Success Story: New Orleans Hospital Provides Nursing Certification to Promote Better Patient Care

6/28/2017
In 2005, Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans hard, causing devastating destruction throughout the city. Virtually nothing was spared from harm - including healthcare facilities.

One such facility was Charity Hospital, which was closed due to damage sustained during the hurricane. In 2015, University Medical Center, a state-of-the-art, Level 1 trauma center and teaching hospital, was officially established in its former namesake’s place. During the time the hospital location was in flux, the hospital staff handled trauma and emergency care in various locations, including in tents and shopping centers.

“It was certainly a unique time to be part of New Orleans,” Monique St. Romain, BSN, RN, CEN, said.

St. Romain (left), who earned her Certified Emergency Nurse (CEN®) certification in 1993, works at UMC in the Trauma Services Department as the Trauma Performance Improvement Coordinator. She recalls that leading up to Katrina and even afterwards, the idea of incorporating an educational component through certification was a wish for many nurses, but funding was too tight to provide the option.

“When you must choose between spending budget dollars to keep basic supplies stocked or professional development for the staff, the choice is clear – the focus on patient care came first,” she said.

UMC, in conjunction with its partnership with Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center and Tulane University School of Medicine, established a new set of goals aimed at education and professional development. 

According to St. Romain, because the hospital is the only Level 1 trauma center in the area, one such goal is to also be the leading hospital for nurses holding professional certifications.

The emphasis for certification came from the top down, and Chief Nursing Officer Dr. Denise Danna, DNS, RN, NEA, BC, CNE, FACHE, is the motivational surge the hospital needed to get excited about achieving certification.

“Increasing the number of nurses who achieve certification in their specialty is a top priority [at UMC]. Certification is important as it validates the specialized knowledge of the nurses. Our goal this year is to increase nurses with specialty certification by 10 percent and so far over the last six months, we have seen a 4 percent increase. We are committed to support nurses to achieve this distinction through offering onsite certification courses, reimbursement for specialty nursing certification and recognizing the nurses at an annual breakfast," Danna remarked.

St. Romain explains, “Dr. Danna is the spark this place – this staff – needed. Her philosophy is simple: to provide the best patient care, the hospital must do its utmost to provide the best possible education to its nursing staff.”

UMC Emergency Department Director John MacMahon, RN, MSN, echoes St. Romain’s thoughts, noting that Danna’s philosophy makes good sense.

“Nurses are the front line to making the biggest impression within a hospital, and if your nurses are happy then your patients will be happy. It is a win-win for everyone involved,” he said.

MacMahon notes the seeds are planted from the first day of a new nurse’s year-long orientation, finally culminating in a frank discussion about how holding a certification could only help a nurse’s career.

“Our staff is a group of extremely skilled and qualified nurses who handle chaos every day. We’ve been lucky enough to finally have the resources available to provide it to them,” he said.

Certification is important as UMC works toward Magnet and ACS verification. Increased certification levels is clearly a goal for MacMahon, mentioning that when the American College of Surgeons (ACS) verified the hospital in 2014, one of the noted points of weakness was the low number of certified nurses.

While MacMahon said the goal of achieving Magnet status would be a wonderful feather in the hospital’s cap, getting the ED nursing staff to the next professional level is more important.

“It really comes down to doing the right thing for our nurses, and the right thing is to help them become the best professionals possible. Certification gives people the confidence to get out of their comfort zones, to step up and become invested in the hospital. Every time I see that drive in someone, I am just blown away,” he said.

Both MacMahon and St. Romain are excited to highlight the growth in certification numbers, which has climbed to 14 certified nurses, with nine nurses scheduled for an upcoming CEN review course and 11 nurses – including St. Romain - scheduled to take the Trauma Certified Registered Nurse (TCRN®) exam in the fall.  

St. Romain gives credit to the nurses – both new and established – for stepping out of that comfort zone to become certified, but also notes the importance of having solid leadership in place that wholly supports the certification process.

“[UMC] is an example that this can be done and it can be done well – you just have to have the right people in place on both sides for it to happen.”
Accreditation Board for Specialty Nursing Certification

BCEN's Certified Emergency Nurse (CEN®), Certified Flight Registered Nurse (CFRN®) and Certified Pediatric Emergency Nurse (CPEN®) credential have been accredited by the Accreditation Board for Specialty Nursing Certification (ABSNC).

Air & Surface Transport Nurses Association