Expert Bio: Michael D. Francis, DNP, MSEd, RN, NEA-BC

San Francisco, CA
Institute for Nursing Excellence at the University of California, San Francisco
Manager of Clinical Education and Training

Our challenge in nursing is moving our mindset away from technology and back to the essence of nursing - the human connection.

Sometimes your career pathway looks more like a jungle gym than a ladder. So is the case with Dr. Michael Francis who, through varying occupations has found his passion in teaching and education. This passion led him to be the current Education Manager of UCSF's Insititute of Nursing Excellence.

What made you decide to pursue a DNP program vs. a PhD program?

Personally, a large motivator in the timing of returning to school was that the organization I worked for was offering to pay for many of us to complete a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP). The program at University of San Francisco was very notable and so it was a great opportunity. I chose the DNP route as opposed to the PhD program as I wanted an education based on real experience and practice vs. theory and research.

Nursing is not your first career, give us a snapshot of your career path.

I started in the fire service and progressed through that world for 10 years. I had a variety of roles and moved from the response arena to the education and training space of fire management, for which I became very interested. Eventually, I left the fire department and joined a small consulting business that focused on health, safety, training, and education. Incoming from the public arena to the private area, I quickly realized how laws and regulation drove business. In time, consulting took its toll with a lot of travel and commuting. As I was still in my 20’s, I realized that if I were to go anywhere, I needed an education.

As an EMT then Paramedic I recognized how nursing is more fluid and flexible with many specialties. I decided to return to school to complete a Bachelor of Science in Nursing through California State University Sacramento (CSUS). I started my nursing career in the ICU as a new graduate. While working as a staff nurse in the ICU and moving from novice to expert and up the clinical ladder as high as I could, I recognized the gaps between education and practice. I knew that we could do more as a specialized nursing group, and so I approached my manager at the time and was granted permission to start a quality committee to bridge those gaps. We introduced evidenced-based practices into the unit and eventually had many subgroups in the committee who would research, share their knowledge, then engage the staff towards changes in practice. It was a wonderful experience to share the knowledge that has proven applications to improved patient outcomes.

Within a few years, I moved into an Educator position in the Clinical Education, Practice & Informatics department where I eventually became the Director. This required me to further my education and I earned a Master of Education at Capella University. I performed in the role for over four years which also gave me experience in hospital operations. However, I had what I describe as a “Maslow Moment” where I needed to slow down my life altogether.  I went back to ICU as a bedside nurse for 12 months. I was able to not only help my colleagues on a daily basis but also provide background for policy changes and the “why” from the operational side of the business.

After a year of consistent pursuing from the Regional Director of Education for a nurse scholar’s program, I ended up moving to the organization’s regional offices in Oakland, CA. This role evolved into a blended education and practice with business operations. I learned how informatics, IT, clinical practice, medication safety teams, and quality and safety all needed to work together to develop and maintain patient safety practices. After 2.5 years, I finished my DNP and was beginning to look for a new environment outside of my organization and landed this position at UCSF which has been a very positive move for me.

How has earning/having a DNP made a difference in your approach to your current role?

I never thought I would be this guy! All my educators are master’s prepared nurses and passionate about their work. With my doctoral degree, I now take a macro view before I make decisions or determinations. I asked my staff to tell me what projects they believe are a high priority, how much time they will spend on each project, and secondary projects. With that data, I’m able to connect with them to tease out the true priorities. I’m not here to develop them as educators, they already have that skill. I’m here to mentor them on how to be collaborative education leaders. How to identify business needs, interventions, return-on-investment analysis, and what can we measure as successful considering all of the requests that come to our department.

What are you most proud of in your nursing career?

Personally, my greatest moment was completing the doctorate program. Professionally, my most proud moment was recently seen on social media how my former ICU colleagues were continuing the Quality and Education programs we had started so many years ago. Seeing them present their professional work in Neuro Nursing at the national level was so inspiring and reaffirming of the seeds I planted to be life-long learners.

I was able to not only help my colleagues on a daily basis but also provide background for policy changes and the “why” from the operational side of the business.

What do you think is the biggest challenge facing nursing now?

Our challenge in nursing is moving our mindset away from technology and back to the essence of nursing - the human connection. As we’re integrating technology into practice more and more, we’re removing opportunities to actually care for people, and for one another. It’s not just the EMR, it’s the technology we bring to the workplace and a culture that forces us to stay connected to the outside while we’re at work. Nurses are missing opportunities to connect with the hearts and minds of their patients– the foundations of nursing.