A Publication of WTVP

Nurses are taking the lead when it comes to health policy and patient care.

When one thinks of the word entrepreneur, nursing and clinical care are probably not the first things that come to mind. Just as entrepreneurial efforts in the business world are thought of as ventures to make money or achieve success, so, too, are nursing entrepreneurs. In our case, nursing entrepreneurs work to improve health outcomes for those we serve.

As the largest group of health professionals, nurses need to be encouraged to take the lead when it comes to health policy and how best to care for patients in the future in light of healthcare reform. The nurses at OSF Saint Francis Medical Center are encouraged in these efforts through a variety of ways, including professional development research and projects, and the Professional Nursing Congress (PNC).

Outperforming National Benchmarks
During our recent Magnet re-designation, the OSF Saint Francis team was cited for exceptional care in several areas, including focusing on a culture of patient safety by proactively monitoring patients for potential safety issues. An early warning score (EWS) assessment tool was piloted through a nursing research project and continues to help improve patient outcomes. The credentialing team gave high praise for working to decrease patient falls, decrease pressure ulcers and healthcare-acquired conditions, and increase compliance with hand washing, saying OSF Saint Francis is far ahead of other organizations in the country. Our nurses are always looking for innovative solutions like the EWS research study to improve and expand upon this culture of safety.

Another project by nurse leaders discovered that some patients were not following up and taking the medications they were prescribed at discharge—often because they didn’t have a way to get to a pharmacy to have the prescription filled or didn’t have the means to pay for the prescription. From this was born our “Meds to the Bedside” initiative, which makes sure patients have the proper medications in hand before ever leaving the hospital. Administration encouraged and supported this innovative program, which helps reduce hospital readmissions and allows patients to continue their recovery in the comfort of their own home.

OSF Saint Francis was also recognized for nurse satisfaction and engagement for outperforming national benchmarks in all 10 indicators for proactively engaging nurses to make the organization better. These indicators include nurse-to-nurse relationships, nurse-to-physician relationships, decision making, professional development and autonomy.

Voice of Direct Care
The Professional Nursing Congress (PNC) provides opportunities for the voice of our direct care nurses to be heard. When PNC members shared the need for new scanners—which are used as a safety net to ensure the right medication is being given to the right patient at the right time—it resulted in an assessment, then a pilot, and ultimately, the purchase of 585 new handheld scanners.

Before the issue went to the PNC, nurses were frustrated with how the old scanners were working. There is a direct effect on patient care and safety if nurses have to struggle with equipment that isn’t working properly, so despite the added cost, administration was willing to do what was best for staff and patients. The nurses know they are empowered to do what’s best for the greater good. Expanded telehealth opportunities and retail clinics are among other initiatives being explored as ways to improve outcomes while keeping costs down.

OSF Saint Francis has more than 1,600 direct care nurses and 14 active nursing research projects underway, with 15 nurses in 6 Sigma performance improvement roles, including lead green belts, dedicated black belts and master black belts. It is our goal to continue to support and encourage our nurses to do what is best for our patients—and in turn, all patients—as we share these entrepreneurial efforts nationally. It’s not just something we need to do because of changes in healthcare delivery, it’s the right thing to do. iBi

Jen Hopwood, MSN, NE-BC is vice president of patient care and chief nursing officer at OSF Saint Francis Medical Center.