Finding Future Leaders – and a NICHE in Nursing

By Maureen Shawn Kennedy, AJN editor-in-chief

It has been a hectic few weeks, as I’ve been traveling to the early spring nursing meetings (with still more to come).

With John Gransbach at NSNA meeting

With John Gransbach at NSNA meeting

First I went to Charlotte, North Carolina, to attend the National Student Nurses Association (NSNA) annual meeting (April 3–7). AJN has had a long association with the NSNA, supporting it in various ways since its 1952 founding, from hosting board meetings at AJN offices to producing the convention newsletter to convention scholarships for key contributors. In recent years, we’ve sponsored travel expenses to the annual meeting for the winner of Project InTouch, the member incentive plan. This year, the winner was John Gransbach, who graduated from the Goldfarb School of Nursing at Barnes-Jewish College in St Louis. He recruited 228 new NSNA members—an achievement certainly worth recognizing.

Future leaders. As I told the audience when I presented the plaque to Mr. Gransbach, this award isn’t just about growing membership in the NSNA—it’s about contributing to the future of the profession. Students who join the NSNA are already demonstrating a commitment to nursing by going beyond what’s required of them. They’ve joined an organization that provides considerable resources to help them begin their careers. Not only does it provide practical help with passing the NCLEX exam, writing a resume, and finding a job, but it informs them about what it means to be a nurse. NSNA members are the future of nursing and likely the future leaders of nursing. We’re pleased to support this award and NSNA.

NICHE. And this past week I was in Philadelphia for a meeting of the Nurses Improving Care for Healthsystem Elders (NICHE) initiative, a program based at New York University College of Nursing that seeks to provide education and resources to improve care for hospitalized older adults. It provides training curricula and tools to the 450 hospitals that are members of the NICHE network. Much of the agenda focuses on initiatives that NICHE members have successfully implemented to improve care.

NichePhotoAJN partnered with NICHE in a joint initiative, “Professional Partners Supporting Diverse Family Caregivers Across Settings,” funded by the Jacob and Valeria Langeloth Foundation in collaboration with the AARP Foundation. (Pictured in the photo are, from left: Liz Capezuti, director, NICHE; Susan Reinhard, senior VP, AARP Public Policy Institute; Rita Choula, program manager, strategic initiatives, AARP; myself.)

Helping family caregivers. We worked with NICHE to develop a series of articles and videos designed to teach nurses concepts and skills to help them better support family caregivers in assuming care for loved ones after hospital discharge. These materials were used in training staff and as a basis for developing family-centered practices, which were then piloted in five NICHE hospitals. Dennise Lavrenz, the NICHE coordinator on the project, presented some initial results that were encouraging. Overall, as measured by Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAPS) scores, caregivers showed increased satisfaction with their experience and with staff communication and felt more prepared to care for family members.

At the meeting, presenters from Carolinas Medical Center-Mercy in Charlotte, North Carolina, discussed their success in improving caregivers’ experience through employing a caregiver assessment tool, paying closer attention to caregivers’ information needs, and providing the caregiver with a tote bag of personal items for their use when their family member was admitted to the hospital. What started as a nurse-driven pilot on two units was now being rolled out hospital-wide—certainly a success story for the nurses who spearheaded the project and and the hospital, but most of all, a win for the caregivers.

The NICHE Web site offers a wealth of information; you can also find AJN-produced, foundation-funded resources for caring for older adults at this Web page; or access AJN’s family caregiver videos here.

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Senior editor/social media strategy, American Journal of Nursing, and editor of AJN Off the Charts.

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