Linked in: Connecting nurses to professional online resources

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Nurses need to have readily available access to unit-based and organizationwide resources, as today’s busy healthcare environment means that policies, protocols, goals, and even job descriptions are continually changing and being updated.

This ever-changing need for information caused Kathleen Gall, MS, RN, NE-BC, a patient care manager on the medical-surgical unit (med-surg) at Aurora St. Luke’s Medical Center in Milwaukee, to see an opportunity to establish a unit-based communication tool that would categorize and catalog unit and organizationwide resources.

“Have you ever been in a nursing unit’s conference room and looked at the way we wallpaper the walls with information that we need nurses to read and understand? It’s usually chaos,” says Gall. “Every wall is covered, you don’t know what has priority, and you don’t know who’s responsible for what, because there’s no rhyme or reason to the way the papers are put on the wall.”

With help from the information systems (IS) department at Aurora St. Luke’s Medical Center—an ANCC Magnet Recognition Program® redesignation recipient in 2005—Gall discovered her perfect communication vehicle for med-surg nurses: a unit-based Web site.

Focusing on the needs of nurses

The IS department built the unit-based Web site in DotNetNuke®—a free, open source framework for creating and managing Web applications.

The unit’s med-surg nurses have access to the Web site at work or at home, and access is protected with a password.

“Being able to stay connected to the unit and the rest of our system at any time is absolutely vital,” says Melissa Brown, BS, RN, a staff nurse and cocreator of the site. “It’s great, even when you have a few days off, to be able to know what’s going on and what’s new without being at work. I think that I would be lost without it.”

Gall receives feedback about what to post on the site from Brown, who is a member of the unit-based shared governance council member.

“Melissa is a [Web site] user, so we look to her for things that are going to work, what we can feature, and how the site can be more user friendly,” says Gall.

Once logged on, nurses can view information related to education, staff, and the unit.

The following information is maintained on the site:

Unit information

The unit’s mission and vision

Links to intranet sites within the Aurora Health Care system (e.g., infection control manual, policy and procedure manual for nursing, and patient education home page)

Unit goals

Med-surg nurse of the year photograph

Unit-based forms (e.g., quality control sheets)

Staff information

A calendar listing staff member birthdays

Quality improvement projects, including current and past projects, along with patient outcomes.

Job descriptions: “People need to view their job description on an annual basis, and I update them as HR updates job descriptions,” says Gall.

Holiday schedule, which allows nurses to plan in advance and always know what their holiday schedules will be, says Gall.

Staff meeting minutes from 2004 to the present. If staff cannot attend a meeting, they can review minutes online.

Information on any subcommittees to which unit nurses belong. For example, four committees are implementing a Planetree philosophy, in which nurses will provide patient-centered care through nurturing patients’ body, mind, and spirit. The site provides background information on the Planetree mission and vision.

Staff education

Various staff education forms, including orientation-related forms for preceptors, nurses, patient-care assistants, and CNAs

Clinical updates from reference articles and other literature

Forms regarding acute care for the elderly, such as those relating to vision problems and drug interactions

Annual education records: During annual performance reviews, staff members can print their education record to demonstrate whether they completed their competencies during the year