Alumni Accomplishments

Commitment to Care

Julia Libcke assures nurses are supported and empowered

Commitment to Care

Photo Credit: Rob Hall

icon of a calendarSeptember 19, 2022

icon of a pencilBy Patrick Dunn

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Julia Libcke, SON ’00, DNP, RN, CRRN, NEA-BC, says her “mantra” for nursing leadership is “care for our nurses so they can provide the best patient care.”

That can be challenging for leaders like Dr. Libcke, vice president of patient care services and chief nursing officer at McLaren Macomb Hospital in Mount Clemens. Overseeing a staff of nearly 700 nurses at the 288-bed hospital, she directs business like financial management, employee relations and maintaining hospital accreditations. But, just as important is the human side of the equation: ensuring nurses are supported and developed and their patients receive satisfactory care.

Dr. Libcke’s career has been defined by balancing big-picture demands of hospital leadership with the interpersonal nuances of ensuring great clinical practice. She began to navigate that balance at OU when she earned a Master of Science in nursing. She had already worked more than a decade as the rehabilitation department manager at Sinai Hospital and Sinai Grace Hospital.

“I was at a juncture, trying to decide if I should take a more clinical path or go into leadership,“ Dr. Libcke says. “My OU degree helped me do both.”

During her graduate studies at OU, Dr. Libcke specialized in adult health nursing, focusing on clinical practice while getting a degree to transition into leadership roles. She also credits OU professors Dr. Nancy O’Connor and Dr. Teresa Thompson who supported her personal growth even as she juggled night classes while working full time and raising two children.

After graduating from OU, Dr. Libcke spent 15 years at the Detroit Medical Center’s Rehabilitation Institute of Michigan (RIM), quickly rising to the post of chief nursing officer. She led RIM through the American Nurses’ Credentialing Center’s Magnet Recognition Program, which establishes a set of criteria for hospitals to elevate patient care by supporting and empowering nurses. “You have to transform a culture,” Dr. Libcke says. “I’d say the journey’s probably more important than the award, at the end of the day. That’s one of my proudest career achievements.”

However, Dr. Libcke aspired to apply her skills to a larger hospital than the 96-bed RIM. After completing a Doctorate of Nursing Practice at Madonna University in 2017, she joined McLaren Macomb the same year. She’s amazed by the Mount Clemens community’s strong sense of investment in the hospital, which opened in 1945 as Mount Clemens General Hospital. That community pride came across strongly during the COVID-19 pandemic, which dominated nearly half of Dr. Libcke’s tenure. Dr. Libcke says she felt “palpable support” from the community early in the pandemic, as community members brought homemade masks and food for hospital workers and posted signs of support outside the building.

Dr. Libcke also expresses immense pride in McLaren Macomb’s nursing staff’s efforts during the pandemic. She gets choked up as she recalls “true heroes” who sat with COVID patients in isolation in their final hours since their families couldn’t visit them.

“If I worked 15 hours a day, that pales in comparison to what they did at those bedsides,” Dr. Libcke says.

Tom Brisse, McLaren Macomb president and CEO, says the pandemic demonstrated how “truly vital” nursing is.

“Macomb County residents rely on our hospital, putting their trust in us during what can be a vulnerable time,” he says. “Julia, leading by example, heads a team of skilled, dedicated and compassionate nurses to ensure this trust with our patients remains strong. Julia’s displayed ultimate professionalism, dedication, perseverance and leadership, while guiding our nursing staff through a pandemic and national labor shortage.”

Dr. Libcke’s next professional goal is supporting and developing nurses in new ways. For the past two years, she’s served as co-chair of the nominating committee for OU’s Nightingale Awards for Nursing Excellence. She won a Nightingale Award in 2009, calling it “a wonderful honor.” She says she relishes the opportunity to recognize other nurses “in the most beautiful way.” In the future, she says she hopes to adjunct teach to help prepare nurses to transition into leadership positions like herself. “It’s very challenging, and I want to see nurse leaders feel good about what they’re doing and feel successful,” she says.

Dr. Libcke says she’s “very proud” to be an OU alum, describing her time at OU as an “important step” on her professional journey.

“It’s an excellent program producing qualified nurses,” she says. “And, that’s important — we need skilled nurses taking care of our community.”

Dr. Libcke became president of Schwab Rehabilitation Hospital in Chicago in April 2022.

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