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John J.  Nance

John J. Nance

Authority on Patient Safety & Quality of Care & Attorney


One of the key thought leaders to emerge in American Healthcare in the past decade, John J. Nance brings a rich and varied professional background to the task of helping doctors, administrators, boards, and front-line staff alike survive and prosper during the most profoundly challenging upheaval in the history of modern medicine. Having helped pioneer the Renaissance in patient safety as one of the founders of the National Patient Safety Foundation in 1997, his efforts (and healthcare publications) are dedicated to reforming American Healthcare from a reactive cottage industry to an effective and safe system of prevention and wellness. A lawyer, Air Force and airline pilot, prolific internationally-published author, national broadcaster, and renown professional speaker, John's leadership is propelled by a deep commitment. Read More >

As a native Texan, John grew up in Dallas where he earned his Bachelor's Degree and a Juris Doctor Degree from SMU, and is still a licensed Texas attorney. Named Distinguished Alumni of SMU for 2002, and distinguish Alumni for Public Service of the SMU Dedman School of Law in 2010, he is also a decorated Air Force pilot veteran of Vietnam and Operations Desert Storm/Desert Shield and a Lt. Colonel in the USAF Reserve, well known for his pioneering development of Air Force human factors flight safety education, and one of the civilian pioneers of Crew Resource Management (CRM). John has piloted a wide variety of jet aircraft, including most of Boeing's line and the Air Force C-141, and has logged over 13,900 hours of flight time since earning his first pilot license in 1965, and is still a current pilot. He was a flight officer for Braniff International Airlines and a Boeing 737 Captain for Alaska Airlines, and is an internationally recognized air safety advocate, best known to North American television audiences as Aviation Analyst for ABC World News and Aviation Editor for Good Morning America.

Before joining ABC, John logged countless appearances on national shows such as Larry King Live, PBS Hour with Jim Lehrer, Oprah, NPR, Nova, the Today Show, and many others. He is also the nationally-known author of 20 major books, including the acclaimed Why Hospitals Should Fly (2009), and, with co-author Kathleen Bartholomew, Charting the Course (2012), plus five non-fiction: (Splash of Colors, Blind Trust, On Shaky Ground, What Goes Up and Golden Boy) and 13 international fiction bestsellers: Final Approach, Scorpion Strike; Phoenix Rising); Pandora's Clock; Medusa's Child; The Last Hostage; Blackout; Fire Flight; Saving Cascadia; and Orbit. Pandora's Clock and Medusa's Child both aired as major, successful two-part mini-series on television. (Why Hospitals Should Fly won the prestigious “Book of the Year” award for 2009 from the American College of Healthcare Executives).

John J. Nance has become one of America's most dynamic and effective professional speakers, presenting riveting, pivotal programs on success and safety in human organizations to a wide variety of audiences, including business corporations and healthcare professionals. Together with fellow author Kathleen Bartholomew (Charting the Course and Ending Nurse-to-Nurse Hostility - Why Nurses Eat their Young and Each Other), the two of them are highly sought after for their watershed presentations to boards, senior leaders, physicians, nurses, and staff on Quality and Patient Safety. He is a pioneering and well-known advocate of using the lessons from the recent revolution in aviation safety to equally revolutionize the patient safety performance of hospitals, doctors, nurses, and all of healthcare. He lives in Friday Harbor, Washington. Read Less ^

Speaker Videos

Hospitals and Patient Satisfaction

Believing in Zero

Speech Topics

The Mid-Course Correction

Amidst all the national chaos and financial challenges around healthcare, stepping back for a few hours and focusing your people on a Mid-Course Correction is a vital process. John Nance will help you focus with introspective clarity and help you on your continuous journey toward the highest quality safety, commitment, just culture, and the road to High Reliability. If a lack of uniform purpose among your staff has frustrated you, the solution is re-focusing, and the process is what the military calls a Standdown. Bring a renewed energy and dedication with a redefined set of goals. Learn how fearless communication and the constant search for best practices are the keys to providing the best healthcare medical science can inform. With equal importance and emphasis, this program focuses on inspiring a dynamic re-dedication to achieve the tough goals by enlisting virtually everyone in the organization, and instilling the confidence that each member is a vital change agent whose ideas, actions, support, and opinions do matter. 

Surviving the Affordable Care Act Earthquake: How to Incite the Changes You Need — In Time!

Whether we measure it in terms of reimbursement, patient safety, service quality, market share, or provider satisfaction, there's no question that the landscape of healthcare delivery is being as violently reshaped as if a great earthquake were roiling the terrain. And though we hate to admit it, when your once-familiar world has been upended, it is very hard to be calm and methodical enough to ferret out the right path to survival - especially if those steps are non-traditional. That is why tough and confusing times demand voices and influence from outside the institution - calm, incisive voices that can dramatically boost the urgency of the wakeup calls needed to spark a Renaissance. Read More >

The greatest threat to any healthcare institution right now is failing to infuse the appropriate sense of urgency in your people, physicians included. Providing that energizing wakeup call is precisely what this keynote is designed to do: To spark, inspire and incite the cultural and clinical, financial changes you need to surf this tsunami. It is, in other words, designed to be a powerful aide to your efforts to get your "army" marching in the right direction, and for the right reasons.   Read Less ^

Why Hospitals Should Fly: The Ultimate Flight Plan to Safety & Quality Care

Taking the title from the book by John J. Nance, this is the premier presentation that has been so in demand in the last 6 months in Healthcare. This presentation builds on the reality that American Healthcare is, in fact, a gigantic and complex Non-System, and that to achieve real patient safety and quality of care in such a chaotic environment requires building healthcare for the first time into a coherent, interactive system. Inclusive in this revolutionary approach is the fact that the American hospital cannot serve the patient’s best interests as long as it continues in the tradition of Ben Franklin (the creator of the first American hospital) as an institution built only for doctors, not patients. The hospital must become a true unified entity in which even the outside physicians consider themselves an integral and proud part of the team - rather than independent practitioners merely renting space for their patients in a farmer’s market. In addition, this lecture, in building on (not merely teaching) the book's thesis highlights the essential role of the physician as a leader (rather than a commander) in orchestrating the amazingly effective shift to Collegial Interactive Teamwork based on open communications, caring and trust. Why Hospitals Should Fly has become a runaway best seller in healthcare worldwide, and this presentation not only explains why, but rallies the troops for immediate change.

