HFC Adjunct Nursing Instructor, an Outspoken Advocate for Patient Safety, Earns her Doctorate in Nursing Practice

Leila Cherara

Leila Cherara, a Henry Ford College (HFC) adjunct nursing instructor and outspoken advocate for patient safety, recently earned her Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree from the University of Michigan (U-M) in Ann Arbor.

“I went into my DNP program to sharpen my teaching skills and strategies. I love teaching and imparting my knowledge and my passion for patient safety to others – that is my main goal,” said Cherara, of Detroit. “Currently, I am interested in simulation training as an approach to teach healthcare providers patient safety awareness and evaluating their competencies for the express purpose of improving the delivery of patient safety in the healthcare field,” she added.

A Lebanon native, Cherara immigrated to the United States in 2001. Prior to graduating with her DNP, she earned her undergraduate degree in nursing from the American University of Beirut in 1992 and her graduate degree in patient safety leadership from the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) in 2014. She has more than 20 years of experience as a nurse. She’s taught nursing courses at HFC for four years and at Oakland University in Rochester for two years.

“In regards to my experience at HFC, I can say that it has been my best teaching experience. I say that because I love adult education and HFC – being a community college – has a large number of adult learners, older students who have gone back to school at a more mature age. I love teaching students in this age-bracket because they are mature and involved, they are enthusiastic about learning and serious about it, and they are all hard workers looking for a better opportunity. That is the most a teacher wishes for,” said Cherara.

“Leila is a consummate professional and a pleasure to work with,” said Susan Shunkwiler, HFC Dean, School of Health and Human Services. “Her dedication to student success and commitment to patient safety is exemplified in all that she does. Students often comment, ‘She was the best instructor I have had.’ We are so proud of her accomplishments and are honored to have her as a member of the HFC team.”

As a nurse, Cherara has seen many mistakes involving nurses and patients – something she wasn’t immune from herself – which inspired her tireless fight for patient safety.

“If a nurse makes a mistake, that doesn’t mean that he or she is a bad nurse. More than likely, there was some unforeseen circumstance that triggered the mistake, such as understaffing or poor communication. If nurses are in a substandard environment, they will be more prone to making mistakes. I want to reduce these mistakes,” said Cherara.

Her dissertation focused on a specific area of patient safety: fall prevention. She assessed the level of patient safety awareness in a local neurology unit. Recently, she implemented a training initiative that included developing a fall prevention team. She also created a module and simulation scenarios around fall prevention based on the latest evidence-based literature.

“Each year, around 1 million patients fall in hospitals across the U.S. A stroke unit at a Midwestern hospital had a fall rate well above the national benchmarks for similar units. I initiated a quality improvement project in collaboration with the quality manager, the learning center coordinator, and the unit manager. The project included a multi-faceted intervention, including an eLearning module, simulation training, and implementation of fall protocols. The project had statistically significant knowledge gain and improvement in fall prevention safety. Still, there are many areas for improvement and much more needs to be done to mitigate this problem,” said Cherara.

Cherara believes that it is imperative to create a culture where patient safety is paramount and everyone on the hospital’s medical staff has a heightened awareness of taking preventive measures. This doesn’t mean mistakes won’t happen, but everyone is more aware of their surroundings and is empowered to speak up.

Cherara enjoys being able to bring her rich knowledge of patient safety to the classroom. She has encouraged her students at HFC to continue their education beyond an associate degree in nursing.

“I would love to see the Nursing Program at HFC grow and include a Registered Nurse (RN) to Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) program. That way, students will be able to earn their bachelor’s degrees while working,” said Cherara.