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Critical Care Nurses Celebrate Themes at NTI Conference

CHICAGO — Two leaders shared their visions for critical-care nursing with a throng of colleagues this month at the annual National Teaching Institute and Critical Care Exposition.

Kristine Peterson, the outgoing president of the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses, discussed her theme for the past year during a keynote address May 2 to officially kick off NTI.

Peterson, RN, MS, CCRN, CCNS, first mentioned the theme, “Stand Tall,” during her session at the previous year’s conference. She urged nurses to stand up for themselves and advocate for their patients and patients’ families in the course of their practice.

“There are all sorts of people on the healthcare team who care for patients, but we possess a place in the patient and family experience that cannot be filled by any other professional,” Peterson said while addressing several thousand of the 6,500 nurses who attended this year’s conference.

“It’s hard sometimes to articulate that unique space that we inhabit. Most of the time, only our nurse friends understand it. That’s why, when we’re here together, this is an experience like no other.”

Peterson said one of her favorite aspects of her presidency has been the chance to speak with nurses at events around the country and hear their stories of caregiving.

Kristine Peterson, RN, AACN president, addresses a packed auditorium of nurses May 2 at the National Teaching Institute & Critical-Care Exposition in Chicago.

In that spirit, she turned over several portions of her address to nurses who relayed their experiences of “standing tall” on behalf of patients.

Julie de Borba, with Sutter Health Hospital in Sacramento, Calif., spoke of a patient who had undergone a da Vinci procedure and renal surgery. After noticing blood on the patient’s sheets, she spoke up for the patient to a physician who had ordered a CT scan.

“My response to him was, ‘We are not going to CT scan. He has bright red blood pouring out of his JP drain. How quickly can you get here?’ I was prepared for him to say he still wanted the CT scan done, and I was ready to go up the chain of command if necessary,” de Borba said. “Fortunately, he said, ‘I’ll be there in 20 minutes.’”

The physician found bleeding from a nicked dorsal vein bundle, which was difficult to locate, de Borba said.

“By the end of my shift at 7 a.m., I had him weaned off levophed, and his blood pressure had normalized,” de Borba said. “I gave another unit of red cells, and his hemoglobin and hematocrit stabilized. He was extubated later that day.

“I visited the patient on the floor before he left the hospital. He cried when he saw me, called me his ‘angel’ and thanked me for being proactive.”

Peterson cited the stories told by de Borba and another RN, Ericka Porter of UCLA Medical Center, as examples of what makes nurses valuable.

“Julie and Ericka stood tall for their patients and their patients’ families,” Peterson said. “These stories illustrate not only their exceptional clinical skills, but also show the high level of communication, collaboration and critical thinking skills we must learn and apply as nurses.

“Julie and Ericka were able to communicate clear and usable information that influenced their colleagues to take action and to tend compassionately and diligently to their patients and their patients’ loved ones. These exceptional nurses acted with individual excellence and, as a result, facilitated the whole healthcare team to be better.”

Together. Stronger. Bolder.

Mary Stahl, RN, AACN president-elect, discusses her theme for critical-care nursing May 4 at NTI.

The May 4 AACN NTI SuperSession opened with Peterson introducing her successor, President-elect Mary Stahl, RN, MSN, ACNS-BC, CCNS-CMC, CCRN. Peterson characterized Stahl, of St. Luke’s Hospital in Kansas City, Mo., as being “immersed in lifelong learning,” a “true partner” and a nurse who “stands tall as an expert in cardiac nursing.”

“I personally benefited from her ability to analyze a situation and provide practical feedback,” Peterson said.

Stahl’s entrance soon after was greeted with cheers as the 42nd AACN president took the stage to discuss the direction and purpose of the AACN over the next year and beyond. Stahl began her address by sharing a personal story of her 78-year-old father’s stroke last year and the excellent care he received from critical care nurses, which led to a remarkable recovery.

“Many of you replicate this miracle and miracles like it every hour of every day,” Stahl said.

The story provided a fitting backdrop to the unveiling of the new AACN theme: “Together. Stronger. Bolder.”

As Stahl unveiled the theme’s accompanying artwork, she commented how the artwork’s design resembled a puzzle and said, “The elements of the [artwork] are so captured that it becomes incomplete if you take away even one piece,” which mirrors how critical care nursing is interwoven with the work of others, she said.

Throughout her speech, Stahl accentuated the role of teamwork within and between departments. “It takes a team to care for our patients,” she said. “Critical care nurses’ work is not done in isolation. The diversity of our efforts makes our outcomes truly spectacular.”

Stahl, whose career has spanned 30 years, and who is the mother of twins, noted the results of the 2005 AACN and VitalSmarts study “Silence Kills,” which found that 84% of healthcare professionals observed colleagues who took dangerous shortcuts when caring for patients and 88% worked with people who showed poor clinical judgment, according to an AACN news release.

The study also showed that, despite the risks to patients, less than 10% of physicians, nurses and other clinical staff directly confronted their colleagues about their concerns. Stahl said the study gathered compelling evidence that supported the Healthy Work Environment standards issued by the AACN in 2005.

Stahl also commented on how “The Silent Treatment” study, a follow-up to “Silence Kills” for which results were released in March with VitalSmarts and the Association of periOperative Registered Nurses, shows improvement in patient safety and what work still remains.

“We’ve learned that checklists and tools designed to ensure patient safety don’t work when, as individuals, we fail to speak up whenever a risk is identified,” she said. “The Silent Treatment study also showed that when we do speak up, we make things safer for our patients.”

The study, conducted in 2010, examined the effectiveness of safety tools in reducing avoidable errors. The study analyzed decisions nurses make to not speak up when they observe actions that could compromise patient safety, according to an AACN study results summary.

The 2011-12 AACN theme artwork: Together. Stronger. Bolder.

Key findings of the study showed “the prevalent culture of poor communication and calculated decisions to not speak up among health professionals undermines the effectiveness of current safety tools and contributes significantly to continued medical errors.”

In closing, Stahl posed a challenge to the RNs who filled the auditorium: “When you go back to work charged up by everything you’ve learned, everyone you met and all the new possibilities you came across, stop to consider how you and your colleagues work together. Do you invite diversity of thought? Do you bring forward the unique skill each person on your team can offer? And do you share your strengths by mentoring and teaching others?”

Stahl said the 2011 theme “Together. Stronger. Bolder.” is not just about doing what it takes to get the job done. In addition, she said, “RNs are stronger because they invite a variety of perspectives. This year we celebrate the ‘multiplier effect’ of partnerships that make us bolder because they inspire us to be courageous and daring.”

To download a copy of The Silent Treatment study, visit

Nick Hut is news editor and Sallie Jiménez is a regional editor for The Magazine.

By | 2020-04-15T14:01:30-04:00 May 13th, 2011|Categories: National|0 Comments

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