October 27, 2009 11:12 ET

VHA Regional Network Helps Nurses Increase Efficiency and Spend More Time at Patient Bedside

Maryland and North Carolina Hospitals Collaborate to Adapt and Adopt Leading Practices to Provide Better Patient Care and Achieve Greater Satisfaction

IRVING, TX--(Marketwire - October 27, 2009) - Nurses work in a world of broken systems, wasted time and energy, which can be incredibly frustrating and detrimental to patient care. Most national studies show that nurses spend as little as 30 percent of their day engaged in direct patient care activities, and this can contribute to poor patient outcomes in terms of infections and other complications, poor patient and nurse satisfaction and poor quality of care overall. Nurses at hospitals in Maryland and North Carolina decided to do something about this problem, and worked with VHA Inc., the national health care network, to develop work processes that are more patient-centric and create a more efficient work environment.

"This program is a success because the front-line staff nurses, nursing leaders and chief nursing officers at these organizations are inspired to make a difference for their patients, and they've worked to move workflow back to the bedside and broken down barriers that have naturally developed through the years that have taken nurses away from direct patient care," said Crystal Mullis, RN, BSN, MBA, MHA, director of performance improvement for VHA's regional office in Charlotte.

The collaboration project, called Return to Care, began in September 2009 and is ongoing. As a result, several of the hospitals have increased the amount of time nurses spend engaged in direct patient care. One hospital increased nursing time at the bedside by two hours per nurse per 12-hour shift, and many are seeing improved patient satisfaction scores.

At Upper Chesapeake Medical Center, Bel Air, Md., VHA's Return to Care program has enabled nurses to spend an extra hour at the patient bedside per nurse per 12-hour shift. This has helped reduce patient falls, pressure ulcers and medication errors. It has also yielded labor savings and improvements in patient and nursing satisfaction. "This program has become a permanent part of our culture, because we know it works," says Joyce Fox, MS, RN, NEA-BC, vice president of patient services at Upper Chesapeake.

The keys to success were adapting leading practice strategies from VHA's Leading Practice Blueprints™ and Leading Practices Portal™ including:

-- Rounding hourly (purposeful)
-- Conducting bedside shift reports (RN handoff at the bedside)
-- Addressing medication administration inefficiencies
-- Streamlining documentation
-- Minimizing hunting and gathering activities related to equipment,
   supplies and medications
-- Enhancing care coordination communications
  -- Wireless phone technology
  -- Whiteboard Communications
  -- Multi-disciplinary Rounds

The following 16 hospitals are currently participating in the VHA's Return to Care program:

                                       CITY         STATE
High Point Regional                  High Point      N.C.
Nash General                         Rocky Mount     N.C.
Novant Health                        Winston-Salem   N.C.
  Presbyterian Hospital              Charlotte       N.C.
  Presbyterian Matthews              Matthews        N.C.
  Presbyterian Huntersville          Huntersville    N.C.
  Rowan Regional                     Salisbury       N.C.
  Brunswick Community                Supply          N.C.
The University Health System of
 Eastern Carolina
  Pitt County Memorial               Greenville      N.C.
  Bertie Hospital                    Windsor         N.C.
  Chowan Hospital                    Edenten         N.C.
  Duplin Hospital                    Kenansville     N.C.
  Heritage Hospital                  Tarboro         N.C.
  Roanoke-Chowan                     Ahoskie         N.C.
  The Outer Banks Hospitals          Nags Head       N.C.
Upper Chesapeake Medical Center      Bel Air         Md.

VHA's Central Atlantic regional office will be launching a new initiative for hospitals to join this program in January 2010.

To find out more about VHA's efforts to help hospitals improve clinical care, go to:

About VHA

VHA Inc., based in Irving, Texas, is a national network of not-for-profit health care organizations that work together to drive maximum savings in the supply chain arena, set new levels of clinical performance, and identify and implement best practices to improve operational efficiency and clinical outcomes. Formed in 1977, through its 17 regional offices, VHA serves more than 1,400 hospitals and more than 24,000 non-acute care providers nationwide.

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