Create a great work environment, win national award

But the award is the least of this RN’s rewards

Sure, an award is great recognition, and a national award is even nicer. But asked about how she felt winning the Organizational Innovation Nurse Director Award from the American Organization of Nurse Executives (AONE) and Carla Borchardt, MS, RN, BC, director of Professional Practice and Magnet Project director at Avera McKennan Hospital in Sioux Falls, SD, talks more about the honor the award bestows upon the hospital and her peers.

"Getting awards and recognition is important because it acknowledges what we do and how we contribute to the greater health care system," says Borchardt. "Sure it’s nice for me, but the real honor is for Avera McKennan and all the nurses and other colleagues who worked to make it successful."

Borchardt was recognized by AONE for being an "architect of change" within her organization in the areas of work environment, image development, care delivery systems, and strategic relationships. Reading the official nomination form certainly underlines that she has done all of that for her facility. Among the items the nomination highlights:

• She directed and coordinated the change from handwritten to automated nursing documentation, developing all staff education materials and coordinating the education of 500 nursing staff on the change.

• As Magnet Project director, she led the core team responsible for conducting the hospital’s self-assessment and coordinated the collection and compilation of all documentation and evidence submitted in the Magnet application as well as serving as the co-writer of the documentation.

• Borchardt serves as the administrative advisor to Nurse Governance Council. The council is composed of and chaired by staff RNs. She was instrumental in the development of the Professional Nursing Achievement Program (PNAP) that recognizes and rewards the efforts and activities of patient care.

Creating buy-in

Although it isn’t a stated goal of the programs, Borchardt says she knows that when you have good programs and a good working environment, you are less likely to have some of the vacancy and turnover problems that are evident in many hospitals around the country. "We certainly don’t have the problems in South Dakota that they have in other parts of the country," she says. "Part of that is because we are located in the biggest city in the state. But part of that is having a great working environment."

Key to maintaining that positive work environment is having great communication, she says. "When managers are on site, staff can talk to them. If they have a problem after hours when no manager is on site, then nursing leaders are on call to handle issues."

Whenever a new policy or procedure is considered, nurses are involved through council structures to make sure that nurses can voice concerns and have a say in how things are implemented. "I think that one of the most important things you need to have a satisfied work force is knowledge and information."

For instance, when the automated documentation program started, staff nurses were instrumental in developing the system. "They were going to be the end users," Borchardt says. "It only makes sense that they work on the development. That created buy-in."

Being willing to use technology is, in and of itself, becoming a factor in maintaining a positive work environment. For the last several years, the hospital has been named one of the Top 100 Wired Hospitals. Borchardt thinks that the younger generation of nurses will increasingly view facilities that are not technologically savvy in a more negative light, giving hospitals like hers an edge in recruiting a new generation of nurses.

Along with keeping nurses informed about what is going on, Borchardt says she also believes in being proactive in asking them what is important to them. Every two years, the hospital does an employee opinion survey. This summer, they also are asking all the RNs to participate in two additional studies that look specifically at nursing issues. One is through the University of Minnesota at Mankato and the other is with the National Center for Nursing Quality’s National Database of Nursing Quality Indicators. Information from those surveys should give Avera McKennan management more indications about what’s right with the work environment and what nurses see as still needing work.

Keeping staff happy is something that Borchardt takes seriously. But typical of her, says her nomination form, she’s unlikely to seek the spotlight and acknowledge her role in making a positive work environment. "I don’t think we would be as successful as we are without a chief nurse executive and CEO who recognize the value of nursing and what it brings to the table," she says.


  • Carla Borchardt, MS, RN, BC, Director of Professional Practice, Magnet Project Director, Avera McKennan Hospital, 800 E. 21st St., Sioux Falls, SD 57117-5045. Telephone (605) 322-7828.