Efforts to Improve Quality Create Experience of a Lifetime for CQI Nurse

​Amanda Stricklen, R.N., has been a committed member of Michigan Medicine for 25 years.

While she currently serves as a clinical information analyst and the lead project manager for the Michigan Bariatric Surgery Collaborative (MBSC) and the Michigan Surgery Quality Collaborative (MSQC), Stricklen began her career as a nurse in post-operative surgery, moving on to later roles in organ retrieval with Survival Flight and as a laboratory technician.

Always searching for more ways to showcase her vast skill set and continue to make strides in her career, Stricklen was eventually persuaded to join the two collaboratives, where she could leverage her experience as a nurse.

Today, Stricklen’s leadership position in both the MBSC and MSQC is pivotal in advancing U-M Health’s BASE+ strategic priority of Safety and quality.

And the way she leads the organization forward is by thinking outside the box, taking any track she can find to remain at the forefront of new ideas and methods surrounding quality improvement – and by improving Belonging and inclusion on her teams, another BASE priority.

A presidential approach

"I had been thinking for the last few years, 'How can I find new ideas that exist outside of health care?'" Stricklen said. "I was really looking to build a network with bright minds from facets of other industries to help improve what we do here at Michigan Medicine."

A colleague recommended the Presidential Leadership Scholars Program (PLS), a bipartisan effort sponsored by former presidents George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George H. W. Bush and Lyndon B. Johnson.

This six-month program aims to bring together bold and principled leaders who are committed to facing critical challenges, both at home and around the world, while exploring lessons learned during the administrations — a perfect fit for Stricklen’s goals.

Stricklen was accepted along with 59 others through a selective application process to represent Michigan Medicine and nurses nationwide.

‘Truly an honor’

“Being among so many outstanding people with the ability to represent Michigan Medicine, the CQIs and the health care industry was truly an honor,” said Stricklen.

“Over the course of the sessions, we have the opportunity to travel to a specific destination for each module, seeing presidential libraries and learning from those who have served under the former presidents,” said Stricklen. “The first month we traveled to D.C. for the kickoff session and were able to tour the White House, have dinner in the Rotunda at the National Archives Museum, and take a private tour of the National Archives Museum, which was really an incredible experience.”

Each module was accompanied by a guest speaker, who would break down a different topic or share unique experiences, two of those speakers being former presidents Clinton and Bush.

“Both President Clinton and President Bush talked with us about their leadership, building relationships and memorable experiences while in office,” said Stricklen. “Their whole vision was about hearing from the people, listening to their stories, and connecting with them on a personal level. They both surrounded themselves with teams of brilliant leaders who supported their vision and mission while in office. It was truly amazing to see many of the people who were with both of them at the White House still work with them currently.”

Communication is key

When asked about some of her biggest takeaways from the experience, Stricklen said, “Communication is so important and being thoughtful about how your message is delivered is a key part.

“Not only what you say, but when you say it, how you say it, the type of person you are saying it to, is so vital to remember -- and too often we overlook this.”

Stricklen said she also learned new ideas around strategy, planning and long-term vision, “Things which I have already started implementing back at the collaboratives.”

Lots of what Stricklen does at the MBSC and MSQC revolves around preparing people in the right way and making sure everyone has a voice, is on an equal playing field and feels comfortable speaking up.

“During the PLS program, it was amazing to see so many people who are at the top of their fields, yet all treated one another as equals,” said Stricklen. “I wanted to make sure I took this same mentality back to the collaboratives at Michigan Medicine.

“Recently we had a meeting where nurses from the MSQC were holding a call for the participating hospitals,” she continued. “I wanted them to be perceived as a unified front and all have the equal opportunity to say something and contribute their thoughts. Based on lessons learned from the PLS program, I took the time to make sure everyone was prepped, go through the agenda, and make sure nobody was left out, and that it wasn’t just the typical less-shy folks doing all the talking.

“When going through a run-through, I realized one nurse didn’t really have a specific place on the agenda, so I asked that person to start off the call by introducing the whole team. After the presentation, she mentioned to me that it was the first time she had ever spoken on a call or during a team presentation and has been a part of the unit for over three years. These are the empowering moments that I hope to create for folks in the collaborative and among other teams at Michigan Medicine.

“It truly makes the biggest difference.”

Looking back and ahead

Stricklen noted she could not have been in the position she is today without the incredible experiences and mentorships she had as a floor nurse, a perspective that is forever ingrained into her leadership and collaborative methods.

Lastly, she thanked her husband, three children, family and network of coworkers and friends for being her top supporters, supplying her with consistent motivation to pursue new goals and experiences like the PLS program. Following the PLS program, Stricklen will formally go back to school as she pursues her MBA at the U-M Ross School of Business.

Reproduced with permission; Originally published in Michigan Medicine Headlines.