Use on-line listservs to gather improvement ideas

Are you in a rural community hospital and feel isolated from collaborative opportunities? Do you need background on a specialty such as nurse legal consultants?

If you belong to a listserv, the fix is less than two hours away. Simply defined, a listserv is an on-line discussion group. Members participate only when they have time and if the subject matter interests them. There is no obligation to read through all the comments, to respond, or to introduce discussion topics.

Ann Bertoch, RN, MS, vice president of patient care at Mercy Medical Center in Williston, ND, for example, logs on to a nursing listserv when she gets home from work. She spends 15 to 30 minutes scanning the discussion topics, adding comments as she chooses.

Louise Baldwin, MBA, RN, CNA, director of patient care services at Harris Continued Care Hospital in Bedford, TX, checks in at the office when she has a few minutes.

"You can ask any nursing question and get an answer at the drop of a hat," she says. For example, a colleague asked about employment opportunities for nurse legal consultants. Within two hours, Baldwin had a list of contacts, books, and listservs on the subject.

When Bertoch followed discussions regarding chaperones for intimate exams in the emergency room, it led to unanticipated policy changes in her facility. People were validating the need for chaperones at exams for male as well as female patients.

"With our culture’s openness about homosexuality, providers of both sexes need protection against allegations of impropriety," she explains. "As a result of the listserv discussion, we changed policy in our emergency room to include chaperones for all intimate exams."

As with any group, each listserv has its own personality and style:

• moderator-facilitated or free flowing;

• membership fees or free;

• strictly business or business-social interactions.

How can you find relevant listservs? Ask your peers. Many professional societies maintain them. (For contact information for Louise Baldwin and Ann Bertoch, see resource box, at left.)