By Jessica Park
When nurses rated Boone Hospital Center one of the best places to work in Missouri on Nurse.org, this was good news not just for the hospital, but for patients and families. When you or a loved one needs medical care, nurses make a big difference.
That difference definitely stood out to Monica Smith, vice president of patient care services and ancillary operations and chief nursing officer, when she had first visited Boone Hospital for a job interview.
“I had always known great things about Boone Hospital Center, but I was really sold when I walked in the door and felt the positive family atmosphere. People smiled at you and greeted you when you were going down the hallway,” Monica says.
Research shows that patients benefit when they receive care from nurses who are educated, experienced and engaged. A compassionate nurse who has excellent communication, teamwork, and critical thinking skills can be a powerful advocate for your health. To improve patient care, Boone Hospital give nurses opportunities for lifelong learning, professional development, and a positive work environment.
“If you have happy and engaged nurses who are positive when they come to work, they’ll want to go the extra mile to provide excellent care, and that will produce excellent outcomes for patients,” Monica says.
With new technological advancements and research emerging every day, nurses must continue learning to stay up-to-date. Registered nurses need an associate’s degree in nursing, but Boone Hospital encourages nurses to earn their bachelors of science in nursing (BSN). Multiple studies show that patients have better outcomes and shorter stays at hospitals where more nurses have their BSN. About 57% of BHC’s 600-plus registered nurses have their bachelors, masters or doctorate in nursing. Boone Hospital Center also has 109 nurses who have earned board certification in a specialty area, reflecting a high level of knowledge, skill and competency in their field.
Boone Hospital Center and BJC HealthCare offer nurses countless learning opportunities. Boone Hospital Foundation funds caregiver education, sending nurses to national conferences and supporting free on-site courses. Employees studying for a nursing degree can apply for BJC nursing scholarships and tuition assistance to help complete their education.
High-performing employees seek opportunities to advance in their career, and nurses are no exception. Boone Hospital Center offers talented, experienced clinical care nurses a career ladder through their Professional Nurse Development Program, or PNDP. Nurses must apply to join the program, to be promoted within the program, and to renew their standing.
“PNDP empowers nurses to engage at the hospital, community and national level, to be recognized for their professional practice, and to be compensated for it, too,” Monica explains.
Nurses also appreciate recognition for a job well done. Boone Hospital has multiple opportunities for nurses to be recognized by colleagues, patients and families, including Employee of the Month, the hospital’s annual Professional Excellence in Nursing Awards, and, most recently, the DAISY Award program.
Nurses who feel connected to the hospital’s mission and purpose are more invested in their roles as caregivers. Shared decision-making gives nurses at every level a chance to make a difference and improve patient care. Unit councils give nurses a forum to recommend practice changes and discuss patient safety, work-life balance, professional development, patient education and other concerns. Unit councils report to core practice councils up to a coordinating council chaired by the chief nursing officer. All nurses have opportunities to serve on these councils and have their voices heard.
“Shared decision-making empowers nurses to make decisions about their own practice,” Monica says. “Nurses at all levels, from the bedside to management, bring forward what’s important in their practice and make changes that impact care. Together, we can make a difference.”
Nurses are more likely to support changes in their practice knowing their peers were involved in the decision-making.
“It’s meaningful to be part of the bigger picture and to have the opportunity to make things better for your patients,” says Velvet Meers, BSN, RN. Velvet serves on the professional development professional practice council and coordinates Boone Hospital’s nurse residency program.
Boone Hospital nurses also improve patient care by doing evidence-based practice, researching clinical evidence and best practices to propose and implement improvements to patient care.
“We definitely encourage nurses to ask themselves why they’re doing something in their practice, and if it could be done better. If you have a burning question or think we might need to change practice, then you can research it and find evidence,” Monica says.
Recently, evidence-based practice resulted in starting skin-to-skin care between mothers and newborns in the delivery room and has improved communication when transferring patients from the emergency department to other units. BHC’s Clinical Research Office assists nurses with their evidence-based practice research.
Attracting and retaining the best nurses is necessary to build a strong patient care team, but the transition from nursing school to caring for patients in a hospital can overwhelm even the brightest graduates; in the United States, 1 in 5 new nurses leave their job during their first year. This rate, however, has shown to be lower at hospitals with nurse residency programs.
“Nurse residency helps the new graduate transition into professional practice and allows nurses to feel connected to their peers, while being professionally supported,” Monica says.
Boone Hospital started its nurse residency program in 2017. Each cohort of new nurse graduates meets monthly for one year to expand their nursing school knowledge with presentations from Boone Hospital nurses and physicians. The program provides peer support and a space to discuss concerns and share experiences. The first cohort of nine nurses completed the program this January and all are still with Boone.
Velvet says that the nurse residency program accustoms new nurses to doing evidence-based practice and getting involved with shared decision-making. “They’re excited to be able to actively make things better for our patients,” she says.
Boone Hospital Center’s many prestigious designations and accolades reflect our high standards for nursing practice and quality care. In 2005, the hospital earned its first of three Magnet® designations from the American Nurses Credentialing Center. The Magnet program recognizes health care organizations that meet the ANCC’s high standards for safe patient care and excellence in nursing practice. Hospitals must re-apply for Magnet designation every 4 years. Boone Hospital is currently one of 471 organizations worldwide to be recognized as a Magnet facility.
“Research has shown that Magnet hospitals have lower rates of falls, pressure ulcer, and central line infections,” Monica explains. “There are better patient outcomes in Magnet hospitals because the rigorous criteria to become Magnet makes us set higher standards, which is what our patients deserve.”
Since the county hospital opened its doors in 1921, nurses have led the way at Boone. The hospital’s first administrator, Lou Eleanor Keely, was a nurse. For over 20 years, Keely led the new hospital through periods of significant change and challenge. Barb Weaver, the first woman elected to the Board of Trustees, was a registered nurse. Another nurse, Jan Beckett, currently serves as a trustee. Many of Boone Hospital Center’s leaders are nurses.
Never content to rest on their laurels, Boone nurses are always looking to the future. In coming decades, the need for nurses will rise as Baby Boomers age and require advanced care. Meanwhile, a third of nurses currently working are over 50 and preparing to retire. The high demand for nurses has resulted in a national shortage.
Whatever the future brings, one thing is certain – Boone Hospital Center nurses will continue to lead the way in providing the best patient care.