Upon joining the team at Inova Fairfax ER, Kara Bauman’s Clinical Directors gave her three key objectives: prioritize Orientation, build a New Grad Residency, and increase the number of certified nurses within the department. Through Kara’s hard work and the generosity of the Inova Foundation, the Inova Fairfax ER have been able to consistently add certified nurses to their exceptional staff. The aforementioned foundation developed a fund that was earmarked for the education of emergency room nurses; these funds have been essential to Kara and her team’s ability to provide their community with a superior level of care. Furthermore, the funds have given Inova employees the opportunity to acquire continued education, without any out of pocket costs.
I had the pleasure of speaking with Kara to discuss her relationship with Solheim Enterprises, the generosity of these foundations, the benefit of continued education for nurses, and her experience in providing educational opportunities to her staff.
MF: You’ve been a part of the Solheim Enterprises community for a few years now, would you mind giving me a little background on how our relationship began?
KB: I had attended one of Jeff's review courses when I lived in Colorado and remember him as an excellent and engaging speaker. I looked around at different education companies - looking for someone more local because that would reduce our costs - but ultimately I came back to Solheim Enterprises. Jeff recommended we bring in Bill Light, who also taught CEN Review Courses and so in April of 2015, we had Bill teach back-to-back certification review courses for us. Our department leadership wanted to make sure that we offered it to as many of our staff as possible. Therefore, we offered two options so that those who were working during the first course could attend the second one and vice versa. Of course, Bill did an extraordinary job and we are thrilled to been able to continue offering these review courses through Solheim Enterprises to our staff twice per year. I am proud to say we now have 30 CENs and 6 TCRNs! And we have more ready to test following our October CEN Review.
MF: I’ve been told that you have a unique ability to fund educational opportunities for your staff. Can you tell me about that?
KB: We are really fortunate here at Inova. We have the Inova Foundation and the Bette and James Mayer Foundation Fund. This fund is earmarked for the education of emergency room nurses. We have had the amazing opportunity to utilize those funds to put on review courses for our staff. We are proud to say we are so well supported by our own foundation.
MF: I noticed that all Inova employees can attend the courses for free due to the Inova Foundation, is that right?
KB: Correct. We’re a hospital system - we have multiple campuses and stand-alone facilities. And the fund isn't just for the Fairfax emergency nurses: it's for nurses across the entire system. When we found out that we could use these funds to pay for the courses, it made sense to offer those opportunities to all of our employees. The CEN and TCRN Review Courses cover more than just what we see in the Emergency Room, they cover critical care and trauma throughout the continuum so we wanted to make sure that we included our ICU and TACS staffs as well.
MF: There’s a huge benefit when you’re able to give the whole system access to these educational resources. What are the immediate benefits that you see?
KB: I think there are many benefits we see! The more education opportunities we can provide for our staff, the better care our staff will give to their patients. It helps them to see the big patient picture and that is a huge positive.
We are proud to be thought of as one of the top Emergency Rooms in the country and we have the nurses and the certifications that represent that. Nurses who attend the review courses are then encouraged to take the certification exam and demonstrate their expertise in emergency nursing. Our nurses can use their certification as they navigate their own clinical ladder within the hospital. A specialty certification is one of items they need to progress from an RN2 to an RN3 - and ultimately an RN4. Not only does this demonstrate to our patients how clinically proficient our nurses are, but it elevates the nursing profession and helps with retention.
Nurses want education and when it is offered to them, they feel valued. They're even happier when education is offered and that they don't have to pay for it. Nurses need contact hours to maintain their license and certification and these are free contact hours. Then at the department level, we now have nurses that are better trained, certified, and are progressing through the clinical ladder. They're invested. They get involved and want to be a part of making our department better.
MF: What about outside of the hospital? What is the benefit inside the community, stretching beyond the Inova system?
KB: Since we offer the courses for free to our own employees, we can offer the courses to nurses outside of our system at a fairly low cost too. Nurses who aren't a part of our system but are interested in sitting for the review course or the exam; or just want to learn something are more than welcome to join us. We're not trying to keep this internal, we recognize a better educated nurse can be extremely beneficial to their patients. That’s what stretches out into the community. We know our Northern Virginia community is being served by nurses who care and are talented.
MF: Our team is impressed with your ability to consistently fill the room with nurses and other hospital staff members. What’s your secret?
KB: Our first two CEN review courses had over 200 nurses in attendance. Now we tend to fill rooms with anywhere from 50-100. Since we only offer the TCRN Review once a year we will have more people at that course. To be honest with you, I'd hold the review even if there were fewer than 30 of us in the room. This education is that important!
That being said, I also encourage our staff, especially my newer nurses, to attend [a review] more than once. First when they're getting ready to start studying to get a feel for what might be on the exam, how to study for it, and to find out what their strengths and weaknesses are. Then I have them take it a second time right before they're getting ready to sit for the exam. I never discourage anyone from attending; they will always learn something they can use at the bedside.
MF: What kind of advice could you give to other hosts who are thinking about bringing a course and how it can impact their community and organization?
KB: I try to make it sound as casual and fun as possible. I don't want people to be stressed out about having to come to education. I try to make it sound less intimating, which is super easy when you have somebody like Bill teaching a course. He's not intimidating at all and can keep a room full of nurses entertained for two full days. That is not an easy feat!
I tell them, even if you don't think that you are ready to come and sit for the exam, come and learn because you are going to pick up something during the course that will make you a better nurse.
Additionally, I feel strongly, that while Inova values the education of its nurses, it is not just our nurses who need education. Therefore, I do not limit the course strictly to our nursing staff. I encourage our EMTs and LPNs to attend as well.
I always reach out to the other local hospitals and encourage them to send their nurses. When I get an email from somebody who is not an Inova employee, I try really hard to reach out to them and encourage them to attend because I want them to be better at their job too.
I think the generosity of our foundation makes it possible for us to improve the overall care of ER patients and the knowledge base of ER Nurses. I don't like to limit that. And what brings people back to us is the quality of education. The word gets out that we offer an excellent CEN Review and people spread the word. It's definitely word of mouth that reaches the farthest.
By Michael Fredericks