As America watched the devastating effects of Hurricane Katrina, critical care nurses went into action. Some left their families for weeks. They camped out at the hospitals, eating and sleeping when they could. Hard decisions, like reverse triage, were handed down. Not to be defeated, nurses did whatever to provide the best patient care possible.
Four years later, the city of New Orleans is undergoing a renaissance - what better venue to hold the American Association of Critical Care Nurses' (AACN) National Teaching Institute & Critical Care Exposition (NTI 2009). Almost 6,000 nurses marched into the resilient Crescent City on May 16-21, to attend the weeklong event. Welcomed by the New Orleans chapter of the AACN, showgoers celebrated the dedication, strength and skill of the critical care nurse.
Like the AACN presidents before her, Caryl Goodyear-Bruch, PhD, RN, CCRN, picked the theme for NTI 2009. She chose "With Confidence," a simple yet powerful slogan that sent a clear message: recognize and embrace your power as a nurse.
"Passionate, purposeful, positive," she said in her remarks at the opening session in the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center. "If this isn't how you felt when you arrived at NTI, if this is not how you are feeling right now, my intention is to send you home feeling this way."
A live gospel choir and marching band preceded Goodyear-Bruch's keynote. With spirits already running high, nurses applauded her call to "make room for the inspiration, energy knowledge and confidence that NTI uniquely provides.
"It is OK to acknowledge what is difficult and negative," she added, "but only so we can remove its weight and power to re-energize ourselves and envision our futures."
State of Nursing
The recession has been one of the biggest burdens of the past year, and its impact on nurses' work environments was discussed in Critical Care Nurses' Work Environments 2008.
"As the recession deepens, more nurses are coming back to the workforce," said Beth Ulrich, EdD, RN, FACHE, FAAN, senior vice president in the business analytics and research department at Versant, Pearland, TX.
Many hospitals, however, will cut support for nurses seeking additional certifications when times get hard, which negatively impacts the work environment, Ulrich said.
"Once the economy gets better, experienced nurses will leave the workplace unless the hospital does something to retain them," Ulrich warned. "The nursing shortage will continue."
Ulrich and Pat D'Aurizio, RN, vice president at Bernard Hodes, New York, NY, have documented some of the top complaints about the workplace. Their data strongly supports AACN-articulated standards for a healthy work environment to deliver patient-centered care on an interdisciplinary team based on evidence-based practice.
Trends in Technology
As healthcare becomes more complex, technological solutions become more common, noted other presenters, including Margaret Fortino, MSN, RN, operations director at Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia.
"The goal of technology is to improve systems and processes to make care safer instead of relying on after-the-fact blame and punishment," she said. Fortino said the electronic medical record (EMR) is a technological solution to record access, medical errors and patient care.
A new computer-based algorithm calculator system at the Children's Hospital of Illinois helped reduce medication-dosing errors by 95 percent after 7 months, explained Julie Kasap, RN, in her poster presentation.
"Nurses usually ... are the last line of defense before a dosing error reaches the patient," Kasap said. "This technology allows the nurse to question dosing or administration instructions with confidence."
Laissez Les Bon Temps Roulez
Let the Good Times Roll! When not attending any one of the 400 sessions, nurses were out enjoying all New Orleans had to offer. The Convention Center, just blocks from the Mississippi River and the French Quarter, offered attendees a central location for dining and sightseeing.
Po' Boys at Mother's, beignets at Café du Monde, the French Market, the House of Blues and Bourbon Street are just some local hot spots.
"We love for NTI to be in town," said Denise B. Henry, BSN, RN-BC, CPHQ, director of post acute nursing/adult day healthcare center at East Jefferson General Hospital, Metairie, LA. "It's an awesome way for us to showcase not only our chapter, but our great city."
Nancy Malaga is regional editor at ADVANCE.