By Jesus Cepero, PhD, RN, NEA-BC, Chief Nursing Officer at Stanford Children’s Health – –

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As we celebrate National Nurses Week, I would like to take a moment to reflect and celebrate our nursing teams for their strength, resilience and determination to overcome the challenges of the past year. The pandemic affected all areas of nursing in our system and our nurses have always been focused on providing quality care to patients and their families.

Our health system has changed in ways we could never have imagined. I encourage you to consider the following three topics and apply these concepts to the improvement of patients, families, and to support our dedicated caregivers.

Holistic care is the expectation of patients and families today

While holistic care is not a “new” concept, the pandemic highlighted its importance and relevance in healthcare. Patients and consumers drove this movement a long time ago, but over the past year we have put our skills to the test as an industry.

Nursing is about caring for the entire patient, not just alleviating an injury or illness. Seeing beyond illness or COVID-19 as a disease, meeting the patient where they are, focusing on a person’s wellbeing, including taking care of their spiritual and psychosocial needs, has quickly become the norm. It is important to remember that our care services – whether for mothers, babies, or adolescents – are always geared towards meeting the needs of patients and families. This concept has been challenged by visitor restrictions put in place to protect the safety of patients, staff and visitors. On numerous occasions, we learned and heard stories about how our nurses became not just the caregivers but de facto family members due to COVID-19 visitor restrictions.

Patients are smart and consumer expectations keep rising every year, in large part due to technology. When individuals do not feel they are treated properly or equally, or when they do not feel safe, they will express these expectations or seek providers / institutions that meet those expectations.

We should evaluate and understand whether our organizations are aware of these new consumer demands and how a holistic care experience is implemented to promote physical, emotional, social and spiritual wellbeing.

Two examples that I would like to point out are intended to illustrate this in practice:

In many of our obstetric and pediatric high visual acuity cases at Stanford Children’s Health, we have had to manage families who are at extremely high risk due to critical illness or extremely high risk. Providing patients with the comfort and care management they need goes beyond treating the disease or condition – it’s about meeting psychosocial needs and communication.

When it comes to nurturing and supporting a patient’s need to communicate with family members, our nurses have pioneered the use of iPads in the birthing rooms to enable patients to communicate with family members outside of the hospital during the pandemic. We also offer iPads as a translation tool for non-English speaking patients to support communication between staff, patients and family members. In times of birth, for example, it is about offering an upscale, unforgettable experience – helping mothers to get in touch with relatives who cannot be there themselves, in the most stressful and often most emotional times of their lives. It is part of our responsibility to help patients share this experience with others in a safe manner so that family connections are possible and possible.

I believe that as healthcare leaders we should adapt these new approaches to our entire patient population and in all of our care settings.

Enable the nurses to put themselves in their service

The pandemic wasn’t just a steep learning curve for our patient populations; It was also for all of our healthcare workers and providers. It is vitally important to support our nurses and frontline staff with resources and support. With our pandemic response behind us, now is the time to support us and recover from the emotional toll it has taken on all of us.

At Stanford Children’s Health, our leadership is committed to creating an environment in which our employees feel they can fully serve our patients and families. If we cannot do this, their health and the services provided to our patient population are at risk.

While corporate culture is determined by the people who represent it, there are things nurses can do to create this welcoming environment. Examples include holding focus groups to socialize, engage, and share experiences with individuals on a more personal level. Another reason is to welcome dialogue on challenging topics such as the impact of recent forest fires, work-life balance challenges during a pandemic and tackling today’s racist tensions. These are difficult topics and problems that all of our employees deal with. Open and honest conversation can be very helpful in creating the culture we all strive for.

Nurses play a vital role in enabling the future of continuous care

To ensure this level of holistic supply, organizations must focus their resources on empowering their frontline workers to fill supply gaps and remove silos. Now, especially in times of heightened demand, it is imperative to balance patient engagement with the role of technology in supporting the patient and the community.

We need to ask how we can continue to provide seamless patient services across the continuum of care. To truly empower our caregivers and frontline workers, we are encouraged to work together to connect these services and remove barriers that create delays or complications. One example is the planning and coordination of patient visits. We are already seeing that organizations are great at streamlining their appointments so that multiple tasks can be completed in one visit or supplemented via telemedicine. To optimize this, nurses and nurses also need a seat at the table to ensure that technology implementations and solution sets are built to make operational sense.

National Nurses Week is a time to reflect. I have spent more than two decades in leadership roles in healthcare and have been fortunate to have served as an executive in both nursing and operations. I joined Stanford Children’s Health earlier this year as Chief Nursing Officer, an area that I have consistently felt passionate about and motivated to do.

With courage, the care community surpassed expectations and patient demands in troubled times – the resilience of the frontlines and innovations learned over the past year have created a ripple effect across the industry as healthcare leaders continue to seek new ways to address the Strengthen front. Line staff, eliminate silos and deploy technologies and solutions that enable a real continuum of care.

I am very honored to work with so many great nurses. A career and care community full of purposeful, courageous people who selflessly seek what is right for patients and families. Nurses make an impact every day. My goal is to further improve this experience through holistic approaches and to strengthen our connections with our patients and the community.

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