NMC Commentary

Has Nurses’ & Staff Input Strengthened NMC as a Workplace?

NMC’s vision calls on us to become a “destination of choice for patients, staff, and medical staff.” I am so proud of the efforts of our staff that have earned NMC repeated national recognition as at “Top 100 Rural & Community Hospital.” To retain top talent and recruit the best candidates so we can continue to provide exceptional care, we are focused on being a top employer as well. Listening to our nurses and our staff and working with them on improvements is a key component of that. Even in busy and challenging times, it is important to reflect on what has been accomplished and celebrate the positive changes made based on input.

Our new Chief Nursing Officer, Deanna Orfanidis, RN, has brought such a positive focus on nursing excellence. I am so pleased our nurses have elected unit representatives for the Clinical Practice Governance Unit-Based Councils as ‘shared governance’ truly comes alive, giving all nurses a voice. I am also pleased that Kate Merchant, RN, has been welcomed as the Family Birth Center Nurse Manager; Kelly Campbell, RN, has been promoted to Clinical Education Manager; and Paula Boylan, RN, has joined us as Interim Nurse Manger of the Progressive Care Unit. I am very proud of the passion for nursing, commitment to best-practice, and engaging energy that these new leaders share.

Professional education continues to improve. Our ASPIRE nurse development program has been re-established. Loan repayment was added to the tuition reimbursement benefit. Our SIM (simulations) lab pilot has been very successful for hands-on training. I am thrilled that construction has started on the permanent SIM lab connected to the new nursing school facility in downtown St. Albans. I am so excited for NMC to partner with Vermont Tech and Community College of Vermont to do even more for our future and current nurses and staff.

We worked through nursing ratios based on nurses’ perspectives and are attentive to it daily. A focus on recruitment, improved staffing patterns, more intentional patient assignments have kept us much closer to our goal of a 1 to 4 ratio for med-surg level patients as we flex to keep patients in our community. It is not easy. We have increased security coverage, established daily Safety Huddles open to all staff, created an interim Safe Holding Room in the ED while we pursue a Certificate of Need to do a comprehensive ED renovation for greater safety and privacy and improved workflow.

Even in tight budget times, we have listened to nurses and our staff and invested in the equipment and resources they need to care for our patients. We have expanded communications with a monthly report on change, a new weekly e-newsletter, my Week-in-Review email, and increased face-to-face rounding and conversations. I have been impressed with how staff have worked through improvements in fairness and consistency, as what seems fair to one person may not make another person happy. The changes clarifying the per diem, low census, shift incentive, and other policies now bring greater transparency, consistency, and fairness.

It has been quite a year. We weathered the challenge of CMS and how we have improved care for the behaviorally challenged patient in our emergency department, earned national Top 100 Rural & Community Hospital recognition, and knocked Joint Commission survey out of the park.
Competitive raises were given, and our strong benefits continue. We continue to work through budget challenges and the journey to an integrated electronic health record. Throughout it all, the commitment of the nurses at NMC to our patients and our community has been unwavering – and NMC’s commitment to our nurses and our entire staff has been equally unwavering. Nurses and staff have given great input and done great work.
NMC has made great change. We are one team, working together – taking care of each other; taking exceptional care of our community. The passion of this team to provide the best care and service inspires me each and every day.

— Jill Berry Bowen, RN, Chief Executive Officer