From pro tips on night shift mentoring to the latest in nurse safety, my time at the 2019 ANCC National Magnet Conference® was another educational and action-packed week. Joining more than 10,000 nurses and healthcare professionals in Orlando, FL, I came home with more ideas than ever to help PRC clients make nursing excellent for themselves, their coworkers, and their patients. I was especially struck by the innovative ideas surrounding compassion fatigue, the attention finally being given to workplace violence, and new ideas for how hospitals can optimally hire and retain excellent nurses.
I’m not unfamiliar with the growing awareness of violence in the workplace, especially abuses against nurses. ER nurse and safety advocate Linda Robinson recently spoke as a guest on the PRCcast Mondays with Mel giving two great in-depth interviews about first her experience with violence in the ER and then the legal action she took to combat it. But there’s something uniquely powerful about a gathering of thousands of nurses sharing a common institutional failing: sometimes our patients hurt us, and we don’t feel we have the means to bring this to light.
Underreporting assault presents a huge hurdle to overcoming workplace violence because it appears there’s no issue at all. Many nurses worry that they’ll be punished, ignored, dismissed, or belittled when they speak up. In fact, one conference speaker shared that prior to their intervention, their nurses tended to only report workplace violence when they’re so injured, they need to file for workman’s compensation.
Therefore, it’s critical to not only have a clear avenue for reporting violent incidents and verbal threats, but also to encourage and normalize its use. As more hospitals became aware of the issues, noting especially the most violent-prone areas (typically the ER), they began taking action to support a safe work environment. Some found that posting signs about their zero-tolerance for violence policy helped set expectations for patients. Additionally, intervention and medicine management training have helped to prepare staff for aggressive patients, while behavioral health screenings for all incoming patients helped them identify and assess patient risk.
Hospitals also saw success with giving nurses personal alarms to carry into high-risk patient rooms and found that explaining to the patients and their families what the alarms were helped to keep the patient experience positive. The conference also addressed verbal abuse, which is even more prevalent than physical violence. Nurses who had been supplied with the standard language to respond to hurtful or antagonizing patients and their families became much better at both reporting and mitigating these incidents. Each of these tools helped nurses feel safer, happier, and more engaged in their workplaces. With the need of physical safety being addressed, nurses can also continue their focus on the emotional safety as well, in the form of compassion fatigue.
I especially noticed teamwork and compassion as reoccurring themes throughout the conference. We discussed the growing popularity of the Code Lavender, an emotional crisis intervention tool used to support any person on staff in the facility. Any member of the healthcare team can call a Code Lavender when a stressful event or series of stressful events occurs in the hospital. I really enjoyed hearing from different people recognizing that success comes from building up their teams, rather than competing with them. Essentially, I found, many people do not ask for help because they recognize that all of their coworkers are busy. What many of us don’t realize is that not everyone is busy at the same levels at the same time. With this in mind, don’t be afraid to ask someone for 10 minutes of their time to help you help yourself. This also helps to build a culture of retention, the third overarching topic from the conference.
Relaxation stations have become increasingly common and offer nurses a place to spend 10-15 minutes decompressing from their high-stress jobs. Anything from soothing music or white noise to coloring books and massage chairs can contribute to these rooms, as Rady Children’s Hospital explained during their poster session. These dimly lit rooms are popping up all over the country as a creative way to help alleviate nurse burnout and compassion fatigue. These rooms offer a space for prayer, meditation, or guided mindfulness. Nurses happily help each other find the time to decompress, passing their meds, holding their colleague’s beepers and phones for a short while, and allowing each other to catch their breath. By helping colleagues practice better mental health at work, nurses have reported more positive shifts in job outlook.
The Missouri Baptist Medical Center team from BJC HealthCare in Missouri spoke about keeping a strong nursing staff and how to retain for excellence. By monitoring where in the organization they historically hired and lost nurses, leadership was able to hire ahead of the curve. This way, they could be more proactive in their approach and did not have to expend energy in perpetual training and overcome staffing shortages. Missouri Baptist had also experienced a consistent loss of quality nurses and began doing career pathing to help retain their talent. Additionally, hiring nurses months before they graduated helped set both the organization and the nurse for success, as the hospital helped to assimilate and mentor the nurse before they officially joined the workforce. By hiring and engaging ahead of the curve, leadership was able to avoid the gaps in staffing shortages that so often lead to burnout. Of course, this also ensured that their top-performing nurses continued to offer the most excellent patient care, making this a true win-win for everyone involved.
Each year I’m inspired by the vastness in topics and diversity in innovation and this year’s conference was no exception. It really goes to show how much effort contributes to each hospital’s journey to nursing excellence, which for me, is a fantastic reminder of why I do what I do. Click here to learn more about what PRC can do to help you down your path to Magnet Recognition Program® honor.