December 9, 2010

Continuing education plan drives nursing unit’s success

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Taking part in a weekly educational session in the Emergency Department of the Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt are, from left, James Boldizsar, Mia Bransford, R.N., Maria Johnson, R.N., E.M.T., Carmen McMillan and (foreground) Jennifer Gaskins, R.N. (photo by Susan Urmy)

Continuing education plan drives nursing unit’s success

The health care team in the Emergency Department at the Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt stands ready to provide the best possible care to sick or injured children.

The well-educated nursing staff helps makes this possible and is an example of why Vanderbilt University Medical Center is worthy of a second Magnet designation.

More than 53,000 patients each year come to the Pediatric ED. The 100 full-time licensed nurses and paramedics have to be prepared for a wide variety of acuity levels and many different plans of care, ranging from critical to non-urgent.

“I don't apologize for our high standards because when you are caring for people's children, it's a privilege,” said Kate Copeland, B.S.N., R.N., nurse manager. “Our patients and their families expect a nursing staff prepared for every scenario. It can be challenging, but it's worth it.”

The department's culture is perhaps best embodied by its Specialized Trauma and Critical Care Team (STACC), an 11-member nurse committee that develops weekly educational sessions based on input from rounding and patient trends.

Working months in advance, the STACC committee members rotate leaders to plan, research and lead a four-part presentation on a specific monthly theme, such as burns or sports injuries. Each presentation covers a specific condition, associated equipment and a corresponding medication.

The presentations typically start at the nurses' station with two or three nurses at a time for about 15 minutes, and then cycle throughout the entire department during three shifts every Monday. That way, all of the nurses can learn during their regular shift, rather than staying late or coming in early.

“It's a big satisfier that the STACC presentations come to the nurses,” said Amber Greeno, B.S.N., R.N., nurse educator. “Our staff appreciates any education opportunities while they are working and the patient census allows.”

The team is expecting increased cases of RSV, asthma and bronchial illnesses during the winter months, so the most recent STACC presentations focused on types of respiratory emergencies, how to use respiratory equipment and the medication terbutaline.

Nurses participated in a pre-test, listened to a short presentation, had an opportunity to ask questions and even had a chance to learn more about specific equipment. Post-tests typically show significantly increased understanding of the given topic.

“Preparing and educating our nurses in a comfortable peer setting prepares them for fast-acting, quick-thinking situations when our patients need it most,” said Greeno.

Topics for upcoming presentations include pediatric strokes, rare diseases and mock codes.

The STACC program started in 2008 and continues to evolve. The committee hopes to develop more comprehensive presentations and even create a critical care class to help the nursing team enhance their critical thinking skills.

“It was a great program to begin with and it's only gotten better with time and new members who have brought new energy,” said Greeno. “This peer education is a huge satisfier with staff and part of the reason we are known as a place that helps develop forward-thinkers.”