Program at VUH seeks to improve medication safety

Jan 16, 2023 at 09:32 pm by Staff

by Matt Batcheldor

Vanderbilt Nursing and the Department of Pharmaceutical Services have teamed up to create the Medication Safety Champions program, intended to improve medication safety throughout Vanderbilt University Hospital.

Fifty-one nurses at the hospital have completed training in the program, which eventually aims to have a nurse specifically trained on medication safety in every unit, on every shift, throughout the hospital.

“We want to provide 24/7 support for our nursing staff and have that extra resource to ask questions, monitor practice, provide coaching and identify opportunities for improvement in safety,” said Jennifer Glenn, MSN, RN, NE-BC, senior associate of Nursing and an organizer of the program. “I think this is a great way for our frontline staff to impact change for the organization versus a top-down approach. It’s really empowering staff to be a part of the solution.”

The program is the result of a series of listening sessions held during summer 2022 to hear nurses’ perceptions of medication practices and identify areas to improve safety.

“We gathered amazing feedback from the frontline nursing team to be able to take action on,” said Molly Knostman, PharmD, MHA, executive director of Inpatient Pharmacy Operations at Vanderbilt and another organizer. “One of the things that was born out of these sessions was the need to have frontline nurses who would serve in the medication champion role to be able to serve as a resource to their peers.”

Nurses learned about the role during unit board and staff meetings and were invited to become medication safety champions, said Annie Glenn, RN, a patient flow nurse who trained to become a champion herself.

She said the response from her colleagues has been positive.

“We have presented to our staff that we’re here and available,” she said. “We’re not doing this in a punitive manner. Essentially, it was created to benefit and support them in order to create a culture of safety, to protect their license and to protect our patients.”

Glenn said the champions have observed medication administration and offered feedback to streamline the process for safety, keeping in mind the “five rights” of medication administration: the right patient, the right drug, the right dose, the right route and the right time.

“Seeing staff blossom, come out of their shells, really be engaged in this work has been super refreshing,” said Richelle Graham, MBA, BSN, RN, NE-BC, a nurse manager in Vanderbilt Orthopaedics.

Glenn said feedback gathered from the program is being recorded and discussed in monthly medication safety champion meetings, and medication safety champions have also integrated themselves in other safety committees that already existed. In turn, the committees are empowered to implement proposed solutions and tactics.

“This has been a fantastic partnership of frontline staff and pharmacy,” she said. “It’s really been a great way to share best practices and brainstorm solutions together.”

Knostman, who has been a leader at VUMC for more than 20 years, said the program is one of the most impactful during her tenure.

“It gave me the opportunity to really work with an amazing group of nursing leaders and design this program around what our frontline nursing team needs,” she said.

“You don’t have many opportunities to build something from the ground up. I’m really looking forward to the sustainability so that we can continue to promote and solidify medication safety, not only across the adult hospital but across the entire VUMC enterprise.”

Executive Chief Nursing Officer Marilyn Dubree, MSN, RN, NE-BC, said, “The Medication Safety Champions program has been designed to both empower nurses and improve care for our patients and families. I would like to express my appreciation to all who have been involved in this exciting new initiative.”