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Indiana coalition works to create patient safety 'blanket'

Monday January 9, 2012
Peggy Gerard, RN
Peggy Gerard, RN
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Betsy Lee, RN
By Tom Clegg

Healthcare patients in Indiana are in good hands, thanks to a network of patient safety coalitions that have been developed throughout the state.

The Indiana Action Coalition hopes to make patients even safer by using these 10 patient safety coalitions to implement recommendations from the 2010 Institute of Medicine report "The Future of Nursing: Leading Change, Advancing Health" related to engaging frontline nurses in interdisciplinary improvement efforts.

Betsy Lee, RN, BSN, MSPH, a member of the IAC steering committee and director of the Indiana Patient Safety Center at the Indiana Hospital Association, said the work of the state's action coalition was a natural fit with what already was being done in Indiana.

"We decided about a year and a half ago at the hospital association to encourage the development of these coalitions to be able to blanket the state of Indiana," Lee said, adding that after coalitions identify common topics of patient safety, they typically send out work teams to work on those issues. "Work teams typically have frontline nurses working with pharmacists and others to try to solve those patient safety issues for a community or region.

"We want to reduce harm to patients, harm that's occurring in hospitals, taking the form of (such things as) infections, falls, pressure ulcers, medication errors or readmissions. My belief is these are strongly linked to the work of a nurse. There's so much that happens in the work environment, we have to create safer systems of care. We can't just rely on individual nurses to be more vigilant."

Lee said one of the most successful of the state's action coalitions has been the Northwest Indiana Patient Safety Coalition in the Greater Chicago region, which formed a partnership with the schools of nursing at Purdue University Calumet in Hammond and Indiana University Northwest in Gary.

PU Calumet School of Nursing Dean Peggy Gerard, RN, PhD, a co-lead on the IAC steering committee, said PU Calumet students were instrumental in the development and implementation of standardized color-coded wristbands for patients throughout northwest Indiana.

Gerard said the first group of students worked to identify the best available evidence regarding color-coded wristbands, came up with recommendations and developed a tool kit for hospitals and teaching materials for staff and for patients and their families. The next semester involved implementing the tool kit at St. Anthony Medical Center in Crown Point.

Gerard said that 2008 project was such a success that it became the catalyst for starting the NWI Patient Safety Coalition. Since then, PU Calumet and IU Northwest students have been involved in many other important patient safety projects. "I think [the IOM report] fits very well with what we're doing," Gerard said. "With that report, they've recommended that nurses learn to work in interprofessional committees and to collaborate to improve patient care. With these projects, students actually get a chance to work with other disciplines.

"One of the other recommendations is that nurses practice to the fullest extent of their education. I think we've really underutilized baccalaureate-prepared nurses in terms of their capabilities to use evidence-based care and to be involved in safety and quality initiatives on a unit level."

Across the border, the Illinois Critical Access Health Network is taking steps to address Future of Nursing recommendations regarding nurse residency programs.

ICAHN is a partner in a new project called SOAR-RN (Supporting Onboarding and Retention of Rural Nurses) through the Marquette University College of Nursing in Milwaukee. The school recently received a three-year, $1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to develop an evidence-based nurse residency program for rural nurses in Illinois, Wisconsin and Idaho.

According to ICAHN, the goal of the project is to enhance the transition of new nurses into rural acute care practice settings. SOAR-RN builds on the success of the Wisconsin Nurse Residency Program, which began in 2004, and preceptor training models in Wisconsin and Idaho.

Marilyn Meyer Bratt, RN, PhD, assistant professor of nursing at Marquette, serves as the project director and primary investigator of the grant.

"Rural hospitals pose unique challenges for new nurses because the hospitals tend to be resource poor and typically lack formal staff development systems to oversee the orientation process and provide longer-term guidance to support new nurses," Bratt said in a news release, noting that in rural areas new nurse turnover can reach 50%. "Due to the limited number of new nurses hired at one time, the ability of small, rural hospitals to provide a structured transitioning program is cost-prohibitive." •

Tom Clegg is a freelance writer.

LEARN MORE about action coalitions across the country online by visiting championnursing.org.


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