Oct 21, 2015

Champions of Nursing: Aetna and Cigna

One hardly needs the meaning of CEO, CFO, or COO spelled out. But CNO? It’s relatively new, say the chief nursing officers at Aetna and Cigna, who are helping define the C-suite job at two of the largest health care delivery organizations in the world.

As chief nursing officers, Aetna’s Susan Kosman, RN, DNP, and Cigna’s Mary Picerno, RN, are among their firms’ top executives—leaders whose job is to serve the health of customers as well as the organization as a whole. They are the very symbol of nurse leadership, but their roles dovetail in other ways too with the Future of Nursing: Campaign for Action, including the fact that they represent their companies on the Campaign for Action’s Champion Nursing Coalition, more than 50 leading business, health care, consumer, and insurer groups supporting the Campaign with time, resources, and leadership.

These are just a few reasons the Campaign salutes Aetna and Cigna as nurse champions.

Picerno, CNO at Cigna since 2014, and Kosman, Aetna’s top nursing officer since 2010, went to Washington, D.C., earlier this year to speak to the Institute of Medicine (IOM) committee evaluating the impact of the Future of Nursing report. (See separate story.)

Kosman works closely with the Campaign and with Connecticut’s Action Coalition, directing her energies especially into strengthening nursing education—an IOM recommendation and Campaign priority she brought up with the IOM committee. Seamless academic progression—nurses being able to move smoothly from one degree to the next—is essential. And, as she noted in an interview, the swift changes in technology that are transforming all professions make it more important than ever that nurses stay up to date with their technology skills.  “Nurses are the predominant factor in the health workforce,” she said—by far the largest in numbers—and so critically important to the country’s health care system.

Picerno also spoke eloquently to the committee in May, about nurse leadership: “It is not possible to run a successful global health plan without nurse leadership input.”

“What I’m doing at Cigna aligns well with the IOM recommendations—expanding opportunities for nurses to lead. Cigna invests a lot in developing and mentoring nurse leaders.”

Cigna’s 2,000 nurses also serve in many departments besides clinical operations, including information technology, regulatory compliance, sales and account management, product development, and training.

As leaders, Kosman and Picerno combine their business and nursing expertise to partner with their peers to make the smartest use of their firms’ numerous services, systems, and skills. The goal: to make insurance more affordable and accessible for their customers.

It’s the same challenge the country faces, and the Campaign is helping answer—with success, thanks to the support of companies like Aetna and Cigna and the leadership of chief officers like Kosman and Picerno.

This story appeared in the October 2015 issue of Advancing Health: News from the Campaign for Action