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US Labor Secretary Perez Recognizes AGH Nurses’ Quality Improvement Work

As our healthcare system continues to shift toward an emphasis on quality over quantity of care, our members are gaining national recognition in their work to find new and innovative ways to improve patient care and satisfaction while reducing costs.  On Wednesday, June 11, US Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez traveled to Pittsburgh to meet with frontline nurses at Allegheny General Hospital to recognize their collaborative work with hospital administrators as a national model of innovation.

“This hospital, this health system, has rejected Secretary Perez. Cathy Stoddartthat false choice that you either take care of your bottom line or you take care of your workers or you take care of your patients,” said Secretary Perez during his AGH visit, “You can do all of those, and you have demonstrated it here.”

This unique relationship between nurses and management traces back to 2003 when AGH RNs established unit-based Patient Care Committees and a hospital-wide Nurse Collaboration Council that allowed nurses and management avenues to think through issues together to make the hospital run more smoothly.  Through these, nurses and management launched a variety of initiatives to improve quality and contain costs.

During Secretary’s Perez’s visit, Chapter president Cathy Stoddart, Kidney, Liver and Gyne-Oncology nurse, spoke about the Nurse Collaboration Council’s  implementation of a holistic hospital-wide program in 2011 to improve nurse training opportunities, change the way caregivers interact with patients and streamline processes to increase efficiency (made possible by a grant from the Department of Labor).

One such application of this program is the Hearts of Gold initiative that trained nurses on how to increase overall patient satisfaction. Within months of implementing this approach, hospital Press Ganey scores (which measure patient satisfaction) soared to 94%, the highest score ever recorded on that unit. Another example focused on standardizing patient assignment sheets which has help streamline patient care delivery, alleviate nurse frustration and significantly lower costs associated with overtime.

“One of the best way to change the culture at AGH is to involve as many nurses as possible in studying a process, seeing its successes and flaws and leading the way to help fix it.”

She went on to attribute nurses’ meaningful involvement to having a strong union. “Our work has been made possible because we as union nurses have the ability to have a significant voice on the job and the ability to foster strong, collaborative relationships with hospital administrators through our union. With strong partners in AGH, Allegheny Health Network, and Highmark – we are improving the lives of Pittsburgh patients and the work lives of frontline caregivers.”

Check out an article in the Pittsburgh Post Gazette about this important visit.



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