August 31, 2007

Staff councils seek nurses’ input

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Marilyn Dubree, executive chief nursing officer, and Ann Cross, administrator of Vanderbilt Psychiatric Hospital, right, talk with nurses at last week’s staff council meeting. (photo by Dana Johnson)

Staff councils seek nurses’ input

Nicole Hutcherson, left, and Leslie Smith work on their surveys at the Psychiatric Hospital nursing staff council meeting last week. (photo by Dana Johnson)

Nicole Hutcherson, left, and Leslie Smith work on their surveys at the Psychiatric Hospital nursing staff council meeting last week. (photo by Dana Johnson)

Nurses at Vanderbilt University Medical Center's hospitals and clinics now have a new way to make their voices heard.

This fall, Nursing Staff Advisory Councils are forming in the Vanderbilt Psychiatric Hospital, the Vanderbilt Medical Group, Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt and Vanderbilt University Hospital. These four councils will advise nursing administration on issues affecting patient care and work-life issues.

“This concept is reflective of our new nursing bylaws,” said Marilyn Dubree, M.S.N., R.N., executive chief nursing officer. “We all saw an opportunity for a new communication structure that would involve more nurses, address the different challenges of individual areas and provide continuity throughout the Medical Center.”

Vanderbilt Psychiatric Hospital (VPH) was the first group to form. At a kick-off meeting last week, Dubree and VPH Chief Executive Officer Ann Cross, M.S., R.N., addressed the Nursing Staff Council members assembled.

“I'm so proud of our nurses,” said Cross. “They have worked hard to develop this group and are pioneers.”

Each council will develop its own charter, meeting objectives and schedule. Groups will range in size from 10 to 30 participants, depending on the specific entity within the Medical Center.

One key element of the new structure is that direct care nurses will serve as co-chairs of each of the councils. In the case of the VPH council, Pat Dusel, R.N., and Nicole Hutcherson, R.N., are co-chairs, supported by the director of Shared Governance and an organizational development consultant from The Learning Center.

Many issues raised in staff councils will be addressed internally or shared with appropriate nursing leaders via the Nursing Administrative Board, Nursing Leadership Board and other forums.

“I think it's wonderful that nurses can have a voice in this way,” said VPH's Hutcherson. “We can all come together to get different opinions and discuss issues that are specific to our patients and our group.”

First on its agenda, the VPH Staff Council wants to enhance its communication within the hospital, with the Medical Center and in the community.

Additional Nursing Staff Councils will form this fall.

The Vanderbilt Medical Group outpatient nurses are scheduled to have their first council meeting in late September.

The Children's Hospital (inpatient and outpatient nurses) and VUH (inpatient, perioperative and procedural nurses) councils will each meet in December.

Next spring, all councils will come together for the first VUMC Nursing Staff Council with Dubree and other nursing leaders.