Montana State University

MSU professors win award for paper on improving health care

November 14, 2014 -- MSU News Service

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BOZEMAN – Two Montana State University faculty members won an award from the American Society of Engineering Management for a paper exploring the leadership behaviors among nurses and engineers working to improve health care processes.

Bill Schell, assistant professor of mechanical and industrial engineering, and Sandra Kuntz, associate professor in the College of Nursing, published the paper in Engineering Management Journal (EMJ) in December 2013. The paper, entitled “Driving Change from the Middle: An Exploration of the Complementary Roles and Leadership Behaviors of Clinical Nurse Leaders and Engineers in Healthcare Process Improvement,” investigated the role that the leadership behaviors of nurses and engineers had in the success or failure of process improvement efforts in in healthcare.

The American Society of Engineering Management announced in October that the publication had earned the Ted Eschenbach Award for the best paper submitted to Engineering Management Journal (EMJ) in 2013. Kuntz said the paper came out of an effort to find ways for the College of Nursing to collaborate with Industrial Engineering on healthcare improvement efforts. This particular partnership stemmed from a $744,471, five-year grant from the Health Resources Services Administration.

“This project responded to a recognized need for systemic health care reforms, interprofessional education and clinical leadership at the point of care,” Kuntz said. “Often students complete their graduate course of study in nursing without having had the opportunity to problem solve with individuals from other disciplines. Clinical nurse leaders and industrial and systems engineering students and faculty, informed through interprofessional education, are better prepared to address pressing system challenges that detract from effective, efficient and safe care.”

According to Schell, health care is an area that shows the value of interdisciplinary research and education. The grant helped MSU to offer one cross-listed engineering/nursing course, as well as interdisciplinary learning experiences in a graduate nursing courses. Among other things, students examined change efforts in health care to illustrate behaviors required of middle leaders to drive successful implementation of efforts to improve healthcare outcomes. These investigations provided the foundation for Kuntz’s and Schell’s paper.

“Problems with health care are so complex that no one discipline is going to be able to solve them alone,” Schell said. “Whether it’s in an emergency care facility or an operating room, data from these case studies compiled from student experiences offer a picture of the different challenges faced by those working to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of healthcare and the role leadership behaviors play in the success or failure of improvement efforts.” 

Contact: Bill Schell, (406) 994-5938,, or Sandra Kuntz, (406) 751-6969,