Monday, October 25, 2010


Healthcare is a complex but rewarding profession

Celebrations are fun and a great time to reflect on the prior year. At Backus Hospital we spent last week celebrating Healthcare Quality Improvement Week.

Hospitals spend a tremendous amount of time talking about quality improvement, or how we can take the best care of our patients. Time is spent monitoring patient outcomes, reviewing data, looking at how care is delivered, dissecting processes and educating staff. All of these activities are undertaken with one central theme in mind — to make sure that we are keeping our patients safe, while we deliver high quality and efficient care.

Patients see evidence of these activities as soon as they arrive at the hospital. They may see a kiosk with masks and hand sanitizer in the entry to encourage patients, families and visitors to help prevent diseases from spreading. Signs alert staff about patients who are vulnerable for falls and pressure sores. Posters remind us to make sure we know what medications patients are getting, and why. And behind the scenes, real-time improvement initiatives are major parts of our daily routines.

Real improvement requires a team effort. For example, say a hospital decides to start using a new type of wound dressing because research shows it helps wounds heal better and faster. First we must make sure it is available in all of the areas where it is needed, then we have to make sure the nursing staff knows when and how to use it. Physicians may need education so they understand when to order this type of dressing. And, finally, patients’ outcomes (did they heal faster?) need to be measured to make sure the product is working as expected.

Last week we took a moment to celebrate, and now it is time to get back to work. Our commitment to the community is continued improvement. Working together to provide excellent care is a complex process — and a great privilege.

Bonnie Thompson, an advanced practice nurse, is Administrative Director of Organizational Excellence at The William W. Backus Hospital. This column should not replace advice or instruction from your personal physician. If you want to comment on this column or others, visit the Healthy Living blog at or e-mail Ms. Thompson or any of the Healthy Living columnists at

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