By Debra Wood, RN, contributor
May 20, 2011 - Every day, nurses’ skilled observations and interventions make a difference in the lives of patients. But often, nurses in a variety of settings step beyond the expected to advance the profession, to start new programs and to reach out to others to improve lives.
Dean Marvel L. Williamson, Ph.D., RN, CNE, ANEF, has grown the Kramer School of Nursing’s undergraduate and graduate programs.
“Growth is important,” said Marvel L. Williamson, Ph.D., RN, CNE, ANEF, dean of the Kramer School of Nursing at Oklahoma City University, who has more the doubled the nurses educated annually at her school during her 10 year tenure and has come up with innovative solutions to fill available slots with qualified candidates.
“We don’t honor anyone by accepting mediocrity and the status quo,” Williamson added. “There’s an inner drive to constantly be innovating, changing and improving, because things can always be better.”
Recognizing the need for new educational solutions
Although the recession tempered the nursing shortage in some places temporarily, nurses are innovating to bring more people into the profession for the short- and long-term.
Williamson noticed nursing candidates from California began applying at her Oklahoma school about three years ago. She held a focus group with the four or five of them to better understand their motivation, and learned that they considered sitting on the sidelines, waiting to be accepted at a local school, a waste of money. Williamson came up with a “Time is Money” campaign, which succeeded in recruiting about 15 new students.
During her tenure, William also has developed an accelerated bachelor’s program and a variety of graduate level programs.
“It is personally very satisfying,” Williamson said. “Every student touches, before the end of his or her career, thousands of lives and families. You cannot get more impact any other way.”
Mary C. Kamienski, Ph.D, APRNC, FAEN, CEN, developed an NP in emergency care program at the UMDNJ School of Nursing.
Mary C. Kamienski, Ph.D., APRNC, FAEN, CEN, director of faculty and scholarly development-primary care at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey (UMDNJ) School of Nursing in Newark, and an emergency nurse for more than 35 years, noted a need for more nurse practitioners to work in emergency departments; she developed the Family Health Nurse Practitioner in Emergency Care Program at the nursing school. A three-year, $809,000 federal grant from the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) helped bring Kamienski’s vision for the MSN specialty program into reality. The program will graduate its first student in May, and she has multiple job offers.
“I’ve analyzed the system--what is good, what is bad and what needs to be fixed--and come up with my own solutions,” Kamienski said. “I saw a need [for emergency NPs] and a way to meet that need.”
Tony Paterniti, Ph.D., RN, director of education at Methodist Health System in Dallas, has helped that health system employ technology to increase the ranks of nurses.
Tony Paterniti, Ph.D., RN; Kim Griffith, RN, MSN; and Andrea Erwin, RN, MSN, showed fellow educators across the country how they use teleconferencing to teach nursing to students employed by the Methodist Health System in Dallas.
“We’ve built bridges with the state universities,” said Paterniti, describing an online internship curriculum that offers college credits from the University of Texas at Tyler or at Arlington.
In addition, Methodist broadcasts courses to all three of the health system’s facilities, allowing employees and their immediate family members to pursue associate degrees in nursing from El Centro College in Dallas without leaving the hospital campus. A housekeeper and a patient care technician have earned their degrees through the program and now work at the hospital as RNs. Paterniti, Kim Griffith, RN, MSN, and Andrea Erwin, RN, MSN, recently conducted a live teleconference with officials from more than 30 health care organizations in Seattle and Alaska to explain how the Methodist education program works and to offer tips for starting something similar.
Starting new programs
Nurses in clinical practice also innovate, often finding unique ways to meet the needs of their patients.
Angelle Kolle, RN, a staff and charge nurse in the women’s services area at Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital Hurst-Euless-Bedford in Bedford, spends her days caring for women with a range of conditions, from pregnancy to cancer.
Angelle Kolle, RN, championed the Mommies in Waiting program at Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital Hurst-Euless-Bedford.
A bored, teary-eyed mom on bed rest for two months made Kolle realize how stressful lying in bed was for her patients. That motivated her to come up with and champion the “Mommies in Waiting” program, which brings together moms-to-be who are in the hospital on bed rest to socialize, have a massage, watch an educational video, or work on crafts or other activities, without leaving their beds.
“They were so excited,” Kolle said. “They were talking a hundred miles an hour, sharing stories and knowing they were not the only ones on bed rest in the hospital. It was magic.”
The program helps to ease what is a difficult, and often scary, time for families. The women frequently become friends and support each other by phone while in the hospital and after they deliver. Some former patients return to donate craft items for other moms-to-be.
Kristina Cardenas, RN, began a remembrance photography program in the neonatal intensive care unit at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas. Cardenas, who had never changed a diaper before joining the NICU team six years ago, rapidly felt at home caring for the tiniest preemies in the hospital. Many former patients’ families keep in touch, such as a girl now in kindergarten.
Kristina Cardenas, RN, began a remembrance photography program in the NICU at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital, Dallas.
But not all of the babies survive. Three years ago, she learned about an organization that would take photos of dying infants as a keepsake for parents. Cardenas coordinated with the organization and arranged for a professional photographer to come to the hospital and take photos of an infant before taking him off life support.
“The work they do is just beautiful,” she said. “They incorporate the parents, they shoot in black and white, and they touch up the photos and soften them so they are just perfect. The photos help the parents remember, ‘This was our baby, she had a name, she had a place in our lives.’”
Texas Health Dallas NICU now offers the program to every family going through the experience of a dying baby.
Nurses also donate their skills to save and improve the lives of people living in other countries.
Clare Golden, DNP, CRNA, APN, travels to developing countries to administer anesthesia to children with birth defects.
Clare Golden, DNP, CRNA, APN, director of the nurse anesthesia master’s degree program at the UMDNJ School of Nursing and UMDNJ-University Hospital, has made 39 trips to developing nations during the quarter century she has volunteered with the nonprofit Healing the Children organization. Nurse anesthesia students have joined her on recent trips, anesthetizing patients, under her supervision, who are receiving reconstructive surgery for congenital birth defects including cleft lip and palate, or for severe burn scars.
Laura Moriarty, BSN, RN, a pediatric home care nurse with Bayada Nurses of Mount Laurel, N.J., recently ventured on a medical mission to Haiti after the earthquake and looks forward to returning.
“I came back a better person,” Moriarty said. “I realized we don’t need all the superficial items in life.”
Laura Moriarty, BSN, RN, with the patient whose life she saved while volunteering in Haiti.
Moriarty witnessed people in Haiti grateful for food and a roof over their heads. While working at a clinic, a patient wounded months before presented with sepsis. Moriarty quickly triaged the patient, assessed his vital signs, cleaned the wound, started an IV with a blood draw kit and administered antibiotics ordered by the physician. With daily outpatient care, the patient recovered.
“He went from unconscious, with a thready pulse, to being a healthy young man,” Moriarty said. “I’ve dreamed of international nursing, but didn’t realize how much it would change me. I gave myself to them, but I got so much back.”
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