Your Nurses Can Fix the Hospital

Jennifer Thew, RN, April 1, 2018

Healthcare executives are eager for solutions to the many challenges of running their business. But in their quest for answers, they may be overlooking a large and effective group of change agents already in their midst: nurses.

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This article first appeared in the March/April 2018 issue of HealthLeaders magazine.

Nurses can improve quality and outcomes, enhance an organization's culture, and build relationships with patients, colleagues, and the community—yet to do so, healthcare leadership needs to see them as more than just a cost center.

Three nurse leaders share their thoughts on how nurses can influence change in healthcare and, if given the opportunity, be drivers of innovation.

PROBLEM SOLVING

Profit margins, mergers and acquisitions, reimbursement: There's an enormous focus on these issues in the industry, but they are not the ultimate goals of healthcare.

"When all is said and done, our mission is caring for people, and the ones who care for people, primarily, are the nurses," Maggie Fowler, RN, BSN, MBA, NEA-BC, system vice president and chief nursing officer for St. Louis–based SSM Health. "It's not saying that our physicians, pharmacists, respiratory therapists, and all the other disciplines don't—in an acute hospital setting, it's definitely a team effort—but when most people go home, the nurses are still the ones there who are assessing the plan of care. They're the primary communicator in most situations."

Nurses also maintain near-constant contact with patients. Fowler says there are about 40,000 employees at SSM, with nurses making up one-third of the total workforce.

"When all is said and done, our mission is caring for people, and the ones who care for people, primarily, are the nurses."

Maggie Fowler, RN, BSN, MBA, NEA-BC, system vice president and chief nursing officer, St. Louis–based SSM Health

In SSM's hospital settings, 50%–60% of the workforce are nurses. This connection lets nurses understand the challenges patients face and develop solutions to promote optimal care.

"Nurses are problem-solvers. The cycle of change in healthcare over the last couple of years has been so rapid. We need [nurses'] eyes and ears to help us recognize how we can improve not only the care in a hospital setting, but in an ambulatory setting and all the places where care is going to be delivered going forward," Fowler says.

Jennifer Thew, RN

Jennifer Thew, RN, is the senior nursing editor at HealthLeaders Media.

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