SVMC honored for nursing

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BENNINGTON — It might take a village to keep someone in good health.

Southwestern Vermont Medical Center received the American Nurses Credentialing Center's Magnet Prize for its Transitional Care Nursing Program. The hospital received the prize on Oct. 13 at the group's conference in Houston.

The receipt of that award — the highest that the organization gives to its Magnet-designated hospitals — is reflective of the culture of the Southwestern Vermont Health Care, according to Carol Conroy, the hospital's chief nursing officer.

"It's one in which we've had transformational leaderships that allowed the staff to reach their fullest potential and give them a place and a voice in what they do," she said.

Conroy is retiring after nine years in her role at SVMC and 46 years of experience as a nursing professional in Massachusetts, New York and Vermont. In an interview on Friday, she spoke about how the recognition to the nursing staff's work is intrinsically connected to the health care system's mission and values.

Also important, she said, is fostering a supportive work environment where the sharing of new ideas is encouraged.

"Happy staff make happy patients," she said. "Patients are happy when you recognize we're guests in the lives of our patients. They give us permission to be with them when they are most vulnerable. That's a sacred trust and we take that very seriously."

The magnet award is given yearly to an organization "whose proposed project best describes cutting-edge research, practices, services, technologies, programs, or other exemplary innovations designed to increase the knowledge base of support for patient care and nursing excellence and to demonstrate positive outcomes," according to ANCC.

The Transitional Care Nursing program was developed over the past three years to help high-risk patients with a chronic illness, behavioral health or substance abuse disorder. SVMC's own Barbara Richardson was honored a year ago for her work in the transitional care nursing program. She was one of five nurses named as a 2016 American Nurses Credentialing Center National Magnet Nurse of the Year.

Nurses work with patients on a discharge plan as they move from one care setting to another. A support network exists between nurses and the community through partnerships with mental health services and other organizations.

Conroy called it the "foundation for health care in the future."

"People want to be at home, want to manage their diseases at home, and want primary care for periodic visits. But they want their independence," she said.

It also aims to decrease costs associated with health care by preventing expensive emergency department or intensive care unit visits, or re-admissions after 30 days. It reduced the readmission rate and the number of patients who went to the emergency department by 50 percent.

That effort requires collaboration across different departments in the health care system and outside groups, Conroy said.

"Magnet organizations maintain their status by maintaining relationships," she said.

Reach staff writer Ed Damon at 802-447-7567, ext. 111 or @edamon_banner.

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