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Health Center’s ‘action nurses’ help out wherever needed

by Pat Keefe - September 12, 2005

The situation on a modern hospital floor can change from calm to approaching hectic almost instantly: Two patients need to be discharged, an elderly woman is being admitted through the Emergency Department, and a middle-aged diabetic requires special care – all at once. The quiet ward quickly becomes a scene of action.

The Health Center nursing administration has a way to improve patient care at such times – Action Nurses.

Most nurses are assigned to a specific part of the hospital. The Action Nurse program devotes additional nursing resources to exactly where they’re needed at the moment – regardless of floor or ward – to provide care, assist with or perform procedures, monitor patients, or just lend a hand when it’s busy and the regular staff is fully occupied.

The program was developed by Shelley Dietz, a nurse manager in the patient flow and nurse staffing resources department. It consists of three highly experienced and skilled nurses. Unlike a Rapid Response Team, which responds mainly to critical changes in a patient’s condition, the Action Nurses program provides help of almost any kind where it’s needed.

“We wanted a system that can provide intermittent services to all the nursing staff,” says Dietz. “We thought about what the high-level critical-care patient might need and the help the nursing staff might need to provide that care. We wanted a program that was flexible and quick-reacting. The Action Nurse program addresses all those concerns.”

Action Nurses are on duty from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. seven days a week.

Patricia Dugger, center, and Shelley Dietz are 'action nurses' at the UConn Health Center.
Patricia Dugger, center, and Shelley Dietz are ‘action nurses’ at the UConn Health Center.
Photo by Peter Morenus

In addition to registered nurse licensure, qualifications include a minimum of two years’ experience within the past two years in an emergency department, adult intensive care unit, or post-anesthesia care unit.

The priorities for the Action Nurses include monitoring critically ill patients awaiting transfer to the Intensive Care unit; assisting with admissions and initiating paperwork and care; helping physicians with lengthy procedures; assisting with conscious sedation; accompanying critically ill patients to other departments; aiding patient flow; and rendering patient care if a unit nurse is involved in an emergency with another patient.

“It’s the best job I’ve had,” says Action Nurse Patricia Dugger. “I’ve been in nursing for 27 years, and I have experience in critical care and the Emergency Department. This was an opportunity for professional growth.”

Action Nurses “get to do everything,” she says. “I love the personal contact, covering all the different floors, and helping people respond in emergencies and critical care situations. I want to help and support them any way I can.”

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