Quality: The Anonymous Superhero of Nursing

“Clark Kent has his Superman cape, while I have my spreadsheets of data and the ability to set goals and track them.”

This guest post is by Tasha Poslaniec. A registered nurse for 16 years, Tasha has worked in multiple areas, including obstetrics and cardiology. She currently works as a perinatal quality review nurse. She is one of the most viewed nursing writers on Quora, and has had essays published by the Huffington Post.

sm1018-0021In the world of comics, Superman’s alter ego is the incognito Clark Kent. But in fact, that nerdy, data-oriented, and unassuming reporter, whose mission is to “bring truth to the forefront, and fight for the little guy,” could very easily be a quality review nurse.

The comparison between the two might seem a stretch at first, but there are some parallels that are worth pursuing—especially in the context of understanding who and what your quality nurse is, what quality nurses do, and how Clark Kent’s mission isn’t far from quality nurses’ own motivation for what we do.

An anonymous nursing role.

First, let me put into perspective exactly how anonymous most quality nurses are. Do you know who works in your quality department? Do you know where your quality department is? Did you even know that you have a quality department? If you said no to all three of those questions, then I can relate. It was a little over a year ago when I first noticed a job posting in my hospital for a “Perinatal Quality Review Nurse.” As an OB nurse with over a dozen years of experience, I was intrigued, but I was also quite uncertain as to what the “quality review” part meant.

So I investigated. I had someone walk me to an office that I never knew existed, met people I’d never seen before, and slowly  became aware of a parallel universe full of terms, agencies, and processes. Who is responsible for compliance with the Core Measures? (I didn’t even really know they existed.) Who monitors the clinical quality of the physicians? (Quality nurses monitor the physicians?) What is the process for when a problem with the clinical quality is identified? The scales fell from my eyes and I was hooked. […]

October 11th, 2016|career, Nursing, nursing roles, patient safety|0 Comments

Getting It Right: Putting the ‘QI’ in Quality Improvement Reports

Towards a Safer Health System

Photo of AJN editor-in-chief Shawn KennedyEver since the famous report To Err is Human: Building a Safer Health System was issued by the Institute of Medicine (now the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine) in 1999, health care institutions have been pushed towards reducing errors and increasing safety.

Changes have been spurred by accrediting and government organizations like the Joint Commission and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, by independent and professional initiatives like the Institute for Healthcare Improvement and the Magnet Recognition Program, and by consumer advocacy groups like the The Leapfrog Group and the National Patient Safety Foundation.

Nursing Education and Quality Improvement

Nursing, as the largest department in hospitals and the one tasked with shepherding patients through the system, is a key player in any system redesign and many nursing departments are playing an active role in improving the safety and quality of care.

Nursing education has also embraced the QI movement, adopting the Quality and Safety in Nursing (QSEN) program in many curriculums and also making it a hallmark of its doctor of nursing practice (DNP) programs. Developing and implementing QI projects is frequently a requirement for completing these programs. […]

Appropriate Use of Opioids in the Management of Chronic Pain

Painted by Martin Edwards as part of the Paint Your Pain program initiated by the Pain Management Center at Overlook Medical Center, Atlantic Health System, Summit, New Jersey. For artwork of other patients in the program, go to http://bit.ly/ 1Ns0PxL.The dangerous misuse of prescription opioids and drugs like heroin has been much in the news, but millions of patients continue to suffer both acute and chronic pain. For many, prescription opioids play a vital role in alleviating that pain. How can health care providers most effectively and safely use opioids in the treatment and management of chronic pain? Some answers can be found in a CE article in the July issue of AJN: “Appropriate Use of Opioids in Managing Chronic Pain.”

Related questions on opioids and chronic pain addressed in the article include:

  • What is the best way to assess chronic pain patients?
  • Which patients—for example the elderly, those with compromised renal or hepatic function, those with a history of substance abuse—may require special considerations when opioids are prescribed?
  • Which opioid medication or medications, if any, should you select for your patient?
  • And what are the legal and practical challenges to prescribing opioids?


July 22nd, 2016|Nursing, pain management, patient safety|0 Comments

Moral Distress: An Increasing Problem Among Nurses

moral distress

An ICU nurse struggles to reconcile repeated surgeries and transfusions for a comatose patient who has little chance of recovery. An oncology nurse knows a patient wants to refuse treatment but doesn’t do so because his physician and family want him to “fight on.” A nurse on a geriatric unit knows she’s not giving needed care to patients because of poor staffing.

Situations such as these are all too common and can give rise to moral distress. Moral distress occurs when nurses recognize their responsibility to respond to care situations but are unable to translate their moral choices into action.

As explained in “Moral Distress: A Catalyst in Building Moral Resilience,” one of the CE articles in our July issue, this “inability to act in alignment with one’s moral values is detrimental not only to the nurse’s well-being but also to patient care and clinical practice as a whole.” […]

July 18th, 2016|Ethics, Nursing, patient safety|0 Comments

Recent Decline in U.S. Opioid Prescriptions: Good News But Some Concerns

by frankieleon/ via flickr by frankieleon/ via flickr

It was widely reported in the past week that there have been steady declines in the number of opioid prescriptions in the U.S. for the past three years, with the declines the steepest in some of the states considered to have the worst opioid misuse crises.

This is good news, suggesting that efforts to address some problem areas like renegade pain clinics prescribing for profit, patients who go from doctor to doctor seeking opioid prescriptions, and the diversion of legitimate opioid prescriptions may be starting to bear fruit.

A balanced overview of the situation can be found in this New York Times article. The authors also acknowledge that patients in pain are now facing new hurdles to pain relief, quoting the director of one prominent medical school’s program on pain research education and policy: “The climate has definitely shifted. . . . It is now one of reluctance, fear of consequences and encumbrance with administrative hurdles. A lot of patients who are appropriate candidates for opioids have been caught up in that response.”

Much of the reporting on the opioid epidemic lumps all people who take opioids into one big statistical brew. While startling and alarming numbers about overdoses from legal and illegal opioids steal the headlines, little media and scholarly analysis focuses on the lower likelihood of opioid misuse or overdose seen in the large subset of patients who do not have a history of opioid misuse and/or mental illness, are not taking illegal opioids like heroin, and not using opioid medications that they were not prescribed.

Nurses owe it to themselves and their patients to have an informed, undogmatic understanding of opioids and their use. With this in mind, AJN has upcoming articles on opioids and their use with different patient populations, including a July CE that will take a comprehensive look at the appropriate and safe use of opioids in treating chronic pain. In the meantime, here are several recent articles of note about opioid medications.

A significant percentage of prescription opioid overdoses occur among people taking drugs for which they do not have documented prescriptions. Renee Manworren helps nurses understand and help prevent drug diversion in a recent CE article, “Nurses’ Role in Preventing Prescription Opioid Diversion. […]