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Karen Harris is a clinical nurse educator at Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center (RHLCCC), Northwestern Medicine in Chicago. Karen transitioned to nurse educator after many years of working as an infusion nurse. Her strong desire to teach led her to her current role, educating and mentoring new nurses entering the oncology field. Karen was instrumental in the development of the first preceptorship program at RHLCCC to develop high-level oncology nurses. Karen also chairs RHLCCC’s Best Practice committee, ensuring evidence-based practice across the cancer center.

Finding Success Through Nurse Collaboration

Collaboration among nurses is paramount, and when they come together the best outcome is patient satisfaction.
Many patients receiving cancer care treatment may experience multiple appointments from outpatient to inpatient, radiation, and other specialty areas. To ensure that our patients are receiving the same consistent quality care across appointment offices, collaboration among nurses is paramount. I have firsthand experience in witnessing the power of nursing coming together for one common goal: our patients. 

In the history of our institution, never have such collaboration existed. However, in the efforts to deliver the same care across buildings and practice the same safety model, the 2 sides decided to come together and join forces in this first-time effort. Although a huge undertaking, the 2 sides were eager to jump on board. The successfulness of this initiative would not have been possible without the collaborative efforts from nurse educators and nurse management from both sides of the fence. This collaboration also included other disciplinarians such as pharmacy, corporate health, environmental services, and risk management. This was a yearlong effort with continuous meetings among all parties, reviewing and aligning policies and procedures, streamlining equipment’s and supplies, and integrating skilled competencies with both in-patient and out-patient nursing staff. 

During this process, much more was gained than what we could have ever anticipated. Nursing staff from both sides of the street began to network with each other, learning more about each other’s practices. Some of the nurses went on a field trip to the other side to understand each other’s work flow. Relationships were built and each side truly began to understand how valuable one another is and how this coming together was essential in giving the best quality care to our cancer patients. Because these relationships were developed communication have improved between both sides when patients have to go from outpatient to inpatient or vice versa. Whereas before, communication was minimum to none and it was not always clear to nurses what was happening with their patients when they left and went to either inpatient or outpatient. 

Due to this collaboration, areas for improvements were identified and resolved, new processes were established, and a paging support system was put in place for chemo spills. 

The American Nurses Association (ANA) defines collaborative care as, “Integrated enactment of knowledge, skills, and values and attitudes that define working together across the professions, with other health care workers, and with patients, along with families and communities, as appropriate to improve health outcomes.”1    

Because nurses are specifically trained to understand the role of other health care providers, according to Health Times, this training provides a strong foundation for successful collaboration.2

As an educator from the outpatient setting and collaborating with inpatient educators we were able to share resources, thoughts and ideas. The educators from both side came together and developed an all nurse competency that brought all infusion nurses under one building in one conference room working and learning with one common goal.

At the conclusion of this massive gap bridging construction the educators from both sides decided to not just end here but to continue regular meetings for further collaboration in streamlining education opportunities, oncology nursing grand round, evidenced base practices and any other opportunities that may present itself for continued collaboration.   

It is proven that when nurses come together and collaborate the best outcome is patient satisfaction.

1. American Nursing Association. Collaborative health care: nurses work in team base setting 2016. American Nursing Association website: Assessed August 16, 20192.
2. Health Times. Nurses in collaborative care teams 2017. Health Times website: Assessed August 16, 2019.

Talk about this article with nurses and others in the oncology community in the General Discussions Oncology Nursing News discussion group.
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