By Jackie Medland
Chief Executive Officer/Chief Nursing Officer, Highlands-Cashiers Hospital
I never want to miss a chance to recognize our amazing nurses, whose care has everything to do with creating positive outcomes for our patients and their families. Nurses deftly combine their brilliant scientific minds with the love and trust they build with each patient. Every day, nurses at Highlands-Cashiers Hospital, the Eckerd Living Center and in our clinics expertly merge their love of medicine with their love for patients as they do everything from dress wounds and interpret lab work to comfort souls.
Now is the right time to shine a spotlight on our exceptional team of nursing professionals, because May 6-12 is National Nurses Week. By design, this annual celebration of almost 3 million nurses nationwide occurs around the birthday of Florence Nightingale, the renowned Victorian-era nurse who treated British soldiers during the Crimean War. She treated patients, from 1854-56, in Turkey’s Scutari Hospital, where conditions were horrific. Nightingale is a nursing icon – no doubt she was compassionate, but she was also an astute statistician and scientist who conducted the first care-quality study to improve patient outcomes. She connected the fact that the high mortality rate the British soldiers were suffering was directly linked to the hospital’s filthy and overcrowded conditions. She formulated a plan that increased environmental cleanliness, relieved overcrowding and improved air quality. This resulted in a decrease in patient mortality from 42 percent to an astounding 2 percent, over the course of just a few months.
This nurse-led quest for improvement carries forward to this day, and to this hospital. Just like Nightingale, our own nurse Rosalie Lindecamp noticed that the patient transport process by which we get our sickest patients transported off the mountain could be improved. She worked with other stakeholders, and together they came up with an improved protocol, now in use. The same desire to perfect our work also extends to Trina Rueckerl, who worked alongside our environmental services team to reduce incidental noise in the patient care environment. This has allowed for a more healing and therapeutic milieu.
It’s undeniable that the impact of the care that even one of our patients receives from one of our nurses in the course of a year, a month or a day is profound and long lasting. About 10 years ago, an extensive and carefully executed study by nurse researcher Dr. Linda Aiken proved how much nurses matter – specifically that the right numbers and types of nurses greatly impact the factors that lead to better patient outcomes: improved patient mortality, reduced infection rates, lower readmission rates and fewer medical errors.
The nursing workforce across our campus is about 50 strong, and they hold various roles, including bedside caregivers, educators, quality specialists, case managers, wound care specialists and clinical leaders. Our nurses come from North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia each day to minister to the needs of our patients, and their dedication spans many years. In fact, one of our nurses has devoted more than 30 years of her career to the Highlands-Cashiers community, and we count eight in our ranks who have served our patients for more than a decade. Their personal and professional investments in our hospital and community are significant.
Every day our nurses bring, in addition to deep compassion, a varied and vital set of skills to work with them that includes cutting-edge clinical knowledge, technical prowess, administrative talents and exemplary team skills. Their care touched more than 4,000 patients last year as they listened intently to patient stories of how their health affects their lives and how their lives affect their health. The talents of our nurses has helped HCH earn the ranking of No. 3 in the state for patient satisfaction, out of 100-plus hospitals.
Critical to the care continuum, invested in innovation and dedicated to peers and profession, our nurses are simply irreplaceable. We thank our nursing professionals across our campus for their extraordinary caregiving. It is through their special gifts and talents that they make our community stronger and healthier.
Jacqueline Medland, PhD, RN, is Chief Executive Officer and Chief Nursing Officer of Highlands-Cashiers Hospital. Jackie has enjoyed a career as a healthcare leader for over 30 years, including positions in direct patient care, advanced practice nursing, nursing management and hospital administration. Jackie received her MSN from the University of Illinois, College of Nursing, and her PhD in Organization Development from Benedictine University. She is a member of the American Association of Critical Care Nurses, the American Organization of Nurses Executives, the Illinois Organization of Nursing Leaders and Sigma Theta Tau. Jackie’s unique leadership and mentorship was recognized by the University of Illinois, College of Nursing with the Sage Award.