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Where Nurses Innovate

On nursing innovation units, LVHN nurses design ways to enhance patient care.

Not long ago, every time a patient rang their call bell, a nurse had to log out of the workstation, respond to the patient, then return to the computer and log back in. This tedious process required nurses on Lehigh Valley Hospital (LVH)–Cedar Crest’s 6C medical-surgical unit to re-enter their 16-digit passcode over and over throughout a shift. They wanted a better, more efficient way, and they found it because 6C is a nursing innovation unit.

The purpose of Lehigh Valley Health Network’s (LVHN) nursing innovation unit program is to implement staff-generated ideas – big and small – that make everyday life easier.

The tap-and-lock solution

To save time on 6C, the team implemented Tap and Lock. Now, with the use of badge readers, nurses need only sign in one time during an entire 12-hour shift. “Using badge readers is so much easier,” says Lee Bowman, MSN, RN, Clinical Informaticist. “It’s a huge nursing satisfier and valuable tool that also improves patient safety and privacy.”

Two other units are now equipped with this technology. Soon, Tap and Lock will be available on all workstations across LVH–Cedar Crest.

Never-ending improvement

Based on the concept of Kaizen, where small, continual improvements are seen as the secret to long-term success, LVHN’s nursing innovation units are especially attuned to the needs of nurses and technicians. LVHN has three nursing innovation units – 6C at LVH–Cedar Crest, the cardiovascular telemetry unit at LVH–Pocono and 6T at LVH–Muhlenberg. As of March 2024, more than 41 pilot projects have been completed on these units with another 50 projects underway.

“We can find ways to improve efficiency and workload, and alleviate stress for our teams,” Bowman says. His responsibilities include evaluating and entering staff requests and putting processes in place to move forward with pilot projects.

A new approach to preceptors

The transition from student nurse to practicing professional can be daunting. That’s why the team on LVH–Muhlenberg’s nursing innovation unit embarked on the implementation of a completely new preceptor program designed to provide structured support and guidance to nurses during their critical transition period. With a focus on empowerment and confidence-building, the program aimed to equip preceptors with the tools to effectively mentor new nurses, ensuring they felt supported and capable in their roles from day one.

One nurse emerged as a shining example of the program’s efficacy. Paired with a dedicated preceptor, the nurse navigated her transition with newfound confidence and competence. From mastering patient assignments to honing critical-thinking skills, she embraced every aspect of her orientation with enthusiasm. The structured progression, from managing two patients to a full load under the watchful guidance of her preceptor, allowed this nurse to develop her skills incrementally while maintaining a safety net of support.

This experience highlights the transformative power of consistent mentorship and support during the crucial early stages of a nurse’s career. The sense of connection and belonging she cultivated within her unit fostered a nurturing environment where she felt comfortable seeking guidance and support whenever needed. This level of support was a stark departure from her previous roles and underscored the importance of a robust preceptor program in empowering nurses to thrive.

Consistency and collaboration

Using this innovation framework, the LVH–Pocono cardiovascular telemetry unit team transformed its unit in several ways. The biggest project was a redesign of its supply closets. With two closets on either end of the floor, staff members used to walk from one end of the unit to the other to get equipment for patient care. By reorganizing the closets based on which supplies are used most, they are now laid out in the most efficient way for staff.

Since the program began, the cardiovascular telemetry unit has completed the most projects out of all three nursing innovation units. “We all work together,” says Farah Carter, Patient Care Manager. “This program allows nurses to give us their input on a regular basis so their voices are heard.”

Other projects are simple fixes and show how nurses are always advocating for patients. After hearing feedback from patients about the availability of snacks and food, the team purchased a refrigerator and stocked it with a variety of tasty, nutritious meals. Now patients and guests have options when the kitchen is closed.

“We see patient satisfaction scores go up the more we address things like this,” says Lissette Lanigan, BSN, RN, Director of Clinical Services at LVH–Pocono’s cardiovascular telemetry unit.

A strong spirit of collaboration

Patients who visit the hospital, even for a short stay, can end up being discharged to a nursing facility because they are immobile. The mobility project is another successful pilot project that introduced the services of a mobility technician. Now, patients are required to move three times a day to maintain their physical function. As a result, they’ve seen a decrease in length of stay, with more patients being discharged to home rather than to a nursing facility.

Every two weeks, the innovation team managers and committee members from all three campuses meet to discuss projects underway and share creative ideas. “This program gives staff a great platform to share their ideas,” Lanigan says. “We have a board in our hallway that shows what projects are completed and which ones are in progress.”

What’s more, she adds, if your innovation idea goes live, you can put that on your resume.

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