A simple chat brought staff together, and made patients safer

March 18, 2022  //  FOUND IN: Updates & Resources,

UH 5th Floor demonstrates collaboration between nurses and providers in bid to enhance communication, ease workflow and keep patients safe.

Digital communication between friends, colleagues and family have never been more prevalent. We have apps for nearly everything—entertainment, work, chores.

Nevertheless, groups that rely on each other for success sometimes remain siloed. This hampers communication between those working groups.

One intrepid group of nurses and providers came together for a solution.

On the University Hospital’s 5th Floor, a temporary short-staffing situation arose. A surgical team was down a resident due to unforeseen circumstances, which led the teams to collaborate in an efficient manner – secure chat.

Secure chat is not an uncommon tool, but one that was not highlighted. With its prioritization several positive outcomes took place that fit into Michigan Medicine’s BASE framework. Patients were safer, each staff member felt invested in the program and the staff enjoyed the shared experience of the program.

A pair of clinical nurse specialists teamed up to make this happen. Sarah Fuhrmann, M.S.N., R.N., AGCNS-BC, on 5B and Rachel Orfei, M.S.N., R.N., AGCNS-BC, for 5A and 5C were nursing champions in this regard.

The surgical urology service team of Juan Andino, M.D., a post-graduate fifth-year, and Ann Cameron, M.D., adult urology service chief and associate department chair, brought the request to nursing leadership. From there, Fuhrmann and Orfei were tasked with rolling it out to the nurses, while Dr. Andino brought it to the providers.

“A large part of the success is based on both teams coming to the table,” Fuhrmann said. “This helped enhance our communication so patients had what they needed.”

Once the program began, it was tested during the day and usage increased during the overnight hours, too.

One terrific feature is that the chat can accommodate more than 250 characters per message. This enhanced communication allowed nurses and providers to share additional clinical background and reasoning from anywhere at any time. This promoted a richer discussion of non-urgent patient issues and it led to a better feedback loop.

“The bedside staff caring for patients were very engaged in the initiative because it improved patient care,” said Orfei. “Nursing and provider teams wanted the same end result. Everyone was empowered as a leader.”

Moreover, because the secure chat was set up for access to be used by anyone on the team, it provided a safe and energizing way to speak up when necessary.

“All staff leaders educated each other,” Fuhrmann said. “And all staff were empowered to speak up if gaps in communication were identified.”

Fuhrmann and Orfei were quick to note several members of the 5A, 5B and 5C nursing leadership who provided valuable contributions to the planning, implementation and support of secure chat usage. Those leaders are listed below:

5A: Lachonda Sullivan, M.S.N., R.N., CNML, Nursing Director; Ashley Berry, M.S.N., AGNP-C, CMSRN, Nursing Supervisor

5B: Amy Allen, D.N.P., R.N., CNML, Nursing Director; Mary Lake, M.S.N., R.N., CNML, Nursing Supervisor

5C: Sarah Lane, M.S.N., R.N., CNML, Nursing Director; Vincent O’Neil, B.S.N., R.N., Nursing Supervisor