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Office of Nursing Services (ONS)

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Clinical Practice Program (CPP)

The Clinical Practice Program was developed by the Office of Nursing Services to support nursing clinical practice, develop policies in coordination with other VHA program offices and to disseminate communication to the field. The program is made up of seven field advisory committees (FACs) in the following specialties: Cardiovascular, Geriatrics and Extended Care, Mental Health, Metabolic Syndrome/Diabetes, Oncology, Perioperative and recently added Polytrauma Rehabilitation.

Each FAC consists of a clinical nurse advisor and a committee made up of field-based nurses who serve a two-year rotation on the committee. The FACs are charged to assist Clinical Nurse Advisors in:

  1. Aligning work of assigned patient populations with National Nursing Strategic Goals/Objectives.
  2. Identifying/developing recommendations for:
    1. best practice, practice guidelines, patient care standards, and policy guidance
    2. staff and patient/caregiver training and educational priorities
    3. support tools for documentation, references
    4. research agenda for clinical inquiries
    5. publications and appropriate mechanisms for dissemination of best practices
    6. potential oversight functions needed in the field in the area of focus

The Clinical Practice Program Steering Committee provides guidance and oversight for the program to ensure dissemination of VHA program offices in developing policy.

Suzanne Thorne-Odem

Clinical Practice Program Manager
Suzanne Thorne-Odem, DNP, APRN, ANP serves as the Clinical Practice Program Manager. She has worked at the VA for 23 years. Suzy provides additional support for projects and activities in the Office of Nursing Services Clinical Practice Program. She has a passion for forensic nursing and has been practicing in this role for eight years. She is assisting in the development and expansion of the forensic nurse role in the VA.

Coleen Walsh-Irwin

Cardiovascular Clinical Nurse Advisor
Colleen Walsh-Irwin, RN, MS, CCRN, ANP is the Cardiovascular Clinical Nurse Advisor for the Office of Nursing Services. She is field based at the Northport VA Medical Center in New York where she works as a Cardiology Nurse Practitioner. In addition to her Adult Nurse Practitioner and Critical Care Certification, Colleen holds AACN certification as a Cardiac Vascular Nurse and Heart Rhythm Society certification as a NASPE Testamur. Colleen is also a Clinical Instructor for the School of Nursing at the State University of New York at Stony Brook and has spoken locally and nationally at many conferences. She is a Sub-Investigator on multiple research studies at her facility and sits on many local as well as national committees. Colleen is currently on the VITAS (Veterans Implant Tracking and Alert System) Workgroup and serves as a member of the VHA Nursing Clinical Practice Documentation Council and CHF QUERI Workgroup.

Colleen has been a member of and currently serves as Chair of the Cardiovascular Field Advisory Committee (FAC). The Cardiovascular FAC has been actively involved in developing the Anticoagulation Education Module, Cardiovascular Clinical Competencies and Clinical Practice Guidelines for Cardiac Monitoring Electrode Placement. We also have members serving on the SNOW-MED Terminology Committee, Stroke Group, CHF QUERI Workgroup, Ventilator Patients Outside of ICU Workgroup, The National Let’s Get Certified Campaign, VITAS, and the IPEC Clinical Advisory Group.

Jenice Guzman

Geriatrics and Extended Care Clinical Nurse Advisor
Jenice Guzman, PhD, GNP-BC, is a certified Gerontological Nurse Practitioner at the VA Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System, Geriatrics Research, Education and Clinical Center (GRECC) Outpatient Clinic in West Los Angeles. She has been with the VA since 2001 and has worked in the field of geriatrics/gerontology for over 20 years. She received her education from the UCLA School of Nursing and currently serves as an Assistant Clinical Professor there. She is a primary care provider to a panel of frail older Veterans, a program developer for the GLA GRECC’s various clinical demonstration projects, and is a junior nurse researcher in the field of home telehealth use in older Veterans.

