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Nurses Key to Making Healthcare Better

 |  By  
   December 27, 2011

Nurses made a strong showing in this year's HealthLeaders 20, our annual profile of individuals who are making a difference in healthcare. Four nurses were featured this year, all people who are changing healthcare for the better, and all operating in very different arenas that showcase the many ways nurses make a difference across healthcare.

The public figure
AnnMarie Papa, DNP, RN, is president of the Emergency Nurses Association and has achieved national prominence for her efforts to call attention to the prevalence of hospital violence, especially violence in hospital emergency departments.

Nurses and other healthcare staff are so used to violence from patients and family members that many consider it simply one of the hazards of the job. Healthcare leadership, however, was largely unaware of the scale of the problem until Papa and the ENA shone a light on the statistics and started talking about ways to reduce violence.

ENA published a seminal study in 2009 that revealed one in four nurses in EDs or trauma centers had experienced physical violence more than 20 times in the past three years, and almost one in five had experienced verbal abuse more than 200 times during the same period.

Suddenly the topic was on everyone's lips, The Joint Commission published a sentinel event alert, and healthcare facilities started looking at ways to reduce the risk. Many hospitals now have zero-tolerance policies and the ENA offers a toolkit for hospital administrators to evaluate the safety of their EDs and trauma centers. 

The hospital leader
Robert Donaldson, NPC, is clinical director of emergency medicine at Ellenville Regional Hospital in Ellenville, NY. He is a nurse practitioner and is also president of the hospital's medical staff, sharing ED leadership responsibilities with a medical director.

Under Donaldson's expert leadership, the 25-bed critical access hospital has gone from 8,000 patients a year to 13,000. And it's done so with a staff made up of nurse practitioners and physician assistants.

"We are admitting patients, making money for the hospital, and the hospital is in the black year after year…The hospital has received an award for its emergency department for patient care. What does that say?" says Donaldson.

Rebecca Hendren is a senior managing editor at HCPro, Inc. in Danvers, MA. She edits and manages The Leaders' Lounge blog for nurse managers. Email her at

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