Can Nurses Rescue U.S. Healthcare?

Magnet 1a

Having worked in the healthcare industry through our company, Healing Healthcare Systems, for more that two decades, I’ve blogged about many of the problems in the US healthcare system. But I’ve also been fortunate to observe very positive movements, such as the patient experience movement being led by the Beryl Institute. In Atlanta, Georgia, last week, I attended the 2015 Magnet Hospital conference, sponsored by the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC). “Magnet Hospital” is an honorary designation based on these goals listed on the ANCC website:

  • Promote quality in a setting that supports professional practice
  • Identify excellence in the delivery of nursing services to patients/residents
  • Disseminate best practices in nursing services
Magnet 2a
All 9,000+ nurses wouldn’t fit into this photo

The Atlanta conference was attended by over 9,300 nurses! It was amazing to be in such a large group in a single conference room. The conference was held at Atlanta’s World Congress Center, a huge facility which was very well designed for large conferences such as this one. There were several general sessions and many small specialty meetings.

Susan and I were joined by three Healing Healthcare Systems staff members, who ran our HHS booth in the large vendor area. There were over a hundred diverse vendors. But I was pleased with the attendance at our booth. The large video screen showing beautiful CARE Channel scenes in Blue-Ray high definition drew people to our booth. Our staff collected hundreds of leads from interested nurses from around the country, which will undoubtedly lead to new hospitals embracing the CARE Channel during the coming months. It was a good conference for us.

Magnet 3a
The HHS trade show booth.

I didn’t attend any of the small specialty sessions, but the large sessions for all attendees were outstanding. The opening session featured a retired nuclear submarine commander, David Marquet, author of a best selling book: Turn the Ship Around! A True Story of Turning Followers into Leaders. He was not an expert in healthcare. But he had interesting observations about leadership, team building, and being ready to deal with new and unexpected circumstances, which certainly is relevant in day-to-day nursing practice.

The annual awards ceremony honoring outstanding nurses was inspiring. Clearly, nurses are at the forefront of medical progress, based on the fact that they are in a better position to observe patients than any other healthcare professionals. For instance, nurses have discovered more effective uses for pharmaceuticals utilized for pain management and certain specific diseases. Nurses are the primary caregivers for patients in terms of using environmental design and complementary therapies to support traditional pharmaceutical and medical treatment protocols. Nurses apply their skills in ways which were previously the exclusive domain of physicians. This has led to nursing organizations demanding a larger roll in hospital administration and leadership. This matches the decline of traditional physicians’ roles, as hospitals have created physician-employees, known as hospitalists, aided by physicians’ assistants (PA’s), and Nurse Practitioners (NP’s), nurses with advanced degrees who have authority to treat similar to physicians.

The trend favoring an increased roll for nurses is partially a reaction to the old model of “medicus rex”, the physician as king. It is also a reaction against the old financial model, which has given the US the most expensive healthcare system in the world. One night in the hospital costs many thousand dollars regardless of the patient’s diagnosis. Costs continue to rise, such that besides being unsustainable and unaffordable, they are stimulating experimentation and innovation. One trend that was spoken of is that hospitals are evolving into specialized acute-care institutions, from which patients will be discharged as soon as possible into less expensive recovery facilities. This trend has also been driven by insurance companies requiring patients to be discharged from the hospital much earlier than in previous times.

Magnet 4a
Lovely statue in front of the Atlanta Sun Trust building.

Ultimately, the changes that must occur to fix the US healthcare system will be beneficial to all, patients, families, and caregivers. But the period of transition will be painful, as many professionals, such as trends currently impacting physicians, find their prestige and economic dominance diminished. Different models of healthcare delivery are springing up, such as neighborhood clinics, healthcare services offered by corporations such as Walmart and Walgreens, and the increasing trend toward the preference for alternative/complementary therapies.

The most important thing for me about the Magnet Conference is that nurses are reaching an ever-higher level of professional practice. They are more empowered than perhaps ever before. As a profession, they are leading the way in terms of improving patient care while saving the industry from self-destruction.

Magnet 5a
Ceiling of The Mellow Mushroom, an Atlanta institution that now has 190 restaurants around the country.

Columbus, Georgia

Whenever we have a conference event in Atlanta, it is only a short two-hour drive to my old hometown of Columbus, Georgia. My father was an attorney and later a Superior Court judge in Columbus. I went to elementary and high school in Columbus. Most of my old friends and relatives live there. But my “roots” are in Alabama, in the forty-acre country place where I spent most of my youth. Although we had a vegetable garden every year and raised chickens, geese, and even goats, it’s not really a proper “farm”. It’s just my “country place.” This recalls the old saying that “you can take the boy out of the country, but you can’t take the country out of the boy.” I still have some “country boy” traits that contrast with Susan’s city (Detroit) background. I grew up at my country place regarding nature as a friend, while for Susan in Detroit, nature was the enemy…heat, humidity, insects, etc.

Magnet 6a
View of the house where I lived the first 18 years of my life.

Ever since the deaths of my parents, I’ve had a tenant couple living at the country place. My buddy Bill is very skilled with a chain saw. Every time I come to Columbus, Bill and I go out to the country place and fell dead trees, many of them pine trees killed by bark beetles. I hope the beetles don’t kill the whole forest! The other pest is beavers in our pond. The beavers stay out of sight whenever humans are around. However, once they are alone, the beavers compulsively stop up the spillway, which drains the pond when it is full. Once the spillway is stopped up, the beavers then start to build a dam at the overflow runaround at the edge of the dam. The beavers have built dams on the stream in the swamp both below and above the pond. The older dam has been in place for several years. The problem is that pine trees and many other types cannot tolerate being submerged in water. They die after a couple of years, the shallow beaver dam pond fills with sediment and dead limbs, and voila, eventually a meadow is formed. This is the beaver’s role in nature. But it plays havoc with the landscape and pond on my country place.

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Beaver dam that the beavers reconstruct no matter how often it is destroyed.
Georgia 8
Fence around the country place following my father’s philosophy that “you can only own what you can defend.”

















Georgia 9
Richland Rum.

On this visit, Bill suggested a new adventure for us…We visited a new rum manufacturer located in a small town (maybe one thousand people?) of Richland, Georgia, about a forty-five minute drive from Columbus. Richland Rum was founded by a Dutch couple, who first moved to the states from Holland over twenty years ago. Their rum factory is less than a decade old. The rum is excellent, and has won prestigious prizes from its entry into the market.

Production is still relatively small. The only ingredients comprising the rum are fermented sugar cane syrup and distilled water (to dilute and standardize the alcohol content). The couple have an eighty-acre sugarcane farm which provides the necessary sugarcane for their current production requirements. Their continued success will allow them to expand production over time.

This rum is good enough for me to alternate it with my Grand Marnier and Cointreau. The little town of Richland will become famous because of them.

We promised the owner of Richland Rum that we would visit them again, next time we’re in the area.



Georgia 10
Portuguese-Manufactured distillery kettle.
Georgia 11
Awards won by Richland Rum.
Georgia 12
Richland Rum is aged 2-3 years prior to sale.
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