The Geriatrics and Extended Care Field Advisory Committee is made of 10 field based members with expertise in geronotological nursing practicing in a variety of patient care settings. Current projects/workgroups include: hospice and palliative care staffing considerations in the inpatient/CLC setting, dysphagia guidelines in the CLC, CLC RN Assessment Toolkit/Webinars/DecisionSim Scenarios, and serving as subject matter experts on various VHA committees with the goal of improving care of older Veterans. Russell S. Coggins

ICU Workgroup Chair
Russell S. Coggins, RN, MSN   is the Chair of the ONS ICU Workgroup and has been a member of that workgroup since 2011. He has worked as a Registered Nurse since 1997. The majority of his nursing career has been spent working in various Critical Care Units as a staff nurse. Russ has been with the VA since 2007, a Nurse Manager since 2008 and is currently the Nurse Manager of the Surgical ICU of the Charles George VA Medical Center in Asheville, NC. He earned his BSN from Western Carolina University in Cullowhee, NC, and his MSN from Walden University. He is a member of the VISN 6 IPEC Steering Committee and Chair of the VISN 6 Nurse Manager Academy Planning Committee as well as various facility committees. He is a Veteran, having served in the US Army during Desert Shield and Desert Storm as a M1A1 Armor Crewman, in the Tennessee National Guard as a Cavalry Scout Platoon Leader and in the Army Reserve as an Officer with the Army Nurse Corps.

Elizabeth Czekanski

Mental Health Clinical Nurse Advisor
Elizabeth Czekanski, MS, RN-BC, NE-BC, VHA-CM has worked for over 21 years in various roles as a Registered Nurse. The majority of her career has been as a nurse manager. She has previously worked 15 years for UPMC in Pittsburgh as a staff nurse and multi- unit manager of inpatient psychiatry and chemical dependency units. Her career has also included working as the Director of a residential program for homeless chemically addicted women and their children, and as an independent legal nurse consultant. She has been with the VA for the past six years and currently works as the nurse manager of the acute inpatient psychiatric unit. Elizabeth is approaching her fourth year serving on the ONS MH-FAC and also works part time as Adjunct Faculty at Carlow University, teaching mental health nursing. Elizabeth earned her BSN and Masters Degrees from Carlow University in Pittsburgh and is currently working on her DNP. She is ANCC Board Certified in Psychiatric Mental Health Nursing, and as a Nurse Executive. She has also received certification as a VHA mentor and is a 2011 graduate of the NEHCLI program.

The Mental Health Field Advisory Committee completed several projects including a RN Guide for Psycho-educational Groups, a Toolkit for Teaching Diabetes Self-Management, and several fact sheets. The Mental Health FAC provides consultation to behavioral programs throughout the VA system.   

Sharon Watts

Metabolic Syndrome/Diabetes Clinical Nurse Advisor
Sharon A. Watts DNP, FNP-BC, CDE is a Nurse Practitioner and Certified Diabetes Educator. Her Doctorate in Nursing Practice is from Case Western Reserve University where she currently serves as a Clinical Associate Professor. She has worked extensively to improve the quality of Diabetes Care delivered to veterans through use of registries, inter-professional collaborative care, shared medical appointments, training of nurse case managers and education for students and providers. Currently she is also Co-Director for the Cleveland Center of Education in Primary Care.

The Metabolic Syndrome/Diabetes Field Advisory Committee has 15 members and current projects/workgroups include: diabetes competencies for both inpatient/outpatient nurses & education modules for nurses.

Lori Hoffman-Hogg

Oncology Clinical Nurse Advisor
Lori Hoffman Hogg, MS, RN, CNS, AOCN ®  is the VHA Oncology Clinical Advisor for the Office of Nursing Services and Chair of the Oncology Nursing Field Advisory Committee (ONC-FAC). Field based, she is the Cancer Program Director at the Albany Stratton VA Medical Center in Upstate, New York. Lori holds a Master’s of Science Degree in Nursing and Clinical Nurse Specialist in Adult Health from the State University of New York Health Science Center. She is an Advanced Oncology Certified Nurse by the ONCC. She has worked for the VA for over 16 years and is a graduate of the VHA Executive Career Field Program. Nationally, she has served as planning committee member and faculty for the VHA Cancer Care Collaborative and Co-Director for the VHA Surgical and Specialty Care Collaborative for Medicine. She is consultant to the Patient Care Services ONC-FAC and is a member of the VHA Radiation Oncology group. Lori serves on the VHA Executive Comprehensive End of Life Care Committee and is a VA representative and appointed member to the NCI - National Cancer Institute’s Quality Cancer Care Committee.

The Oncology FAC has 22 expert members who are well versed in hematology/oncology and radiation oncology nursing practices for cancer care across the continuum, ensuring evidence based care for this patient population. Project and workgroup outcomes include: Chemotherapy/Biotherapy Competency Handbook, testing and validation of nursing sensitive indicators with ONS and the Office of Quality and Performance; development of functional statement for the cancer care coordinator role for navigation; oncology skills documentation tools; sample oncology policies and patient education; developing cancer survivorship resources for VHA, and participating in lecture series development such as Cancer Care Essentials for the PACT RN Care Managers.