Charting the Course: Launching Patient-Centric Healthcare

Why Hospitals Should Fly sparked a nearly unanimous question across American Healthcare: “How? Agreed, we should be like the safe, happy and cost-effective St. Michael’s hospital depicted in the book, but how on earth do you begin the process of change? How do you start the journey?” Read More >

That is precisely the question this entirely new presentation deals with - and answers - using specific methodologies, recommendations and strategies to help you spark an energized internal determination to be the best.

Based on the voluminous research underlying Charting the Course, and targeted on 2014's tsunami of challenges and changes confronting the industry, this tackles the question of what to do now regarding increased dependency on HCAHPS and patient satisfaction metrics, CMS pressures and curtailed reimbursement, the expanding list of “never” events, and the massive challenge of creating a unified organization from a collection of siloed fiefdoms.

This dynamic lecture also takes you with great clarity into the heart of exactly what steps must be taken by senior and middle management to lead your people to break free of the “Way we’ve always done it” syndrome. It gives virtually everyone in the American Healthcare setting a crystal-clear understanding of what has to be done, and in what order, to create a unified institution whose members from bottom to top are truly dedicated to zero harm, the highest quality of care, communication, teamwork in its highest expression, and a common level of ownership.

This lecture is both a call to arms and a means of building a groundswell of enthusiasm and belief that we CAN dramatically change the culture, get to zero harm and find new and highly-effective means of reducing costs and working together. Read Less ^

The Board’s Pivotal Role in Patient Safety

The average board of directors of the average American hospital is facing a forced revolution, including the threat of the Sarbaines-Oxley law that - if expanded by Congress to include hospital boards - could impose individual personal liability on each director. It is not enough for a board to be concerned about patient safety, boards are primarily responsible for each and every medical decision made in their institutions, and contrary to traditional practice, and handing clinical responsibility to the physicians does not discharge the board's obligations, and can expose the institution to ruinous lawsuits. It is difficult for boards to focus on clinical matters affecting patient safety and quality outcomes when the traditional role has been keeping the ship afloat financially. But that's where the seismic changes are occurring in governance. Boards must accept the responsibility for clinical decisions and guidance as much as for financial stability, and this is a painful reality.  Read More >

In addition, Board training and progressive education is increasingly necessary as the complexity of providing healthcare becomes more apparent and more tied to board performance. In fact, the time demands and level of expertise now required of boards nationwide may require changing the concept of hospital board membership as an unpaid public service to one of at least partial compensation. In other words, we may need to pay board members to exercise the massive time commitment required of them.

No CEO or other member of the C-suite in a hospital can provide the appropriate control and oversight of physicians without massive board resolve and participation, especially in the area of instituting and using best practices uniformly. In fact, the very existence of a hospital, large or small, will depend in the near future on how fast its board can mandate and guide the clinical staff to adopt and thoroughly inculcate the best procedures and practices medicine can provide.

This very dynamic lecture will change the way your board looks at its duties, and will delve deeply into the cause-effect relationship of the board’s actions or inactions and the right of their hospitals patients to be free from unreasonable risk of inadvertent harm. With patient safety disasters (i.e. medical mistakes) now the 4th leading cause of death in the United States, these issues must be faced and acted on, not just debated.  This is a pivotal wakeup call presentation best utilized in off-site board retreat settings.

While John Nance will still accept some board presentations individually, for full board retreats, the team approach of having both John Nance and Kathleen Bartholomew (the author of 4 major nursing books, including Ending Nurse-to-Nurse Hostility; Why Nurses Eat Their Young and Each Other) co-present is synergistically effective. Their efforts as a team speaking to board has been repeatedly praised for rapidly educating and redirecting the efforts of hospital boards. Read Less ^

The Bottom-Line Benefits of Team Leadership Training: Proven Pathway to Minimizing Errors & Maximizing Quality

As of the first months of 2014, a multiplicity of new studies have begun validating up to fifty percent reductions in Wrong Surgeries (wrong site, wrong medication, wrong patient, retained object) throughout hospitals and healthcare settings. The engine of change in virtually all these results is a steadily and universally applied program of Team Leadership Training for the entire medical team involved in any form of surgical intervention at the patient's beside, in the OR, the cath lab, ER, or the physician's office. Going far beyond the basic exposure to Team Steps and aviation's Crew Resource Management, Team Leadership Training creates proven and professional Collegial Interactive Teams, but must be built on complete cultural change. Read More >

This lecture lays the groundwork for why this is such a powerful and certain way to improve the performance of not just surgical interventions, but virtually all medical interactions. The hallmark of a mature Collegial Interactive Team is a leader who knows how to bring out the best performance and best participatory ownership in each member of the team. A trained CIT leader - often a physician - knows how to eliminate all communication barriers by making it completely safe for any member to speak up, and by creating and maintaining an atmosphere of mutual respect, constant learning, and non-hierarchical interchange. While these principles, techniques, and methods have never been taught in medical schools, nursing schools, or traditionally used in medicine, the dramatic and positive effects of appropriately inculcating such team Read Less ^