Oncological emergencies made easier for nurses

Call it the poster plan for staff education

When physicians talked to Pat Abele, RN, OCN, education nurse clinician at Oakwood Hospital in Dearborn, MI, they often told her that the 36 nurses on the cancer ward missed signs and symptoms of oncological emergencies. And the nurses themselves often peppered Abele with questions. "They didn’t know what to look for, and they didn’t know what cancer would cause what emergencies," she recalls.

Part of the reason was the large number of new graduate nurses at the hospital, which led to a high turnover rate — almost 70% between 1998 and 1999.

Abele’s response was to create a series of educational posters that would be available as a ready reference by the nurses, as well as by other hospital staff who might observe patient changes.

She asked for eight nurse volunteers to do research and used her computer expertise to put it in an easy-to-read format. The posters, which cost about $6 each, covered etiology, signs, treatments, outcomes, and clinical pathways for the emergencies.

During the next eight months, Abele featured each one of the posters in an inservice. She also provided nurses with handouts based on the posters they could take with them. The inservice was conducted again last June, a year after the original program was introduced, so that new staff could benefit from it as well. "We even had some of our older nurses come back with more questions."

Since the program was implemented, physician complaints have declined. And the posters were considered good enough to bring to the other four hospitals in Oakwood’s system. Abele is also doing another set of posters with less clinical language for nursing assistants. "They are the ones who could really see the signs and symptoms the most," she says.

The only thing Abele says she wishes she had done differently is create a booklet of the handouts, rather than individual sheets. "It’s worked very well, overall. The nurses who had some knowledge could pick and choose which board they needed to brush up on."

[To get more information about this and other innovations in health care, go to www.best4health.org, the site of The Best Practice Network, an organization devoted to promoting information sharing and experience exchange among nurses, physicians, and other health care professionals. For more information on The Best Practice Network, e-mail join-us@best4health. org, or call (800) 899-2226.

Or contact:

• Pat Abele, RN, OCN, Education Nurse Clinician, Oakwood Hospital, Dearborn, MI. Telephone: (313) 593-7578.]