In the very first article I wrote for Nursing Excellence, I described excellence not as a state, but a never-ending pursuit; a result of maximizing performance to reach or exceed goals. I have been with UAMS for almost 20 years and in my time here, I can say that UAMS has always been in pursuit of excellence. We may not have always looked excellent, but we have certainly never stepped off the path that would lead us there. Next month, we will take another giant step towards excellence with an application to the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) for Magnet Designation. This will begin a two-year effort to write the stories of our accomplishments that demonstrate the excellence we have achieved as an organization.
The very first time I heard anything about Magnet at UAMS was in 2007. I was a newer nurse in the NICU and I gave it little of my thought, as I was concentrating on being the best neonatal intensive care nurse I could be. As time passed, many changes occurred in nursing at UAMS as a result of integrating Magnet principles. Centralized councils began to form, a Resource Nurse program was established, a clinical ladder was put into place, a program to support National Certification was founded, a new transition to practice program (SOARn, now New Grad Residency) was developed and the Center of Nursing Excellence (CNE) was instituted. We began to hear more about Magnet and the principles of nursing excellence and I was inspired by the nursing leaders at UAMS. I wanted to be excellent and work in an excellent hospital. I began to look for ways to embody excellence. I was encouraged by a mentor in the NICU to become nationally certified-it was a distinction of knowledge, skill, and expertise, she said. And so I took the test and when I passed, my exam fee was reimbursed to me by the CNE. I was so proud of my accomplishment (I had studied for weeks and my practice tests were not encouraging). I was encouraged by that same mentor to apply to be an RNIV Clinical Expert a couple of years later. So I applied and was promoted to RNIV Clinical Expert. That role came with challenges and growth opportunities but I had the extraordinary opportunity to lead many practice changes in the NICU. Rhonda Long, RNIV, and I worked with the NICU Continuous Quality Improvement council to bring a new practice to the unit to promote safe sleep for infants and education to parents. It was challenging and required coordination with a vendor to bring in sleep sacks, collaboration with physicians, education of staff and parents, and monitoring. It was so much work but Rhonda and I were so proud of what the NICU had accomplished. Five years later, I was encouraged by leadership to apply to be the Advanced Practice Partner (now known as Clinical Specialist) for the NICU, which I was promoted to. One of the focuses I had in that role was reducing CLABSI in the NICU and from 2015 to 2019, the NICU CLABSI rate went from 2.76 to 0.6. It was so much work, but again, I was so proud of what the NICU accomplished in that time and how much safer we were making things for our patients. Five years later, I was encouraged to apply for the Director of Research and Excellence position, and next month, I will celebrate two years in this role. It is challenging, but I am so proud of the work you and this organization are doing to change practice and make things safer for our patients. And I have the honor of leading the effort to tell our colleagues, our community, our state, and the ANCC about your amazing accomplishments.
My trip down memory lane is not meant to boast about my accomplishments but rather to get you thinking about yours. How are you embodying excellence? What things are you achieving for your patients and your profession? What things are you most proud of? Every nurse in this organization is building a list of accomplishments for their patients and for their profession. These are the stories we will tell in our Magnet document. In essence, this is what being on a path to excellence is: each individual showing up and engaging to make change for patients and each other. It will be challenging and there will be struggles, but at the end, we will be so proud of what we have achieved. I cannot wait to read your stories.