Jan Elliott

Pain Management Workgroup Co-Chairs
Janette (Jan) Elliott, RN-BC, MS, AOCN  is a Clinical Nurse Specialist at the Palo Alto HCS and is the clinical coordinator for the pain service. She has worked for the VA 24 years, 19 of those with the pain service. She is one of the master faculty for the American Society for Pain Management Nursing and helped write both editions of the Pain Management Nursing Core Curriculum.

Susan HaganSusan Hagan, RN-BC, MS, ARNP-C is a Nurse Practitioner at the James A Haley VAMC. She is the Coordinator of the Pain programs at this facility. She joined the VA in 1988 to begin the development of the Nationally recognized Chronic Pain Rehabilitation program. Over the years she has been privileged to work on the Guidelines for both the VA/DOD Chronic Opioid Guidelines and Post-operative Pain Management Guidelines. She coordinates the Pain Resource Nurse program at Tampa and has been providing education nationally to nurse leaders to further the development of PRN programs throughout the VA. She is active in the American Pain Society and has been Chair of the Special Interest Group on Nursing Issues.

The Pain Management Nursing work group consists of up to 13 members from across the country with expertise in pain management nursing. The group is currently working toward standardizing nursing pain assessment and reassessment. They are beginning wok on identifying nursing competencies in pain management, identifying patient and staff education materials and making recommendations to the field about these materials. They plan to work with the Patient Education Committee of the VA National pain committee to improve access for veterans to pain education materials. A major focus of this group this coming year will be the development of educational materials for VA nursing. There is a sub-committee of this group working to modify the University of Wisconsin Pain Resource Nurse Curriculum to better meet the needs of our VA nurses and patients. The group also plans to work closely with developing educational materials for nursing working with the PACT program. There is a member of this workgroup assigned to work closely with each of the Field Advisory Groups as pain overlaps all of these programs.

Lisa Warner

Perioperative Clinical Nurse Advisor
Lisa Warner, RN, MHA, CNOR is the Clinical Nurse Advisor for the Perioperative Field Advisory Committee. Lisa is field based at the Phoenix VA Medical Center in Arizona where she also works half time as a perioperative nurse in the Operating Room. Prior to this role, she served as the nurse manager of the OR, PACU and Same Day Surgery for over 13 years. She also chairs the ONS SPS/Periop workgroup. She serves as the member of the OR Nurse Manager Advisory Board for the National Surgery Office and is a member of the VISN 18 Sterile Processing Services (SPS) Committee.

The Perioperative Field Advisory Committee (FAC) has 11 members. The FAC facilitates monthly conference calls with OR Nursing Leader and manages the OR Nurse Leader SharePoint. The FAC is currently involved in or working on the following projects: OR Staffing Methodology, Fire Risk Assessment in the OR, working with DoD, the American Pain Society and the American Society of Anesthesiologists to develop post-operative pain guidelines, working on best practice for cleaning the OR, decreasing distractions in the OR, encourage a smoke free environment and examine the RNFA role as an adjunct to resident staffing.

Mary Sue Biggins

Polytrauma Clinical Nurse Advisor
Mary Susan Biggins, MBA, BSN, RN, CRRN is the Office of Nursing Services Clinical Nurse Advisor for the Polytrauma Rehabilitation Field Advisory Committee. Sue is the Ploytrauma Clinical Nurse Educator field based at the Edward Hines Jr. VA Hospital at Hines, Illinois, providing education to Veterans, Families and staff. Prior to this role, she served as the Clinical Nurse Manager for the acute rehab, CARF Accredited, Spinal Cord Injury Unit. She is a TEACH Facilitator, member of the Veterans Health Education Committee and a founding member of the Hines Family Empowerment Network, an award- winning, Best Practice, support group.

The Polytrauma Rehabilitation Field Advisory Committee (PFAC) has 18 members. They represent all aspects of Polytrauma Rehabilitation and the diverse roles that are a crucial component of the Polytrauma System of Care, serving the OEF, OIF, OND (Afghanistan and Iraq) Veterans and their families. Members of the PFAC assisted in drafting components for the Caregiver Legislation, in developing the Spinal Cord Injury content for the Veterans Health Library and provided input for revisions to many handbooks and policies.