By Kirstin Grace-Simons (Madigan Army Medical Center)March 4, 2019
MADIGAN ARMY MEDICAL CENTER, Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash. -- Madigan's Medical-Surgical Nursing Service hosted the 10th annual Lt. Col. Juanita Warman Nursing Excellence Conference Feb. 22 at the American Lake Conference Center on Joint Base Lewis-McChord.
The conference is named after a certified psychiatric nurse practitioner who specialized in treating post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury. Along with volunteering for deployment in Iraq, Warman served as Madigan's hospital nursing supervisor. She was killed in the Fort Hood, Texas, shooting in 2009.
The attribute of her selfless service to others makes Warman a perfect choice to represent a conference on nursing excellence.
The day was packed with presentations that compelled the audience to consider the impact nurses have on medicine, patients and communities beyond bedside care.
Col. Suzanne Scott, Madigan's deputy commanding officer and a registered nurse, told the crowd, "It's a triple win today: 1. You get the chance to spend some time together. 2. We're advancing the practice of nursing. 3. We are enhancing quality and collaboration to improve care."
To start off the day, the crowd was regaled with stories from Dr. Cara Barker, a retired Army nurse, who spoke about her travels, her career, her personal journey and her godfather, Dwight D. Eisenhower.
She told of Eisenhower's request to have her as his personal nurse when he was receiving cardiac care at what was then Walter Reed Army Medical Center in his later years, which were the early years of her nursing career. She declined saying she was too new and not skilled enough to give him the care he needed. He advised her to, "find out what you bring into the room as an instrument."
Barker said she believes she is the designated listener in her family, and she sees nurses as the same. Eisenhower's message was brought home to her, she said, years later when she was recuperating from broken ankles. Her nurse was invested in her with his whole being, listening to what she needed, and she found it very healing.
Her experiences provide evidence of the impact that can be felt on both sides of the bedside.
"Everything that happens, if you're willing to dwell in the possibility of it, brings you to your next growth step," she said.
Tara Spears, who is Madigan's Trauma Program manager, gave the conference attendees insight into the multidisciplinary world of trauma medicine in the Puget Sound area. She also treated the group to an informative and entertaining, if a bit bloody, game of trauma jeopardy.
Proving that nurses are constantly moving the practice of medicine forward, 1st Lt. Kelsey Gaoaen, registered nurse, presented findings of recent research into interdisciplinary bedside rounding at Madigan. Sharing the research's goals of improving communication and teamwork in order to improve patient safety, she introduced a panel of Madigan clinicians that cut across disciplines to include physicians, pharmacists and physical therapists that has been involved in the implementation efforts.
"Moving to interdisciplinary bedside rounding has been transformative for therapy," said Chelsea Jordan, a doctor of physical therapy at Madigan, adding that it has aligned treatments better, made for more direct communication and provided for earlier interfacing with patients.
"It's been great for us," she said.
Insights into dealing with patients confronting end of life issues were offered by Dr. Tammy Bhang, a palliative care consultant at St. Joseph Medical Center in Tacoma. She led a pair of audience volunteers through an example of a "value-laden or complex care conversation," that was built in a manner resembling building a house -- laying a foundation, raising walls of understanding of the difference perspectives and adding recommendations for action to the top.
Bhang noted about her work, "It's an amazing thing to be present and grounded with people at a time when they're really struggling."
Sean Smith, Madigan's Diabetes Care Center Program director, presented encyclopedic knowledge of current and emerging diabetes treatments and impacts on society.
The presentation that drew the most active participation from the audience was given by Capt. Katie Blanchard on the topic of workplace violence. As she told her own story of dealing with the violent behavior of a co-worker at a previous duty station and detailed some of her research into the factors and mitigating efforts surrounding workplace violence, the audience asked numerous questions and offered information on experiences of their own.
Blanchard encouraged those interested in joining her on the root cause analysis team to investigate such issues when they arise and find recommendations for their mitigation. Through her presentation, she repeatedly reminded the attendees that they are leaders and that all present can strive to create a culture and environment that addresses workplace violence in all its forms.
Blanchard said the equation for mitigation is a combination of, "teamwork, communication, education and leadership."
Expressing admiration and respect for her sharing her experiences, many audience members queued up to speak with Blanchard after her presentation.
The conference's organizers actively sought speakers who would offer a view of the possibilities available in nursing.
"Knowing that Madigan has a lot of young, novice nurses coming through the Army, we wanted this conference to let these new nurses know the possibilities are endless in nursing," said 2nd Lt. Cynthia Anderson, a registered nurse with Madigan's Mom and Baby Unit, who was one of three co-chairs on the planning committee that was comprised of 22 individuals.
A registered nurse who works at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle who goes by the moniker of "Nurse Blake" also sparked enthusiasm and participation as the closing speaker of the day.
While still a nursing student in the early 2010s in Florida, Blake went with fellow students to donate blood in support of a classmate who was dealing with a chronic illness that required regular transfusions. Following his interview, he was told he was banned from blood donation for life because he is gay.
Blake started an online campaign to overturn this ban. His efforts proved successful in 2015. He is now promoting a campaign to encourage nurses to support the young members of their ranks.
Blake walked the group through the development of a campaign following the five steps he uses -- identifying the mission, telling your story, calling others to action, creating a title and designing a logo.
After just ten minutes, two audience members shared ideas they had developed that were met with laughter and applause from the audience and praise for their creativity from Blake.
Blake also shared how setting aside some of his ambitious goals in favor of these activities that spark passion has made his career more fulfilling.
He offered details on the extensive influence of nurses on medical care over the years saying, "Our communities need us; we have skills, knowledge and power to impact our communities."
Celebrating its tenth anniversary, the conference drew attendees from numerous area health care facilities and agencies. In addition to speakers representing St. Joseph's and Harborview, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, the Navy and Public Health -- Seattle and King County all had staff members in attendance.
This year's conference had high attendance, active and enthusiastic engagement and a full slate of presentations that informed and praised nurses, past and present, as well as called those in attendance to seek opportunities to add to the history of nursing's significant influence on medical care and human communities.