I’m excited to highlight the contributions our Children’s Minnesota nurses made in 2021. With their talent, devotion and adaptability, our nursing team not only bolstered our organization in a time of great change, but also delivered excellent care to the children in our hospitals and clinics.

As you read the stories in this annual report, you will find a connection to at least one of the foundational elements within the Children’s Minnesota Nursing Professional Practice Model, REACH: Advanced Excellence, Partners in Care, Nursing Care Delivery, Shared Governance and The Children’s Way.

Reflecting on last year, I keep thinking about one word: grace. We had hoped 2021 would be a less turbulent year than 2020, but we faced just as many challenges — and our nurses responded with tremendous grace under pressure. Amid the disruptions of the pandemic, the unexpected surges in patient volume and our organization’s strategic transformation, nurses never wavered. They remained dedicated to caring for kids, and to the belief that kids deserve care that is highly specialized, compassionate and made just for them.

And that goes for all kids. As we at Children’s Minnesota work to advance equity and inclusion, our nursing team is leading the way. I’m so encouraged by our nurses’ willingness to learn, change and grow. They’re working hard to make our vision of a better future for all children a reality.

We know that families count on us to be the experts. They count on us to care for their children as if they were the most important people in the world — because they are. It’s an honor and a huge responsibility. Our nurses understand this and take on the challenge every single day, with every patient, in the most extraordinary ways. I’m proud to be a part of this team.

Dr. Caroline Njau is wearing a floral print jacket and is smiling at the camera.

Thank you,

Caroline Njau, MBA, BSN, RN, NEA-BC
Chief Nursing Officer and Senior Vice President, Patient Care Services

Children’s Minnesota overview

Children’s Minnesota is one of the largest freestanding pediatric health systems in the U.S., and the only health system in Minnesota to provide care exclusively to children — from before birth through early adulthood. An independent and not-for-profit system since 1924, Children’s Minnesota serves the Upper Midwest at three hospitals, 12 primary care clinics, six rehabilitation and nine specialty care sites. 

At Children’s Minnesota, we bring together more experts across more specialties than any other hospital system in the Midwest. As the region’s largest pediatric program, we partner every day with clinicians across the Midwest to make sure every child has the best possible health care. 

We champion the health needs of children and families. We are committed to improving children’s health by providing the highest-quality, family-centered care, advanced through research and education.” –Children’s Minnesota mission statement.   

Trusted, nationally recognized care

Children’s Minnesota is regularly recognized nationally for excellence in care, quality, innovation and industry leadership.   

  • In 2018, we were the first and only hospital in Minnesota verified as a Level I Pediatric Surgery Center by the American College of Surgeons — the highest distinction for health systems that perform complex surgical procedures for newborns, children and teens.  
  • We earned Magnet® recognition from the American Nurses Credentialing Center — the most prestigious distinction a health organization can receive in nursing excellence and high-quality patient care.  
  • We’re consistently ranked among the top hospitals by U.S. News & World Report.  
  • We’re Minnesota’s only Level I Pediatric Trauma Center in a hospital dedicated solely to kids.  

Nursing at a glance

Total number of nurses. Pie chart, showing a small slice for 232 APRNs and a large slice for 1654 RNs.
Nursing at a glance RN APRN
Nurse turnover (Avg.) 15.4% 14.2%
Nurse vacancy (Avg.) 8.06% 9.08%
Nurse tenure (Avg. length of employment) 13.33 years 9.53 years

Staffing model reinvented to improve readiness for care

In March 2021, Children’s Minnesota took a closer look at its nurse staffing model and began making strategic changes to improve readiness for patient care.   

Prior to COVID-19, Children’s Minnesota’s nurse staffing models hadn’t required much calibration thanks to relatively stable patient volumes year over year. But in the wake of upheaval from the pandemic, uncertainty around organization staffing and forecasts for a rare summertime surge of respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) cases, Caroline Njau, MBA, BSN, RN, NEA-BC, chief nursing officer and senior vice president of patient care services, and colleagues recognized a need for more detailed census and staffing models.   

The team developed a complex model that takes into account census forecasts and available staff to yield data-driven predictions for staffing needs in an area at any given time. The algorithm predicts each unit’s census based on scheduled surgeries, emergency department volumes, acuity and average length of stay to identify how many nurses and clinical support associates will be needed for each shift in the upcoming week.  

Additionally, unit leaders input information about open positions, new hires and onboarding to better see where staffing needs are prevalent. With the findings from this detailed analysis, nursing leaders collaborated with human resources partners on strategies to ramp up recruitment. They also adapted the application and interview process to allow nurses to select more than one care area, which widened opportunities for both employer and employee.   

To further improve readiness for care and patient safety and comfort, Children’s Minnesota is investing in strategic and operational management to guide the flow of patients, develop staffing plans, and more closely review processes. In November 2021, Njau restructured nursing leadership to add a Director of Clinical Operations role. This role will be critical to continue overseeing and improving patient flow and staffing resources management.