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Nurses Are the Connectors of the Patient Experience

September 1, 2020
When Vanessa Velez took her dream job as Director of the H. Norman Baetjer, Jr. and Jeanne H. Baetjer Center for Nursing Excellence at GBMC in December 2019, she did not realize it would include leading through a global pandemic. Despite the unexpected challenges, her vision for how to support nurses hasn’t changed.

COVID-19 shed a light on how important, and often underappreciated, nurses and other frontline hospital workers can be. Support from the community during the pandemic through the GBMC HealthCare Workers Fund and before the pandemic through nursing education has been a critical resource for nurses and the Center for Nursing Excellence. It has also served as a tangible reminder to Vanessa and her team of how invested the community is in supporting GBMC.

“Since coronavirus, the way the community has supported us: sending meals to staff in different units, reaching out with words of support, it is an extraordinary time in the hospital and every little bit of support you hear about bolsters you,” Vanessa said.

GBMC’s Center for Nursing Excellence provides continuous improvement and educational opportunities for nursing staff to advance their knowledge, develop their skillset and elevate themselves to the top of their licensure. For Vanessa, that vision looks like ensuring “my department is a support to nurses who are at the bedside every day. What we need to be able to do is walk with every nurse here and help them so that they can come to work and know they’re going to have a patient assignment that fits their scope of practice and their skillset.”

That starts with the Center for Nursing Excellence providing nurses with the resources, education and support they need so, at the end of each day, every GBMC nurse can go home feeling they were able to offer the best care possible.

Like most areas, the Center for Nursing Excellence pivoted when coronavirus hit. Chelsea Woodell, MSN, APRN-CNS, ACCNS-AG, CCRN-K and Lindsey Tehansky, BSN, RN, CCRN, are two of seven education specialists within the Center for Nursing Excellence who worked together to quickly design and implement two training pathways to provide nurses with the necessary skills to work in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) or Medical/Surgical (Med/Surg) Unit regardless of their current specialty. This training program increased GBMC’s medical surgical and ICU nursing capacity by 14%, making more nurses ready for bedside care in the event of a surge.

This work is just one way Vanessa and her team ensure all nurses have the skills and resources they need, regardless of the situation or expectations.

Vanessa said, moving forward, “a significant goal I have for the department is to increase the number of nurse educators so they can be deeply embedded in their units and really be a part of the unit’s daily flow, supporting their practice as it’s changing around us. Another thing we’re looking at developing is a solid, streamlined orientation program for different levels of nurses. For example, we would like to develop a really solid package so every nurse coming to GBMC who is new to specialty in an area will know the program they’re going to follow, what the week-by-week goals and expectations are, and how communication is going to go. In general, we need more people, so that they can do highly focused work, instead of being pulled in so many different directions.”

More than any other time in history, nurses are the connectors that hold the patient experience together. Present throughout the continuum of a patient’s care, nurses serve as advocates for patients and their families, which means education, resources and support are critical to ensure they have all the necessary tools to carry out that role. To that end, support for nursing education takes care of nurses and patients alike.

“We want to be a good steward of our resources, but it’s hard to be a good steward of our financial resources without being a good steward of our human capital as well,” Vanessa said. “Nurses in units need care, they need support, they need investment and a department like mine is a significant investment in nursing care at the bedside.”

Vanessa is confident the community will continue to step up to support nurses. Especially as they bear witness to the hard work and dedication these women and men make to the profession even during dire circumstances.

“I think GBMC is a great community hospital. We’ve seen it so clearly here,” Vanessa said. “We serve this community and the community serves us in return. They show up for us in the same way that we show up for them.”
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