AAMI News November 2017

Biomed–Nursing Partnership Has Lasting Impact

Donna Currie
Donna Currie

Steve Vanderzee is the system director for clinical engineering at Advocate Health Care in Downers Grove, IL. He wrote this article in memory of Donna Currie, Advocate’s system director for infection control, who recently died as a result of a debilitating kidney disease.

It was an emotional process to write this article, and it has me wondering why we wait to acknowledge someone’s contributions and friendship until after they’re gone.

Donna wanted to co-author a document to share the process we developed between our departments—Clinical Engineering (CE) and Patient Safety. She and I both felt that what we started is a best practice. So, I am hoping this article will somehow find its way to where I know she is at peace.

Promoting Patient Safety

At Advocate Health Care, we are working toward achieving zero serious safety events by 2020. This journey has involved making many changes to how we look at safety, as well as in our safety culture. A significant change has been implementing a weekly system-focused safety huddle. Donna and I realized early on that we could benefit from meeting more often, assuming that maybe over time these meetings would become less frequent.

As a result, we started meeting twice a week in addition to the weekly systemsafety huddle. During these meetings, w ewould reflect on the previous week and anticipate what would occur in the future. Many times, this was a quick meeting, less than 10 minutes; other times, it lasted 30 minutes with additional follow-ups.

A lot of our focus was on device-specific alert/recall activity. In the past, those of us in the CE Department just managed alerts, assumed we knew the impact on our end users, and rarely had a consistent message or good communication tool.

A Nurse’s Perspective

When we first started meeting, there were many times Donna and I didn’t agree. I still had my CE hat on, and she was always challenging me to “think about our end user, the nurse.” Those who knew Donna know she didn’t hesitate to tell you what she thought. Some would translate that into being confrontational, but for me, it challenged my thinking, and I am grateful she questioned things. My department and I are better because of that questioning attitude.

Donna always brought the nurse’s perspective to the table. So many times we assumed we knew what the nurse was doing or how they were doing it within a specific workflow, only to find out how wrong we were.

She would always encourage us to ask: “What is this going to mean to the nurse?” We often would be so deep in the weeds related to the technical aspects of a recall that we would lose sight of what our end users needed to be aware of. Donna would always remind us that any recommendation we made must be actionable and have minimal impact on nursing. “They already have too many things to do,” she would say.

Better Communication

Donna also was the one who introduced us to the SBAR communication tool, which refers to the situation, background, assessment, and recommendation. The SBAR format focuses the content of a message on what needs to be shared in what’s typically a one-pagedocument.

Although the SBAR tool is commonly used in nursing, this wasn’t something we used in CE. Today, it’s our department’s go-to communication format. We have used it to address equipment recalls and alerts, device-specific user issues, and even executive presentations.

Trust and Respect

Throughout our relationship, Donna and I grew to trust and respect each other’s opinions and developed a strong collaborative relationship. I know our organization wouldn’t be what it is today if not for Donna’s leadership, compassion, and commitment to safety.

I know every organization has at least one Donna Currie. Take the time to recognize him or her before life changes.