestern. I hope that they find joy and reward in their work. What we’re doing matters. As we have lived through the most extraordinary circumstances we could ever have imagined, I know my reward has been the privilege of supporting these resilient nurses in action, at their very best.

I hope you enjoy this retrospective of the important work of the UT Southwestern nursing community in 2020.

Susan Hernandez, D.N.P., MBA, RN
Chief Nurse Executive

Nurse Executive Cabinet

Values in Practice

Nursing Philosophy

UT Southwestern is committed to providing quality nursing care through effective use of resources and the development of innovative programs in clinical practice, education, and research.

We value the worth, dignity, and autonomy of our patients and their families. We believe that each individual has unique physical, social, emotional, and spiritual needs that are served through personalized, compassionate care.

We encourage each nurse to care for his or her body, mind, and spirit as a critical element in achieving clinical excellence. Nurses at UT Southwestern are also encouraged to nurture and support one another in an environment that fosters teamwork and interdisciplinary collaboration.

Working collaboratively affords us the opportunity for common goal-setting through trust, mutual respect, and a commitment to open and honest communication in serving our patients.

Our Commitment to Our Patients and Each Other

  • I will do my part to make the hospital environment a peaceful, quiet place dedicated to the healing of the body and spirit.
  • I will anticipate the needs of patients and their families rather than waiting to be asked for assistance.
  • I will own and resolve every problem I can or personally hand over the problem to someone who can resolve it.
  • I will respect the confidentiality of patients, their families, and my colleagues through discrete conversation and attention to privacy.
  • I will be responsible for keeping our work environments clean and safe.
  • I will dress professionally, and I will speak and conduct myself in a manner that always keeps the focus on our patients.

Some photos were taken before the COVID-19 pandemic.