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Pascack Valley CNO reflects on year since HackensackUMC hospital opened

Wednesday August 13, 2014
Susan Giordano, RN, (second from right) works with her staff.
Susan Giordano, RN, (second from right) works with her staff.
(Photo courtesy of HackensackUMC)
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Despite a six-year wait that included a bankruptcy filing by the former Pascack Valley Hospital and a court battle from competing facilities to keep it closed, HackensackUMC at Pascack Valley in Westwood, N.J., reopened June 1, 2013, thanks in part to the work of CNO Susan Giordano, RN, BSN, MBA, NEA-BC, FACHE, and her team.

“It has been a challenge of a lifetime,” said Giordano, who oversees 236 part-time and full-time staff members plus 108 per-diem staff at the 128-bed facility.
The facility received the first license since 1984 for a new hospital in the state, according to HackensackUMC’s website.

On the occasion of the one-year anniversary of the hospital’s reopening, Giordano answered questions from Nurse.com about the experience.

Q: As a nurse, what have been the most rewarding aspects of the new facility?

Giordano: It’s hard to capture and understand what we had to go through. We did not inherit any employees. We got to hand-select every individual employee from the beginning. We could find the right personality that we’re looking for here, assuming skill and expertise is already there. We’re able to let everyone work to the fullest extent of their licensure. We’re doing everything that needs to be done with our own talent. That was really — for us — very, very rewarding.


Q: What has impressed you about the nursing staff during the past year?

Giordano: We did have some turnover in leadership. With our staff, somebody somewhere would step up to the challenge and say, “Let me take on some additional responsibility.”
We were writing policies and procedures without patients present in the hospital because the paperwork needed to be in place prior to opening. Once we opened, we realized some policies and procedures we wrote couldn’t be actualized. We were constantly going back and revising. That really came directly from the staff.
The clinical people knew for the first six months their job was to build every screen and template in our electronic health records so when we opened, they would be the super-users or gurus. They would be able to tweak the screens and the documentation tools to match the needs of the patients we were serving. They did an incredible job.


Q: What lessons have you learned that you can share with other nurse leaders?

Giordano: The leadership team is present in the clinical setting. Any leader is there to support any staff member. If you don’t have an open, honest, trusting relationship with your leadership, you’re doomed.
We have informal leaders on each unit. It’s a very accountable type of environment and organization. We recognize and reward that. Because it’s a new hospital, we have a lot of growth opportunity for staff. When we know someone is stepping up or taking on additional responsibility, that person gets support from everyone in the house. Everyone steps out of the boundaries, and we all really support each other.


Q: What successes do you attribute to the nursing staff?

Giordano: Our emergency room, when we first opened our doors, was not managed well. We had really poor outcomes initially. The hospital rallied around the emergency department because all of us had a stake in it. We had a major, major turnaround. Every single metric that you can imagine has completely turned around. For example, our emergency department door-to-provider wait times are averaging only 20 minutes.
Whether you look at core measures or patient satisfaction, any of the quality, clinical type of outcomes, all have tremendously improved.
[Nurses’] voices are heard, and it’s kind of contagious.


Q: How did the nursing teams celebrate the anniversary?

Giordano: We [had] a cake-cutting ceremony and recognition internally with employees. But we really focused our time and energy on recognizing staff during Hospital Week and National Nurses Week (in May).
During Nurses Week, we had every department do a poster about what they did during the year based on patient safety goals. During Hospital Week, all departments did their own paper chain link and wrote a staff member’s name in it. Each staff member wrote what is positive or a good attribute of the employee, then we linked all of those together as an organization and put them down in our cafeteria.
We want to focus on our outcomes and our quality and the patients.

Karen Long is a freelance writer.


To comment, email editorNY@nurse.com.
Fact sheet

April 18, 2012: Date of official “wall-breaking” ceremony

May 2013: HackensackUMC at Pascack Valley receives the first license New Jersey has granted to a new hospital since 1984

128: Number of all-private rooms at the facility

300: Construction workers who took part in the project

June 1, 2013: Hospital officially opens to patients

218: Total number of RNs employed

641: Total number of HackensackUMC at Pascack Valley employees

Source: HackensackUMC