NMC Commentary

What is the new nurse practice model at Northwestern Medical Center?

The new model is called Clinical Practice Governance. Simply put, it provides NMC’s nurses with a more direct voice in their clinical practice and decisions regarding improvements in patient care. They are currently electing representatives from their units and practices to serve on the Clinical Practice Governance Council. NMC’s new Chief Nursing Officer (CNO), Deanna Orfanidis, RN, has strong expertise in this proven decision-making model where the quality of care and competence of the practitioners is ‘owned’ by the nurses. This is just one of many advances that our nurses and nursing leadership have worked through in the past few months. I am excited by the engagement of our nurses in the improvements and the direction they are headed.

Clinical Practice Governance directly supports the work carried out by our nurses and clinical staff at the point of care. The elected representatives on the various councils work with the unit managers to investigate, discuss, and address matters relating to the practice of nursing, operational processes of the departments/practices, and communications. This model will expand to include hospital-wide committees working on quality initiatives, clinical education, and professional practice development. I am pleased that there has been strong interest among the nursing staff in being involved.

At the same time, we have been able to act on many suggestions from the nurses and other NMC staff that have improved our work environment and advanced patient care. We now hold daily Safety Huddles to foster collaboration and ensure staff have the resources and support they need. We established an interim Safe Holding Room in the Emergency Department for the care of patients suffering from severe mental health concerns and have submitted our Certificate of Need for the modernization of the ED. We created a new Infusion Clinic. Surgical Services is revamping their workflows to streamline care for ambulatory surgery patients. We have improved staffing through continued recruitment and retention efforts. This has included referral incentives, re-establishment of our ASPIRE program for new nurses, and expanding the tuition reimbursement benefit to include educational loan repayment. We have maintained our focus on our staffing ratio goals. The fluctuations in census remain a staffing challenge, so we have invested in cross-training staff and updated our Low Census policy and our Shift Incentive policy. We have increased consistency and parity in our pay practices. We have invested in updated equipment, including beds, monitors, and ventilators. We have strengthened leadership and professional development with the addition of Kate Merchant, RN, as Family Birth Center Nurse Manager and Kelly Campbell, RN, as Clinical Education Manager and we are actively recruiting for a Progressive Care Unit Nurse Manager.

NMC is also investing in the nurses of the future by partnering with Vermont Tech and Community College of Vermont to expand a nursing program into downtown St. Albans. Construction work is just starting on the new facility at the corner of Congress & Main Streets. Adults looking to enter the nursing career and students right out of high school will soon be able to complete their nursing training in Franklin County. The new facility will have a high-tech simulation lab for clinical education and embedded wellness services for the students and the community. We are looking forward to having some NMC nurses on the faculty!

The new Clinical Practice Governance model, the other advancements, and the partnership in the nursing program are part of an exciting new day in nursing at NMC. As a nurse myself, I am thankful for the passion and engagement of the nurses on our team to move forward.

— Jill Berry Bowen, RN, NMC’s Chief Executive Officer