This story originally appeared in IHI's 2008 Annual Progress Report.
They say it takes a village to raise a child, and the same concept is true in health care: it takes a team to deliver excellent care. At Columbus Regional Hospital in Columbus, Indiana, teamwork brings together unlikely partners who reach across departments and disciplines to build safety into every aspect of care.
One such partnership is that of Clinical Nurse Specialist Jennifer Dunscomb, MSN, RN, CCRN, and Director of Facilities and Materials Management David Lenart, PE, MBA. They have worked together to improve care in a number of unexpected ways.
“As a clinician you focus on the clinical aspect of things, and you don’t always see how critical the support staff is in making your processes possible,” says Dunscomb. “Working with Dave and his staff has helped me learn this.”
The two have teamed up to improve acute myocardial infarction (AMI) care by engineering a process to repair broken EKG leads quickly; hand hygiene by setting and meeting new goals for sink repair turnaround; and central line safety by creating central line kits containing gloves, hats, masks, gowns, and hand gel, to encourage clinicians to take all proper precautions to reduce the risk of infections.
“When you’re not a hands-on caregiver, sometimes it’s difficult to see how your work connects to the mission of patient care,” says Dave Lenart. “I try to develop tangible activities and measurements that show how support services can affect patients’ outcomes.” This means helping staff see the connections between the assembly of central line kits and reductions in central line infection rates, for example.
Jennifer Dunscomb says this cross-departmental teamwork is part of the organization’s culture. “Our leaders challenge us to think specifically about how non-clinical leaders affect quality. Dave heard that message and took it to his staff in ways they could really act on.”
With only four cases of ventilator-associated pneumonia and two central line infections in nearly five years, the teamwork has really paid off. “Everyone thinks a sink is just a sink,” says Dave Lenart. “But we understand the relationship between a broken sink and hand hygiene and infection. So we make fixing that sink a top priority.”