Shared position proves two heads are better than one

Coordinators tell how to job-share successfully

To balance work and family, Cindy Latty, BSN, RN, and Maureen Battles, BSN, RN, share the role of patient education coordinator/clinical educator at Riley Hospital for Children in Indianapolis, which is a part of Clarian Health Partners. Latty and Battles were looking for part-time opportunities when the job was created 3½ years ago, so they decided to work in tandem. One day a week they both are on site, and the remaining four days they take turns, creating their work schedules four to six weeks in advance.

Both work about 24 hours a week, leaving detailed phone messages about the tasks they have accomplished during their shift so each can pick up where the other left off. They also make copies of their notes and the minutes from any meetings they attend. The two women are active participants in many groups, and they sit on councils as one person — Latty/Battles. If both are working, they attend the meetings together, otherwise, one or the other attends.

The job summary for their position at Riley states that they are to coordinate the planning, implementation, promotion, and evaluation of patient education at Clarian. The two adult hospitals within the system, University Hospital and Methodist Hospital, each have a patient education coordinator with whom Latty and Battles work. "We focus more on the pediatric population, and our counterparts at IU and Methodist focus more on the adult population. If we come across something that applies to the pediatric patient as well as the adult, we work together," says Latty.

As coordinators, Latty and Battles assist health care professionals with the development of patient education materials and other projects pertaining to the education of patients. In that way experts develop the content, and Latty and Battles make sure it adheres to the policies created for patient education at Clarian. Materials are updated every three years to ensure that information is current and accurate. The two women also co-chair the interdisciplinary patient education council.

Both women have been with Riley Hospital for Children their entire nursing careers. Latty has worked at the pediatric facility for 20 years where she mostly cared for infants before taking on the job as patient education coordinator. Battles has been with Riley for 15 years, working with preschool-age children as a bedside nurse and as a care coordinator for 2½ years.

Clarian has 349 pediatric beds and 985 adult beds. Of those pediatric beds, 230 are at Riley. Methodist Hospital has three pediatric floors that include an intensive care unit and rehabilitation unit, while University Hospital does pediatric transplants. Recently, the health care system installed an overhead railway between the hospitals, which makes it easier for Latty and Battles to attend meetings at the other hospitals in a timely fashion and meet the needs of the other facilities.

In their joint position, Latty and Battles report directly to the senior vice president of pediatric nursing and patient care services. However, one year ago a director of education was hired for the health care system to oversee both staff and patient education. Latty and Battles consider this a matrix relationship. In a recent interview with Patient Education Management, Latty and Battles discussed their philosophies on patient education, the challenges they have met, and the skills they have developed that help them to do their job well.

Perfecting education, step-by-step

Question: What is your best success story?

Answer: "We don’t have one success story. When we were selected for the position of patient education coordinator at Riley it was difficult to know the source of many of the materials given to patients and health care providers didn’t know what was available," says Latty. "We started a pediatric-parent patient education council with parent members and representatives from all the inpatient units, clinics, and disciplines.

"Now staff are taking the initiative to focus on the patient education needs of their areas when they differ from the institution as a whole and some are developing their own councils. We feel success in the fact that we are mentoring people to see what they need for their areas and how to achieve that. We are ad hoc members of all these councils, and attend on a regular basis to encourage the development of these areas. We assisted with the creation of a patient education department site on our intranet and have electronic versions of our materials. Units can order a supply to have on hand or they can pull up documents and print them as needed. We have a long way to go, but we think these are some of the primary things that we have done."

Question: What is your area of strength?

Answer: "Communication, dependability, and flexibility are our strong points. Each of us can pick up where the other left off because we leave detailed explanations on the telephone. It is truly continuity. Also, we can depend on each other, we know that the task will get done," says Latty. "We call each other sounding boards. Sometimes we look at something the exact same way, and other times we have different viewpoints. It can give us a different focus and that is good. A lot of times, two heads are better than one. We have helped with communication of patient education throughout the facility. There used to be isolated groups doing their own things, and now they contact us when they need something that falls in the category of patient education."

Question: What lesson did you learn the hard way?

Answer: "That organizationwide, there is red tape, and it can take a long time to complete projects or create change. Even though we are definitely making a difference, it takes a long time to move forward with things in a large organization," says Battles.

Question: What is your weakest link or greatest challenge?

Answer: "Because Clarian is such a large organization, we want to make sure we are contacting all the appropriate stake holders, and we don’t know everyone in every hospital. We are learning. Our pediatric knowledge base has grown, and we have wonderful contacts throughout the organization. Yet it is a challenge to get the word out. We have broadcast e-mails that we use but not everyone reads them, so this is something we are slowly working on. [We] feel it is a weak link in that it is not exactly where we want it to be, and is something on which we are improving," says Battles. "The organization has acknowledged that this is a weak link, and recently formed a task force to partner with a communications company to plan and implement some strategic communication improvements."

Questions: What is your vision for patient education for the future?

Answer: "We recently opened a new family resource center and are working with our clinical staff to develop curriculum for classes. We are looking forward to evaluating outcomes of patients and family members educated in the classrooms vs. those at the bedside," says Latty. "By developing curriculum that is evidence-based, we will teach staff what it is they are supposed to teach. They will have standardized information and education for all our families on a lot of different topics. Our new education process in the family resource center will help with the standardization of care."

The center has four components that include a chapel, a family library, a Ronald McDonald House with six sleeping rooms and an adult lounge area for inpatient families, and an education center where Latty and Battles now have their office.

Question: What have you done differently since your last Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations’ visit?

Answer: "The biggest thing we have done is to modify our patient education record. When we first took the position, we tried to determine why people weren’t documenting and why the education wasn’t being completed, and we found the biggest challenge was time. Also, the forms weren’t user-friendly. So we took suggestions from staff and worked on a new record and guidelines on how to use it," says Battles. "We want the teaching record to be a communication tool of exactly where the patient is with education. [This way], anyone can look at it and see what has been completed and what needs to be done [so] the patient and or family is taught what they need to know in order to be discharged."

The first Joint Commission visit Latty and Battles were involved with took place six months after they took the position of patient education coordinator, and these changes are in progress. The most recent Joint Commission survey was in May.

Question: When trying to create and implement a new form, patient education materials, or program, where do you go to get information and ideas?

Answer: "To determine what is needed we get information from staff and patients. When we are looking for information we go to our clinical content experts. We rely on them because we want to make sure that what we create not only adheres to Clarian practice, but is evidence-based information. We not only format patient education materials making them colorful and user-friendly, we make sure that any layperson can understand the terms."

Sources

For more information about patient education at Riley Hospital for Children, contact:

Cindy Latty, BSN, RN, and Maureen Battles, BSN, RN, Patient Education Coordinators, Pediatrics, Riley Hospital for Children, Clarian Health Partners Inc. 702 N. Barnhill Drive, Indianapolis, IN 46202. Telephone: (317) 274-8845. E-mail: Clatty@clarian.org or Mbattles@clarian.org