Michele McClure, UW Health at The American Center and American Family Children’s Hospital

IB’s Professional of the Week is the premier way to meet Dane County’s professionals. This week features Michele McClure, senior director, chief nursing officer, UW Health at The American Center, and interim vice president, chief nursing officer, American Family Children’s Hospital.
Pow Michele Mcclure Headsot

What are the most challenging and rewarding aspects of your job and why?

As a nursing leader, our industry was faced with many demands prior to the pandemic, including recruitment and retention, leveraging innovation and technology, building a culturally aware and diverse workforce, and fostering employee engagement. Among those priorities, at the heart of all we do is striving to deliver safe, equitable, and high-quality care while maintaining a positive patient and family experience. As we transition out of the pandemic, I worry about the health of our workforce as it pertains to employee wellness and burnout. Despite the challenges, we learned a lot during the pandemic and were shown that we need to continue to find ways to deliver health care that is nimble, adaptable, and accessible.

The rewarding aspects of my job are countless and what motivates me to not shy away from the many opportunities we face: A simple thank you from a patient and family. Developing our team and seeing those at the bedside grow and flourish. Stretching and growing my leadership team, so they can best support the front-line staff and deliver upon our promise of remarkable care.

Who do you look up to or admire in business and why?

I grew up in a small, rural town in southern Wisconsin, and aside from a bowling alley and taverns, where some of the best Friday fish fries were made, our main street felt barren. This has shaped my perspective and given me an immense appreciation and respect for small business owners. Small, local businesses are seen as the backbones of their community and are often born from the pursuit of a particular passion. In particular, the past year has impacted these communities and small business owners have made impressive sacrifices to keep their businesses afloat and their employees paid. They exemplify how drive, innovation, and commitment only makes our local communities stronger, and these are features I admire and hope to emulate.

What has been the high point of your career so far?

In 2014, I was hired as a nurse manager to help lead the opening of a new UW Health hospital on Madison’s east side, UW Health at The American Center. This was a once-in-a-career opportunity to get to be part of something so special as opening a new, state-of-the-art hospital. Aside from a new building, we were able to design new processes to deliver safer, more efficient care, and we were able to work differently to build lean models. One of the rewarding aspects of the journey was building an inpatient nursing team and helping to coach them in achieving their goals. One highlight of many from the team’s accomplishments was winning the Press Ganey Guardian of Excellence Award for both 2017 and 2018. This award featured our team and the care they provided patients and families, with patient satisfaction scores placing The American Center in the 95th percentile for each reporting period. This was a high point of my career though — being a member of the original leadership team that opened The American Center — knowing that we worked tirelessly to ensure our decisions were driven by the patient and family. I am proud and humbled by the numerous outcomes we achieved.

Thinking back on your career, what advice would you give your 21-year-old self?

Steve Jobs said, “The only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it.”

Upon graduating high school, I started college at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. It took me three years in college to discover my passion and decide what I wanted to pursue. By age 21, I had finally figured out my path and focused on pursuing a degree in nursing. At the time, I felt embarrassed by the length of my journey as it did not align with the traditional expectation of completing an undergrad degree in four years, but now looking back I would not change a thing. Therefore, my advice would be to enjoy and embrace every experience and never settle. Find a career path that excites you, inspiring passion within while recognizing it’s OK if it takes time to figure out what that is. “Love what you do and do what you love.”

What would you say are the best things about living and working in Dane County?

There are many perks of living in Dane County. My family enjoys a variety of outdoor offerings that include the bike paths, trails to explore, and many options that allow for fishing. Madison offers a variety of great restaurants and a vibrant (pre-COVID) music scene. A few family favorites include: the farmers market, Taste of Madison, and catching a concert at The Barrymore.

Do you have any secret talents or abilities that people would be surprised to discover?

My first paying job in high school was working on my dad’s construction crew during the summer. During this pandemic, I dusted off those skills to help my husband start to remodel our home. There is truly nothing more satisfying than demo-ing a room and starting with a blank slate to make it our own. It’s been fun learning new skills alongside my husband as we tackle these projects!

What are your guilty pleasures?

In high school I would “pump” myself up before our basketball games through music. Always watching the JV games with music in my ears prior to us taking the court. This has remained an important outlet for me. On my drive into work in the mornings, I “pump” myself up for the workday by listening to music at a volume many would consider silly while belting out the songs way too loud and out of tune! It’s satisfying to get that out of my system before walking in and it allows me to tackle the day ahead in a more collected and quieter manner.

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