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Nurses showcase innovations at TriService course

BAMC News & Awards



Story by Elaine Sanchez and Lori Newman, BAMC Public Affairs
Published Septmber 17, 2015



Photo byRobert Shields

Air Force Capt. Kelly Lonergan, from SAMMC’s Inpatient Mental Health Unit, presents findings from her study on the “Use of Pet Therapy in an Inpatient Behavioral Health Setting” at the TriService Nursing Research Program’s Research and Evidence-based Practice Dissemination Course in San Antonio Aug. 31-Sept. 3.

Several nurses from San Antonio Military Medical Center were selected to showcase their nursing research and evidence-based practice innovations during a joint military course in San Antonio.

The nurses were among the Army, Navy, and Air Force presenters at the TriService Nursing Research Program’s Research and Evidence-based Practice Dissemination course Aug. 31-Sept. 3.

The course was intended to “highlight research and evidence-based practice innovations … while fostering collaborative partnerships among TriService nursing partners,” the chiefs of the Army and Air Force Nurse Corps and director of the Navy Nurse Corps wrote in a welcome letter.

“It is so exciting to see nurses, clinicians, administrators and leaders from all three military services come together with the goal of disseminating research and best practice evidence in order to improve the healthcare of our beneficiaries,” added Army Col. Michael Schlicher, the program’s executive director, in a letter to attendees.

SAMMC presentations ranged from the benefits of therapeutic music on inpatient surgical wards to improvements for “near miss” reporting on medical telemetry wards.

Air Force Capt. Kelly Lonergan, from SAMMC’s Inpatient Mental Health Unit, presented findings from her project on the “Use of Pet Therapy in an Inpatient Behavioral Health Setting.”

Lonergan’s project was geared to reducing patient anxiety through the use of pet therapy. A pet therapy team visited with inpatient behavioral health patients at least once a week over a six-month period.

“We conducted a little over 30 visits per month, about 200 patients,” Lonergan said. “We found huge drops in anxiety post-pet therapy.”

The patients completed the Hamilton Anxiety Scale 30 minutes prior to the pet therapy and again 30 minutes after the pet therapy session.

“Because of the positive results we were able to increase our pet therapy teams from one to six,” Lonergan said. “So we have six rotating teams now that come through four times a week.”

The positive outcome inspired them to share their results with other units throughout the hospital, Lonergan said. “One of the other successes which I didn’t anticipate was staff morale,” she said. “Every time the pets came up the staff was so excited.”

Also representing SAMMC, Army Capt. Amanda Rodriguez, a staff nurse on 3T, focused on patient safety with her project, “3T Medical Intensive Care Unit Evidence-based Project to Reduce Nuisance Alarms.” The aim of the project was to reduce false physiological alarms and to improve patient safety, she said.

“Many studies have demonstrated as many as 99 percent of alarm signals may be false and can result in patient harm or death when a clinically actionable alarm is missed due to alarm fatigue,” she explained. Alarm fatigue is when a person is exposed to an excessive number of alarms. This sensory overload can lead to desensitization and delays in response or missed alarms.

To reduce this high occurrence of false alarms, 3T MICU nurses implemented the American Association of Critical-care Nurses Practice Alert for Alarm Management at San Antonio Military Medical Center. This practice involves “reviewing alarm setting and patient-specific tailoring of the physiological alarms every shift,” Rodriguez explained.

After a six-week period, “alarms were reduced by over 900 fewer per day,” she said.

The project, with its impressive results, was well-received, Rodriguez said, noting the course “was not only an outstanding opportunity to share our accomplishments, but to encourage and inspire others to pursue evidence-based practice projects,” she said.

Robin Francis, assistant clinical nurse officer in charge for the 3W Medical Surgical Telemetry unit, highlighted one of her team’s poster presentations. The presentation, authored by the unit practice council, showcased an initiative to improve communication between technicians and nurses when patients’ vital signs were abnormal but not within Rapid Response Team parameters, she explained. They instituted “parameter pals,” a tool to assist technicians in knowing when to alert nurses about abnormal vital signs.

As a result of the speedier detection of abnormal signs, “the tool increased our response time to activate RRT by 50 percent,” Francis said. “I am always very proud of my team.”

Air Force Airman 1st Class Zachary Ferguson, who spearheaded the initiative, called the conference an “enlightening experience.” “The opportunity to collaborate and exchange ideas with fellow nurses is rare but absolutely necessary,” he said. “It allowed us to grow not only as medical professionals but as Soldiers and Airmen as well.”

Army Capt. Allison Ferro, a 3E staff nurse at SAMMC, presented a case study on how academic service partnerships can enhance the development and training of military nurses. After sharing her findings in podium and poster presentations, Ferro took advantage of the opportunity to attend other sessions.

“I was able to hear from bedside nurses on their best practices and evidence-based projects, all the way up to the most senior military scientists and their ongoing programs of research,” she said. “The material offered at this course is invaluable to my professional and personal development as a nurse.”

Army Lt. Col. Christopher Weidlich, deputy chief of research for the Center for Nursing Science and Clinical Inquiry at SAMMC, attended the course and praised the overall conference.

“It was an excellent opportunity for military nurses from all services to come together, exchange ideas, whether it be the latest in research or evidence-based projects, and move the science forward, ultimately translating to improved patient care throughout military facilities,” he said.