Two Lehigh Valley Health Network nurses showcased the network’s innovative approach to patient care during the pandemic at a conference in Philadelphia.
Nichole Persing and Diana Nguyen presented the team nursing model the network implemented to handle the pandemic case load to the Amercian Nurses Credentialing Center National Magnet Conference Oct. 13, an opportunity they said was an honor.
“Presenting at the Magnet Conference was a career highlight, especially sharing center stage with Diana, who has a very bright future,” Persing said.
Persing, who is a nurse leader at Lehigh Valley Hospital and for the LVHN, said the model is not new, but one that hasn’t been used for quite some time.
When COVID-19 hit, the nursing staff quickly became overwhelmed, she said, and changes had to be made to care for the number of patients needing critical care.
By the second surge in cases, Persing said the hospital had to open 12 beds for intensive care in a progressive care unit.
“Normally, one nurse cares for a patient,” she said. But during the surge, the hospital was faced with not only an increased patient load but a shortage of nurses, “so we had to work together to care for everyone.”
LVHN created the team nursing model which put together experienced registered nurses (RN), new registered nurses and eventually, licensed practical nurses (LPN).
Persing said the team could then care for more patients without giving up quality of care.
Nguyen, 24, who was just out of nursing school when the pandemic hit, said it was beneficial to her to have an experienced nurse to turn to, especially when faced with a terrified patient.
The model changed the workload, said Nguyen, who works at Lehigh Valley Hospital-Hecktown Oaks. “With the primary care model, one nurse took care of about five patients. With the team model, we had two nurses caring for up to eight patients during the peak of COVID. Now we are down to six patients,” she said.
By working together, she said, there is always someone to help when needed. The RN, she said, is responsible for assessing the patient, administering medications, and communicating with physicians. The LPNs help with checking IVs, drawing blood and administering medications within the scope of their practice.
“Everyone helps with turning and positioning the patients,” she said, “which is helpful for the patient and the staff.”
The program has been implemented across the health network. Persing said the program was assessed daily to see what worked. “It took open-mindedness,” she said. “We take any positive criticism for the model which remains fluid. Communication is the backbone of the model.”
As a new nurse facing a pandemic, Nguyen said after orientation, she had someone to turn to guiding her through critical care decisions. “It was a hard two years. It was stressful, but the team model allowed me to succeed,” she said
“This has changed nursing and made me a better nurse,” Nguyen said. “It has made me a better learner and given me confidence,” she said adding she learned in two years what it would have taken her eight years pre-pandemic. “There is always a silver lining in a crisis.”
Persing and Nguyen were both new to their roles when COVID hit. Persing, who had 18 years in nursing and critical care, had just taken on a leadership role. “This elevated me as a nurse and a leader,” she said. “I’m proud to see crisis intervention turn into something great.”
“This supports the future of our nurses and allows them to want to continue to be nurses,” Persing said. “It’s supportive of our nurses, our patients and our community.”