Nurses get back to the basics at Hinsdale Hospital
Sharon Koulback (left), a registered nurse at Adventist Hinsdale Hospital, leads her fellow nurses in prayer before they begin their shift.
Updated: July 29, 2012 6:08AM
Nursing is a sacred calling. But this idea can fade quickly during a typical 12-hour shift filled with responding to call lights, updating patient charts and tackling countless other tasks. A new initiative at Adventist Hinsdale Hospital aims to bring nurses back to the basics of patient care by more closely aligning their everyday duties with the hospital’s values.
It goes beyond simply addressing nursing fatigue — the concept that nursing is a physically and emotionally draining profession — by incorporating caring theory into nursing practice to improve patients’ perception of care and rekindling the passion of nurses for their profession. The nursing team adopted the theory espoused by renowned nursing expert Jean Watson, who outlines 10 specific processes aimed at enabling nurses to better care for themselves and their patients.
Mary-Beth Desmond, a Hinsdale Hospital nurse certified as a coach through Watson’s Caring Science institute, matched each of the processes with a Bible verse. The ninth process, for example, which encourages nurses to “assist with basic physical, emotional and spiritual human needs,” immediately brought to Desmond’s mind Jesus’ words as recorded in the Gospel of Matthew about how feeding the hungry, visiting the prisoner and otherwise bestowing kindness upon people is an act of ministry to God himself. Desmond presented the Scripture verses to the nursing team during part of a daylong seminar last year.
Nurses formed a “caring council” and organized “caring summits” to put these theories into practice. In the hospital’s NeuroIntensive Care Unit, nurses now gather for prayer after getting their assignments at shift change and attend card-making parties together to create handmade greeting cards for patients, families and co-workers, among other initiatives. They also erected a prayer intention board and implemented a so-called “safety zone” to encourage nurses to express concerns or fears without fear of retribution.
“Nurses have a covenant with the public we serve,” said Linda Ryan, director of nursing research. “We don’t just provide customer service; we provide loving service that fulfills our mission. Our focus now is to bring caring to the forefront of everything our nurses do.”
The hospital’s pastoral care team, meanwhile, has come alongside the nursing staff to provide additional support. A half-day spiritual retreat was held last year to teach nurses how to better listen to God and themselves, with the idea that it would result in the ability to provide more compassionate care at the bedside. Nurses role-played to practice listening techniques, shared stories about difficult experiences they encountered and discussed the concept of incarnational ministry — that is, how nurses serve as representatives of God to patients.
“We’re encouraging them to pause, which is difficult to do when you’re on your feet all day, putting others’ needs before your own,” said Tricia Treft, manager of pastoral care. “Our caregivers need to know they have permission to pause. Taking a break to reflect isn’t just OK, it’s necessary.”