Michelle Manuel, RN, BSN, prepares a patient for an IV stick at Bristol Regional Medical Center.
Open the “letters to the editor” section in newspapers and you are bound to read comments from a former hospital patient or family member about a nurse or other caregiver who demonstrated a high level of care.
It happens all of the time, and it is not surprising. After all, nurses, licensed practical nurses, and patient care technicians spend a considerable amount of time with patients and are likely to impact a patient’s care in a meaningful way.
Wellmont Health System, headquartered in Kingsport, Tenn., recognizes the important role these bedside caregivers play in healing a patient and has increased staffing levels to ensure patients are receiving the attention they deserve. In the last fiscal year, Wellmont added 75 registered nurses, 11 licensed practical nurses, and 74 patient care technicians to direct patient-care roles.
Wellmont’s investment cost millions of dollars in salaries and benefits, but Denny DeNarvaez, president and CEO, said the hirings reflect the organization’s mission to deliver superior care with compassion.
“For more than a year, Wellmont has focused increasingly on creating a comprehensive healing environment at all its hospitals and other medical facilities,” DeNarvaez said. “Our nurses play an integral role in fostering this advanced care model and making a positive difference in the lives of patients.”
Wellmont’s Healing Environment is a philosophy of care that takes into account more than physical ailments that afflict patients. The system's caregivers are empowered to explore other situations – physical, mental or spiritual – that are impacting a patient’s life and to find ways to help him or her resolve them.
Delivering this extra layer of care can be as simple as talking to a patient or as complex as working through myriad and complex issues causing him or her difficulty. This can result in a significant investment in time, and Wellmont leaders understood that that meant the system needed to help with staffing to ensure patient needs were being met.
“This bolstering of our staffing has enhanced our care levels and is consistent with our culture of patient safety at Wellmont,” DeNarvaez said. “In addition to increasing the amount of time our caregivers spend with patients, it has improved the working environment of our nursing staff. Wellmont is proud to back up its commitment to patients with the necessary resources to employ sufficient caregivers.”
Tracey Moffatt, Wellmont’s chief operating officer, said the additions to the nursing staff made sense.
“Our improved nurse-to-patient ratio is consistent with best-practice staffing throughout the nation,” Moffatt said. “This leads to better patient outcomes as well as improved satisfaction in our clinical staff. Increasing our staffing levels at the bedside was simply the right move to make.”
DeNarvaez said Wellmont is also interested in nurses joining the profession for the first time, as they bring fresh perspectives to the patient care setting.
Wellmont showed its commitment to the nursing profession recently when the Lonesome Pine Community Fund donated $25,000 to the University of Virginia-Wise. The donation provided funds for nursing students to receive beneficial training in real-life clinical scenarios.
The money enabled UVa-Wise to obtain software featuring a virtual patient that can react in different ways depending on the type of treatment the student concludes is appropriate. It gives students the chance to see the effect of their choices.
College students are not the only people to benefit. The college agreed to share the software with nurses in Wellmont’s Mountain Region, which encompasses hospitals and other facilities in Southwest Virginia.
“We share the same desire to have the best-trained nurses, and this innovative software will give the college and Wellmont an extra tool to elevate care that our patients receive,” said David Brash, vice president of the Mountain Region and president of Mountain View Regional Medical Center in Norton and Lonesome Pine Hospital in Big Stone Gap. “Our financial assistance is another example of our passion to deliver the best care possible for residents of Southwest Virginia. Our nurses perform sensational work at the bedside and make a tremendous difference in our patients’ quality of life. Their skill ensures that our patients will continue to receive outstanding care well into the future.”