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Shared Governance: Harnessing Our Collective Strengths
Shared governance is a decision-making model designed to empower the people who care for patients. Chief Nursing Officer Tracey Nixon explains what it is, how it impacts you, and what to expect in the coming months.

ou have probably heard me use the term “Collective Strengths” before. “Collective strength” encapsulates what I’ve witnessed as a nurse. I have experienced it personally at the bedside, when together as a health care team we provided care when people needed it most. Now, as a leader, I often stand in awe as you—our teams—combine your strength and determination to provide groundbreaking care and support for our patients and to each other every single day.  

Our collective strengths are bigger than our individual contributions alone. It is my unwavering belief in collective strength and shared achievement that makes bringing shared governance to the Department of Nursing so exciting to me.

What is shared governance? 

In simple terms, shared governance is a decision-making model designed to empower the people who care for patients. It supports the notion that when decision making and problem solving happens closest to the point of care, our patients, teams and organization all benefit.  

Finding the right model for U of U Health 

Starting in early 2021, a dedicated group of nursing leaders and experts worked to identify a model that reflected University of Utah Health’s commitment to empowering our experts at all levels within the organization. 

After a comprehensive discovery process, the Councilor Model was selected. The Councilor Model of shared governance is collaborative in nature—it functions as a series of nested clinical nurse-led councils where professional responsibilities, care policies and activities are discussed. This model is designed to support empowering frontline teams to problem solve and make decisions at the point of care. 

A Guideline Team of senior nursing leaders was then engaged to nominate peers and frontline staff from across the department to participate in a series of focus groups to gather feedback on the model, assess local context, and inform an implementation plan. 

The outcome of this work is a councilor model of shared governance aligned with our strategic priorities and complex care delivery network of hospitals and clinics.

U of U Health Shared Governance Councilor Model:

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Learning by adapting the Councilor Model for U of U Health 

 Identifying the model is one thing—implementing it across six hospitals and twelve community clinics is another. Each of our entities, teams and patient populations are unique. That’s why over the next twelve months we will be working together, collectively, to customize the Councilor Model to best fit our needs.

We will introduce the foundational principles of shared governance and essential practices in small steps, one month at a time. I look forward to working with each and every one of you as we move into this exciting new direction. 

Originally published August 2022 - Updated to reflect current status.


Tracey Nixon

Chief Nursing Officer, University of Utah Health

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