July 18, 2003

Nurse Wellness Committee improves safety at VUMC

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Dr. Mark A. Magnuson uses genetically engineered mice to study the enzyme glucokinase. (Dean Dixon)

Nurse Wellness Committee improves safety at VUMC

VUMC’s Nurse Wellness Committee is making some changes to increase safety for nurses and other Vanderbilt employees around campus, after hearing concerns from some of the late-night staff.

Leah Golden, M.Ed., RN, Nurse Educator and co-chair of the Nurse Wellness Committee, said many nurses complained about safety for the shifts leaving or arriving to work in the dark.

“We heard concerns over nurses going to their cars alone late at night, some walk to garages, others have a long walk to the various lots,” said Golden.

Golden said a sub-committee formed to address safety issues and set off for a night walk around campus with members from VUPD and Facilities Management. What did they find?

“Some areas were dark. Poor lighting was an issue. At Jess Neely, by the stadium, the areas near garages weren’t well lit, some emergency phones weren’t well marked, and some bushes needed trimming to make it safer,” Golden said.

According to Golden, within a week of the nighttime safety tour, Facilities Management had trimmed the bushes, and added an additional optical mirror to a blind corner in Capers garage. Facilities management is also working with the city to place additional streetlights on Jess Neely, in an effort to improve lighting in that area. Golden said on their tour, it was pointed out that all Vanderbilt garages are equipped with security cameras, and each floor has an emergency phone. She said as part of the safety improvements, better marking for the emergency phones will be installed.

Aside from the safety issues outside of the Medical Center, she said nurses have raised concerns over safety inside the hospital.

“Violence within the workplace is a problem. Patient on nurse, disgruntled spouse, and patient/family interaction … we’ve had some problems in waiting rooms late at night,” said Golden.

“It’s our feeling that nurses are receiving a lot of emotional abuse and learning where to draw the line and still provide customer service is not something that’s really taught in nursing school.” She said the committee is working on ways to help educate employees on dealing with escalating situations.

The committee is also in the process of developing some educational handouts with safety advice from VUPD. Golden said the combined efforts to improve safety issues raised by nurses will only spread to others around Vanderbilt.

“This will not only benefit nurses, but our patients and families as well.”

The Nurse Wellness Committee will continue working with VUPD, Patient Affairs, Facilities Management, Employee Relations, the PHV, Risk Management and Work-Life Connections EAP to make safety improvements.

Nurse Wellness Committee programs and activities

•Established in May 2002 to promote mental, physical and emotional wellness of nurses at VUMC.

•Advises the Nurse Wellness Program established by Work/Life Connections (formerly the Employee Assistance Program) to help nurses with psychological counseling, referral to community resources and departmental workshops. For more information, call 936-1327.

•Sponsors a fair during Nurses’ Week to connect nurses with various campus and community resources.

•Sponsors the “Take a Break” campaign to encourage nurses not to skip work breaks.

•Works with campus police and the grounds department on measures to improve nighttime campus safety.

•Aligned with the Smooth Moves Committee, helping nurses and other staff to avoid injury when moving patients.

•Preparing to host the first nurse wellness national conference, scheduled for October 2004.

•Upcoming initiatives include personal safety training for nurses, and wellness education for nurses over 40.

•Includes 12 nurses from throughout the hospital and clinic; co-chaired by Pat Chenger, administrative director, Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital, and Leah Golden, nurse educator, 7 south/MICU.

— Paul Govern