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April 15, 2009

Nursing skills event provides learning opportunities

New Glasgow, NS – Like many professions, the knowledge and techniques used in nursing are constantly evolving. In order to provide the best possible care to patients, it’s important for nurses to keep current through continuing to learn and improving their skills.

The first annual nursing skills night to be held at Sutherland Harris Memorial Hospital in Pictou on April 15 aims to provide nurses with the opportunity to do just that.

The skills night will feature 13 stations covering various topics such as the newest wound care techniques, a refresher on back saving techniques during patient transfers, how to use features on hospital beds, and use of library resources.

The skills night will involve presenters from within PCHA as well as others in the healthcare industry. They include an audiologist, clinical nursing instructors at the Nova Scotia Community College, a physiotherapist, a wound management specialist and a continuing nursing education resource specialist.

“People in the community felt so strongly (about the importance of the skills night) they’re volunteering their time for free,” says Dr. Bob Cooper, medical director of the Restorative Care Unit at SHMH.

The idea for the skills night was generated from a series of in-house education sessions being held at the hospital, organized by Dr. Cooper and Maria Langille, a licensed practical nurse, staff member at SHMH and vice president of the LPN graduate component for the Nova Scotia Nurses Union. The hospital houses the Restorative Care Unit and the Northumberland Veterans Unit of the Pictou County Health Authority.

The Restorative Care Unit rehabilitates patients who have had a variety of ailments, such as those who have undergone cancer treatment, suffered from strokes, or had hip replacements. Dr. Cooper says the unit is extremely successful at returning patients to their homes in a timely fashion.

Since October, a variety of sessions have been held to educate nursing staff members, which includes registered nurses, licensed practical nurses and continuing care workers. As an incentive for nurses to further develop their proficiency, as part of the current contract with the Nova Scotia Nurses Union, nurses who participate in educational workshops and courses earn points. If the criteria of achieving 70 points in one year is met, they can collect $600 through the “Points to Pay” education premium. Nurses can also receive a premium for learning that advances their leadership skills. The in-services held at SHMH qualify for points under this program.

“It’s to encourage people to get more involved with education and leadership, and step up to the bar. Good leaders make good nurses. The more education nurses get, the greater benefits the healthcare system has -- anything to help you work better,” says Ms. Langille.

Dr. Cooper says the workshops topics are based on what staff can do better to help their patients. Sometimes they learn new techniques, and sometimes the educational sessions refresh their knowledge. Some of the themes covered have included geriatric motivation with physical activity, managing challenging behaviours, and a presentation by a clinical pharmacologist regarding medication to decrease agitation for dementia and other related conditions.

The topics for the Points to Pay sessions are generated by the staff, and each session is offered twice in order to have as many nursing staff members as possible participate. The workshops usually take 30 minutes to one hour, and are held in the afternoon when activity at the hospital is slower. Usually eight to 10 staff members attend a session.

“Staff is doing this – need identified by staff and dealt with at staff level,” says Dr. Cooper. “It’s education of the staff, for the staff, by the staff.”

He says he felt an educational need for the staff at SHMH, and sensed staff sometimes didn’t understand the reasons for doing things in certain ways. “There was a learning disjoint, they don’t have access to information as students may, and I felt we had to come up with something to take the education directly to staff and make it relevant to the work they do every day.”

“We’re trying to be proactive instead of reactive,” he says, adding that it’s a team approach and everyone involved understands that education is a lifelong process and a continuum that’s constantly evolving.

Langille says nursing staff can’t improve if they don’t know about new and current techniques. She worked for a number of years at the Aberdeen Hospital in an acute care setting before coming to the Sutherland Harris Restorative Care Unit, and she brought ideas with her about easier ways to do some things.

“It’s been very rewarding – I feel a sense of satisfaction,” she says. “Education benefits everybody. For the hospital-based nurses here, it provides self satisfaction, more job satisfaction, more responsibility, and a feeling of confidence.”

Sue Jamieson is a registered nurse and a team leader with the Restorative Care Unit. She says Dr. Cooper and Ms. Langille are to be commended for their work and effort in establishing the Points to Pay sessions at SHMH. And she says feedback from the staff has been positive.

“We’re really, really pleased with it. We’re trying to keep the themes pertinent to the restorative care patients we have here and the problems we see here.”

One session involved a physiotherapist reviewing precautions nurses must take when dealing with patients who have had hip fractures. “It’s very educational, very informative and reinforces what we know.”

Jamieson says having sessions on site makes them more accessible and less expensive than traveling to a workshop or conference.

“It’ really going well – the staff are really liking it – I just hope it continues.”

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Contact: Eileen MacIsaac
Public Relations
752-7600, ext. 1124

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