Creating a “Culture of Inquiry” is a Key Theme
At American Sentinel, we get around! Members of our faculty and staff spend part of each month on the road, attending conferences and other events that let us stay up-to-date on current nursing issues and the state of the health care industry.
During the second week of February, we were attending the 2012 conference of the Association of California Nurse Leaders, which had the oh-so-inspiring theme of “Over the Rainbow – Where Nurse Leaders Make Dreams Come True.”
Holding down the fort at American Sentinel’s booth in the exhibition hall was staff member Ellen Brztwa, MPH, MSN, RN. “It was a very energizing experience,” said Ellen, who commented that she was excited to meet many of our DNP students in person, and to chat with nurses who had friends or colleagues attending American Sentinel University.
Ellen also attended all of the educational sessions offered at the conference and noted that a major focus area was the Affordable Care Act and how it ties in with issues of patient safety and quality of care. Studies were presented about the contributions that nurses make to quality and safety initiatives, which increasingly affect a hospital’s ability to receive Medicare reimbursements.
Creating a culture of inquiry
Another interesting focus at the ACNL conference was the ways in which hospitals can create a culture of inquiry among nursing staff, according to Ellen. “This is a requirement to be a Magnet hospital,” she noted. “Any hospital that is interested in going on the Magnet journey has to address this. They have to demonstrate that they’ve created a culture of inquiry in their institution.”
While larger hospitals and teaching hospitals often have nursing research capabilities built in to their operations, community hospitals and other small organizations may not have the resources or expertise to put together research programs. “So there were a couple of very interesting presentations on how those types of hospitals can create a culture of inquiry,” explained Ellen. “It isn’t the same as doing NIH-type research but it surely is educating nurses to be able to prove their practice, look at evidence, and conduct studies within the institution to improve care, etcetera.”
The Capstone Project: Critical thinking is key
The concept of a culture of inquiry ties in with American Sentinel’s mission to foster critical thinking skills among nurses, allowing them to move away from “rituals” in nursing practice and toward evidence-based care. Our nursing programs include a Capstone Project, which gives students the opportunity to evaluate evidence and translate it into actual practice.
For example, you can read this account of MSN student Chris Kowal, and how he was able to bring about changes in the way his hospital’s ICU nurses assessed pain levels in patients who weren’t able to talk. They had been using an observational scale known as PAINAD – for pain assessment in adults with dementia. Although the tool was definitely designed for patients who couldn’t speak for themselves, Chris questioned if it was really appropriate for the critical care population. Most of these were lucid adults who were temporarily rendered non-verbal because they were intubated and on ventilators. Was there a tool that better fit the guidelines of evidence-based practice?
It turns out there was, but it wasn’t a quick or easy fix – Chris had to work with hospital administrators to get a pilot program approved and then evaluate its impact. The findings were significant – because the nurses could assess pain more accurately using CPOT, they could control pain more effectively. As a result, patients felt better and were able to come off ventilators sooner, which in turn caused the rates of ventilator-associated pneumonia to drop drastically.
Educated nurses are better equipped to ask questions and advance the standards of nursing practice. As a first step, you can develop new skills and empower yourself with knowledge through an online RN to BSN or RN to MSN degree. American Sentinel University is an innovative, accredited provider of online nursing degrees, including programs that prepare nurses for a specialty in areas like infection control and executive leadership.