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Harris Health Achieves Pathway to Excellence for Its Ambulatory Care Services

HOUSTON (Feb. 12, 2024) — It took Harris Health System six years of waiting, working through a global pandemic and completing an arduous application process to finally achieve a Pathway to Excellence® designation from the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) for its network of health centers, clinics and specialty facilities. The recognition—previously given only to hospitals—now includes Harris Health’s Ambulatory Care Services as the second ambulatory service in the U.S. awarded the designation. 

“Our journey took longer than expected, but it was well worth it,” says Jennifer LaHue, director, Strategic Initiatives and Clinical Informatics, Harris Health. “We needed to hardwire the positive practice culture we have at Harris Health, not only for the recognition but for ourselves and our patients.” 

Pathway to Excellence is a nursing recognition awarded to healthcare organizations that promote positive nursing work environments, professional development and research-based practices with the ultimate goal of providing improved patient care.  

According to ANCC, organizations that invest in nursing, “demonstrate a culture of sustained excellence, resulting in the successful recruitment of top candidates and staff retention through high job satisfaction.”

“Achieving this designation represents a tremendous affirmation of our nursing excellence, as well as our supportive interprofessional practice environment for nurses and all our healthcare staff,” says Matthew Schlueter, chief nursing officer, Ambulatory Care Services, Harris Health. “Ambulatory Care Services has long been known for providing outstanding care to our community, and delivering enviable quality outcomes. Achieving this prestigious designation further demonstrates our value to the community and solidifies our standing among our peers in the nursing profession.”

LaHue agrees and credits leadership’s commitment and the established nursing culture for achieving even more national recognition and prestige. Harris Health already has Magnet® Recognition, a worldwide recognized nursing award, at both its hospitals. 

“When leaders show their commitment and demonstrate their support, it makes the challenging journey easier,” LaHue adds. “Staff know they are not alone, that they have the support and guidance of our leadership.”

Evidence of supportive leadership and a nurturing nursing environment scored high in Harris Health’s award submission. In the area of nursing participation for the required 28-question survey, Harris Health nurses outperformed ANCC’s benchmark of 60% by achieving better than 80% participation. Also, within the survey itself, 90% of nurses in Harris Health’s ambulatory services responded ‘strongly agree’ or ‘agree’ to a majority of the survey questions that examine how well nurses feel about the organization’s nursing environment. The anonymous participants responded better than the 75% benchmark set by ANCC. 

“Our nurses are an essential part of the medical care we provide to our patients on a daily basis,” says Jacqueline Brock, chief nursing executive, Harris Health. “Having them truly embrace their vital roles in our system helps us retain the cream of the crop, recruit highly motivated and stellar applicants and provide patients the best care possible.”

For Jennifer Small, executive vice president and administrator, Ambulatory Care Services, Harris Health, it’s a matter of pride that the designation is shared by nearly 35 outpatient locations across the county. Annually, ambulatory services provide care for nearly 1.7 million patient visits and encounters.

“Our patients are the beneficiaries of having our nursing and medical staff work in environments where they’re valued and supported,” Small adds. “Helping our patients achieve successful treatments and better health outcomes is our true mission. Having staff that is responsive and up to date with the latest treatments and procedures is truly a win-win for our community.”

Pathway to Excellence is a four-year designation and recognized among the best in the nation.