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NMMC focuses attention on ‘continually improving’ staff

Tupelo — Given nurses’ vital role in patient care, North Mississippi Medical Center (NMMC) has initiated its own Outcomes College, a two-day educational and developmental program for staff nurses employed at NMMC’s Tupelo campus.

Oriented for RNs at the main hospital, the Women’s Hospital and Behavioral Health in Tupelo, the initiative was launched in spring 2003, according to Patti McCue, NMMC vice president and chief nursing executive. As the program continues in its development, McCue said that it will be expanded to include RNs in NMMC’s community hospitals in Mississippi and Alabama.

“We live in a time in healthcare where your typical consumer is more educated and interested in quality outcomes,” McCue said. “The only way you achieve the best clinical outcome is by continually improving your staff and keeping your staff informed of the changes impacting healthcare.”

McCue said that RNs have a unique role in healthcare in an acute-care setting given the interaction that they have with patients. “It’s where the rubber meets the road in nursing care,” McCue added.

McCue said that the concept emerged after she and NMMC managers Jan Englert and Donna Lewis and NMMC chief medical officer Ken Davis, M.D., discussed the possibility of an effort which emphasized the linkage between care delivery and outcomes management, as well as the RN’s role as manager of a plan of care and RN empowerment and critical-thinking skills.

“We sat down and started thinking about the future and the important role that nurses play in achieving the best outcomes,” McCue said. “Outcomes College emerged from those discussions.”

To date, approximately 400 RNs have benefited from Outcomes College. Obviously, quality in patient care is a paramount goal. Outcomes College hopes to reinforce this goal by continuing to advance the knowledge base of RNs regarding outcomes; by advancing nursing practice at NMMC; and by increasing RNs’ satisfaction in their work environment by creating a highly desirable practice and clinical training environment. McCue added that Outcomes College aims to give RNs the big-picture perspective in terms of how various processes flow to benefit patients in their care.

“We want people to be able to step back and look at the overall patient progression and take the nurse out of a `task’ mentality,” McCue observed, noting that Outcomes College also aims to focus on nurses’ understanding of what empowerment means and how critical-thinking skills and decision-making are reinforced.

In order to avoid distractions, the program is held at the Advanced Education Center in Tupelo. NMMC staff teach the first day, while three Mississippi University for Women nursing instructors teach on the second day, according to McCue.

Various surveys are used at the beginning of Outcomes College and afterward to determine baseline knowledge of outcomes management, as well as empowerment. McCue said that program participants are also re-surveyed one year after their completion of the course. She said that feedback has been positive and that participants have expressed an appreciation for “the content and concepts that we are trying to get across.”

While coordination of such an effort requires a great deal of planning and work on an ongoing basis and other nurses have to be dispatched while participants are in the program, McCue said that Outcomes College makes a statement about the organization’s commitment to quality.

“This is truly an investment in developing our people,” McCue said. “Since its inception, we have had other disciplines within our system request to attend Outcomes College. As we progress, we hope that we can continue to make it more collaborative and interdisciplinary.”

As further testimony to its effectiveness, several other medical institutions have asked about the program as members of their staff have learned about it. The next Outcomes College will be offered early next year.

Contact MBJ contributing writer Karen Kahler Holliday at mbj@msbusiness.com.

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