Quality and Patient Safety Culture Are Top Goals of New Board Trustee

Posted Jan 5, 2019

Leonora Muhammad

When Leonora Muhammad, DNP, APRN, CCHP, first heard about NCCHC’s Certified Correctional Health Professional program in 2010, she was thrilled to learn that correctional health care was being recognized as a specialty, similar to emergency care and critical care nursing. “The fact that you could be designated as an expert in the field of corrections was exciting,” she says.

At that time, she was the director of nursing for Corizon Health, St. Louis City Justice Center. When her regional directors of nursing began to encourage all clinical leaders to obtain certification, Dr. Muhammad eagerly sat for—and passed—the exam, along with many of her peers.

Having worked for Corizon Health in various correctional facilities since 2006, Dr. Muhammad looks back on her time in these settings as a huge learning opportunity. “You have the opportunity to work with patients who need the most care, as access to appropriate health care in the community is limited based on a patient’s ability to pay for services.” She sees great value in being able to start educating patients immediately after they arrive at a facility. This education, she says, is the best way to improve patients’ self-care management and ultimately their life expectancy.

Since earning her CCHP, Dr. Muhammad has risen through the ranks at Corizon. Today she serves as senior director of quality improvement and patient safety, working  to ensure that the facilities she oversees have best practices in place to protect both patients and employees. When problems or concerns arise, she and her team seek to identify root causes and develop quality improvement plans to alleviate any issues. “Decreasing and eliminating risk for our clients and customers is the number one priority,” she says.

Leading by Example

In her senior director role, Dr. Muhammad knows it is her duty to lead by example to help staffers provide the best possible patient care. To this end, she sees her involvement with the CCHP program as essential: “Your career should be filled with continuous learning opportunities, and the CCHP credential helps with this by requiring individuals to earn continuing educational credit on topics related to correctional health.” By keeping up with the latest research and standards of care, she says, staff members show their dedication to quality and patient safety and earn recognition from peers and management alike.

Recently elected to the CCHP board of trustees, Dr. Muhammad is committed to creating a confident and highly skilled correctional health workforce. An important means to this end is making sure that CCHP exams measure real knowledge and skills. As a trustee, she is now responsible for, among other things, helping craft high-quality CCHP exam questions.

For Dr. Muhammad, passing the exam means much more than knowing the answers to the questions. Rather, it is about “understanding how to apply a given question to real-life scenarios that we are faced with in our everyday lives.”

Dr. Muhammad has a piece of advice for those considering a career in corrections and for current staffers who are undecided about taking the CCHP exam: “Go ahead and take the leap! You never know where that one decision will take you in the next five years.”

This article was written by Katie Przychodzen, MA, CCHP, NCCHC’s marketing and communications manager. It first appeared in the Fall 2018 issue of CorrectCare, Vol. 32, Issue 4.