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A road worth traveling: Mariners Hospital achieves Pathway to Excellence designation

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It was high-fives all around at Florida’s Mariners Hospital in July, when nurses there learned the facility had become the first in Florida to achieve the Pathway to Excellence designation from the American Nurses Credentialing Center. And in May, several of them will be able share their techniques for not only meeting the designation’s standards but also receiving 12 exemplars of best practices, at the ANCC’s Pathways to Excellence annual conference in Baltimore.

“It’s an awesome designation,” Dawn Kressly, RN, MSN, Magnet project director for Mariners Hospital, a 25-bed critical access hospital in Tavernier, Fla., in the Florida Keys, said. “It’s a feel-good for nurses and captures the environment of the hospital and how it promotes excellence in nursing. [Pathway] had a lot of areas where we could demonstrate excellence and quality. It promotes a positive environment where the nurses could flourish. It fit our organization and what we had in place.”

The Pathway to Excellence program recognizes organizations for positive practice environments in which nurses excel. The program began in Texas as the Texas Nurse Friendly Hospital initiative in 2003; ANCC took it over in 2007 and spent two years developing the current 12 standards. Mariners Hospital’s 18-month journey involved an on-site review and a survey.

“Our staff were so excited,” Cheryl Cottrell, RN, BSN, MHSA, NE-BC, the hospital’s CNO, said. “The [Preparing the Pathway] document helped us see all of the wonderful things we took for granted and helped them realize we are good and give great patient care.”

The Pathway program’s standards consider work-life balance, compensation, benefits, governance, workplace safety, orientation, professional development opportunities, recognition for nurses’ achievements, collaborative relationships, the use of evidence-based practice, and the competency and qualifications of nursing leadership. “Pathway has some of the same pieces that Magnet has,” Kressly said.

In 12 instances, Mariners Hospital demonstrated best practices within certain standards. It received exemplars for its mass-casualty drills and ergonomic and safe handling programs under Standard 2: The Work Environment is Safe and Healthy. It also received two exemplars for being in the top 10% of the country in core measures and being a Leapfrog-recognized hospital under Standard 12: A Quality Program & Evidence-Based Practice are Used.

For the ANCC Pathway to Excellence Conference presentation in May, the nurses interviewed the human resources director, nurses and other staff members about their participation in the journey and what it means to them. Although the designation represents nursing, Cottrell considers it a hospitalwide accomplishment, since every department contributing to excellence in patient care. The presentation’s videotaped responses were unscripted. “I asked them to speak from the heart,” Kressly said. “It’s the people that make an organization. It’s employees validating things in place in the organization. When you hear it from someone on the front line, you know it’s right.”

Kressly said she expects Pathway will take off as more hospitals learn about it. It’s less costly than Magnet but still demonstrates the hospital values and supports its nurses and provides a work environment that promotes excellence in patient care, which Cottrell said could help with recruitment.

Mariners Hospital plans to keep “plugging away” on the Magnet journey, Kressly said, but in the meantime, the Pathway designation has “affirmed and demonstrated to the community and the hospital system to which we belong our commitment to excellence.”

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Debra Anscombe Wood, RN, is a freelance writer. Post a comment below or email editorSouth@Nurse.com.

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