Prioritizing Patient Care

Kari Allen '15 helped design a body board protocol for Springfield's Memorial Medical Center. (Photo provided)

January 30, 2017

By Matt Hawkins

Nursing alumna Kari Allen ’15 turned an emergency room observation into a valuable patient care improvement. Noticing Springfield (Ill.) Memorial Medical Center emergency patients could wait an hour to be removed from stiff body boards, she developed a process to quickly ease injured people into more comfortable conditions.

The backboard removal procedure gave nurses, who often see patients before doctors, freedom to perform an additional task that could improve patient health. This decreased patients’ likelihood of unnecessary pain, sores and anxiety from occasionally long times resting on the cold, hard board, while it freed physicians to more efficiently offer care in busy settings.

Allen developed the process with a team of nurses through a one-year residency she completed in August 2016. MMC emergency staff have since formally adopted the process. Team members also presented their work at a conference hoping that other ER staff could benefit from the procedure.

“It’s empowering to know I could affect change as a first-year nurse in my department,” Allen said. “I realized I could advocate for patient care as a problem-solver, and ultimately, we nurses are here for our patients.”

Allen and fellow residents worked closely with MMC staff throughout the year, which fostered mentoring relationships with veteran nursing staff and a sense of community among nurses from different expertise areas.

The residency also introduced students to Lean Six Sigma’s quality and efficiency training, as students received certification for the program’s entry White Belt. Six Sigma training, already common in business and engineering professions, is becoming more popular in other professions. Hospitals such as MMC use Six Sigma processes to improve the quality of patient care.

Allen’s professional experiences developed from an interest in medicine she developed as a child who had numerous hospital stays. Encouraged by care she received, she participated in MMC’s Teens Experiencing Nursing summer camp and later discovered Bradley’s nursing program.

She chose to pursue emergency nursing after a semester shadowing staff in the emergency room of Peoria’s OSF Saint Francis Medical Center. By observing nurses’ 12-hour shifts, Allen realized she would enjoy the pace and variety of caregiving opportunities.

“Bradley’s nursing program is tough, but it’s worth it,” Allen said. “I landed my dream job because of the preparation and encouragement I received from nursing faculty and staff.”