First chief NP officer in convenient care industry awarded for lifetime achievement
As one of a handful of founding officers at Take Care Health Systems — now known as the Healthcare Clinics at Walgreens — and the first chief nurse practitioner officer in the convenient care industry, Sandy Ryan’s role in the industry’s growth has been significant, to say the least.
“Sandy Ryan’s pioneering role as 1-of-6 founding officers for Take Care Health Systems has helped to create a permanent place for this model of healthcare delivery,” said Nancy Zaner, regional VP clinic operations at Healthcare Clinic at Walgreens and one of the early members of Ryan’s team of practitioner leaders. “The retail model industry has influenced health policy, and her contributions as a chief nurse practitioner officer have advanced the NP and PA roles throughout the healthcare landscape. Sandy has helped to drive much-needed change in our healthcare system. We will see the signature of that change, and patients across the United States will benefit from the impact of improvements for years to come.”
To recognize her commitment, vision and dedication, the Retail Clinician board of advisers awarded Ryan the 2014 CARE Lifetime Achievement Award, also known as the “Loretta Ford Award.”
Tine Hansen-Turton, executive director of the CCA, with Sandy Ryan, winner of the Loretta Ford CARE Lifetime Achievement Award, and DSN’s Rob Eder
“Like the mother of nurse practitioners — Loretta Ford, whom the RCEC Lifetime Achievement Award is named after — Sandy Ryan is a pioneer of the retail clinic industry. She is a champion for clinicians working in the retail clinics and is loved by all her peers,” said Tine Hansen-Turton, executive director of the Convenient Care Association. “As one of the founding members of Take Care Health Systems and one of the first board members of the Convenient Care Association, she was instrumental in the success of our industry.
Ryan’s journey can be traced back to her time in the U.S. Air Force. She joined the military right out of college, where she initially worked as a registered nurse and then was selected to return to school to earn her master’s degree. During her years in the military, she worked in a variety of practice settings from pediatrics to geriatrics, and also served as director of ambulatory outpatient services in a military medical facility coordinating patient care. In 1999, she retired from the U.S. Air Force after 16 years of service due to a downsizing of medical personnel following Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm, and then went to work in a private practice.
“[Ryan] re-entered civilian life to find what she once described as a ‘crisis of care,’” explained DSN editor in chief Rob Eder, when presenting the award to Ryan. “So, when Take Care … asked her to join the then-still-fledgling company, Ryan saw a unique opportunity to rally the profession and help point the nation’s NPs and PAs toward the nation’s problem.”
Ryan joined the executive team at Take Care in July 2005 — just months before the venture opened its first in-store health clinic. In 2007, it was acquired by Walgreens.
For Ryan, being a nurse practitioner serving at the executive level afforded her the benefit of helping to guide the direction of the industry and represent not only the nurse practitioners within Take Care/Walgreens, but also nurse practitioners nationwide. She would spend the next eight years with Take Care/Walgreens, leading nearly 1,500 nurse practitioners and physician assistants practicing at more than 400 clinics in 35 markets across 19 states. Ryan oversaw clinical and operational leadership for the business while working closely with Walgreens’ chief medical officer in such areas as clinical governance, research and quality initiatives. She played an integral role in the development and implementation of integrated technology, quality assurance programs and evidenced-based guidelines to create a consistent, patient-focused experience for those seeking treatment at Take Care/Walgreens clinics. Ryan also led efforts on legislative issues that prevented access to care while promoting the role and visibility of the nurse practitioner.
In October 2013, Ryan joined CareCam Health Systems as chief clinical officer, overseeing all clinical aspects of the company.
“Sandy’s ability to blend the best of clinical practice with the necessities of business is extremely uncommon, to say the least, but one of her qualities that I admire most is that she is a gentle fighter for what she believes is right and has never felt shy about expressing why,” said Hal Rosenbluth, one of the original co-founders of Take Care and now chairman and CEO of CareCam Health Systems. “Sandy has always been respectful and inviting of others’ opinions. She has always fought for the people she leads, the patients they serve and for the tools required to deliver the best care and the best information for all involved.”
Retail clinics and AAP care about children
The recent American Academy of Pediatrics-issued policy statement opposing retail clinics is disheartening to those of us practicing in this setting. The AAP’s commitment to the medical home model of care for children is the crux of the opposition. The AAP argues that retail clinics fragment care, miss opportunities for preventive services and fail to provide adequate follow-up for patients. Both the Convenient Care Association and AAP are dedicated to ensuring high-quality care for patients. With similar missions, we must work together.
Retail clinics were never intended to be the sole source of care for patients. For instance, retail clinics currently do not see patients younger that 18 months of age because of issues related to the need for certain vaccines and developmental assessments that are not in our scope of service. From the inception of this innovative model of care, the intent was never to replace a patient’s primary care provider, but to bridge the gap (i.e., when the PCP was not available) and to assist those patients with no PCP in developing a relationship. Up to 60% of patients — adults and children — who utilize retail clinics for care report not having a PCP, thus, retail clinicians become an access point for care.
It is important to note that nurse practitioners have long been leaders in the medical home model. Every retail clinic group has policies requiring communication with the patient’s PCP via written communication either carried by the patient or sent by electronic methods (e.g., fax and secure email). In addition, patients who have out-of-scope conditions and those requiring ongoing care by a PCP or specialty provider are connected with the needed service, making these clinics an important portal for patients into the healthcare delivery system.
With the implementation of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the need and demand for retail-based clinics is expected to grow. Efforts to increase record integration and vaccine database registries are underway across the United States. These types of improvements will mean improvement in coordinated care across multiple settings and lead to improvements beyond just pediatric care.
Rather than becoming adversaries in care, retail clinics and the American Academy of Pediatrics must work together to ensure that every patient receives not only appropriate acute care, but also preventive services with optimal follow-up.
Recognizing exemplary retail clinicians
The 7th annual Retail Clinician Education Congress was held from May 12 to 15, and the program lineup was outstanding this year. From clinical sessions featuring healthcare experts in the industry, such as Alan Agins and Wendy Wright, to executive and leadership sessions featuring Dan Gilman from the Federal Trade Commission and Debra Richman from Harris Interactive, conference attendees had an enriching and educational experience.
In addition to the educational offerings, each year we recognize a number of clinicians who go above and beyond the call of duty in their care of patients though the Clinician Awards for Retail Excellence, or CARE Awards. This year we received a record number of nominations, making the selection of the winners more difficult. The winners this year have not only saved patient lives, but also have made significant and positive impacts in the lives of patients and their families by providing high-quality, compassionate and extraordinary care. We read many stories about patients coming back to the clinics to thank the clinicians for their care. Weaved throughout every nomination were comments about how the clinicians really took the time to explain things and listen to patients, and about how without the care provided by the clinicians, the patient wouldn’t have had such a successful outcome. The clinicians are the face of the clinics, and without their dedication and commitment to patient care and the clinics, the industry would not be as successful as it is today. We are always so humbled and amazed by the CARE Award winners.
This year, the Loretta Ford Lifetime Achievement Award is being given to Sandra Festa Ryan. Sandy Ryan is a pioneer of the retail clinic industry and a champion for clinicians working in the retail clinics. As one of the founding members of Take Care Health Systems and one of the first board members of the Convenient Care Association, she was instrumental in the success of the industry, as well as the advancement of nurse practitioners in the clinics and beyond. She also led the efforts to create quality and safety standards for the industry that was the foundation for CCA’s certification program. She is truly deserving of this award, and it’s an honor to be presenting it to her.