Nurses play a vital role in healthcare—not only in caring for patients at the bedside, but also in advancing public health through educating patients and other nurses and contributing to product development.
On May 12th—the birth date of Florence Nightingale, founder of modern nursing-countries around the world honor International Nurses Day, paying tribute to the contributions of nurses to the world's health. This year's theme is "Closing the Gap: Millennium Development Goals," and is focusing on improving the health of underserved and underrepresented populations around the globe.
Expanding Care for Patients
One way that Baxter reaches out to underrepresented patient populations is through programs that utilize the expertise of nurses and other healthcare professionals, such as its Bilingual Healthcare Educators program for Spanish-speaking hemophilia patients and their families in the U.S. Healthcare educators and nurses provide appropriate educational programs about hemophilia, options for care and information on how to navigate an often complex healthcare system, all in the patients' preferred language.
"Being able to reach out to families in a culturally sensitive way makes a big difference in their overall understanding and healthcare experience," said Esperanza Ramos, LVN, Baxter's senior manager of health education, and one of the nurses who educate patients and help facilitate peer support groups. The program has been well-received in the communities it has entered, and continues to expand throughout the U.S.
The company also seeks to impact underserved patients by funding nursing positions for community non-profit health clinics through grants from The Baxter International Foundation.
A recent $50,000 grant from Baxter to CommunityHealth, a Chicago-based organization that offers free health care to underserved individuals, provided funding for a full-time registered nurse at its Englewood location. For more than 10,000 of Chicago's neediest residents, CommunityHealth offers a range of services, including primary care and regular wellness checks, access to medical specialists, dental care and mental health services, supporting every aspect of patient health.
"Given all of our physicians are volunteers, it was essential to have a registered nurse in place at our new Englewood health center," said Judith Haasis, CommunityHealth's executive director. "From fielding patient phone calls to providing case management services for our high risk patients with diabetes, asthma and other chronic conditions, this position is key to ensuring timely, quality care for all our patients-especially those in the greatest need."
Supporting and Educating Nurses
Nurses also need support as they keep pace with changing healthcare environments, products and therapies. Baxter addresses these needs through its Clinical Center of Excellence, which provides nurses around the world with a 24-7 network of Baxter nurses who are able to answer questions about any of Baxter's products and how they are used.
"Clinical nurses really appreciate this type of support," said Glennie Browne, R.N., director of clinical services and business professional relations at Baxter, who leads the Clinical Center of Excellence. "Anything we can do to make a nurse's life easier is our goal."
Baxter also assists nurses through educational programs throughout the world geared toward appropriate and safe administration of its products and therapies. After receiving feedback from healthcare providers in India that more training was needed, Baxter began hosting a series of demonstration workshops across all businesses for nurses in India. Depending on the product or therapy requirements, these programs cover topics such as the reconstitution of BioSurgery products and proper management of PD patients. In its efforts to provide nurses with training and updates on the developments in the field of IV safety and infection control, Baxter has also developed specialized training modules in India on the subject of improving IV medication practices for patient safety. Customized sessions on time and stress management are also held for nurses in the country for their personal development.
Baxter's renal team in New Zealand also hosted the first New Zealand Peritoneal Dialysis (PD) Nurses Meeting this year, during which PD nurses from across the country came together to discuss current PD practices and commonly-encountered challenges with the therapy. The BioSurgery team also holds a range of Nurses Days across Australia and New Zealand where attendees share best practices, network and gain practical experience and confidence in using a range of Baxter's BioSurgery products.
In Australia, Baxter hosts quarterly meetings with PD nurses and clinical nurse consultants from hospitals throughout New South Wales, where the professionals discuss ways to improve PD patient outcomes. These countries also support nursing students through programs such as intravenous training events at the Waiariki Institute of Technology in New Zealand. During the two-day training, students learn how to use pumps and IV sets so they become familiarized with the technology and equipment prior to working in a hospital setting after their studies with a goal of making fewer errors.
Contributing to Product Development
The educational process goes both ways—the company also asks for input and instruction from nurses as it moves through its product development process. Baxter employees with nursing backgrounds provide critical feedback regarding product packaging, administration, application and ease of use, based on their many years of experience working with patients in hospital settings.
Debra Bello, PhD, R.N., senior director of global medical operations at Baxter, previously worked as a neonatal intensive care nurse. While Bello is no longer in the intensive care unit, she sees her current work at Baxter as merely a different way of serving patients.
"I went into nursing to help people. I'm able to do that now by working to make products available that are easier for nurses to use, reducing the potential for medication errors," Bello said.
The quick-moving pace of a nurse's typical work day, combined with his or her responsibility for managing many different medications for a large number of patients, is something that companies need to take into consideration when developing products, explains Bello. Making an item easier to use can result in a greater likelihood of proper usage, fewer medication errors and better patient outcomes.
Recognizing Nurses for Their Contributions
These kinds of outcomes, and the valuable research that goes into making them possible, are recognized by Baxter through the company's support of various awards given to nurses around the world.
The Baxter International Foundation has funded the Sigma Theta Tau Episteme Award since 1989, a $15,000 award given every two years that recognizes outstanding research conducted by a nurse. The award is administered by the Honor Society of Nursing, Sigma Theta Tau International, a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting the learning, knowledge and professional development of nurses committed to making a difference around the world. Past award recipients have been recognized for impressive efforts such as reducing HIV risk-associated behaviors and in building a network for collaborative research and information exchange.
Baxter has also sponsored The Canadian College of Health Leaders' Nursing Leadership Award since 2005, which recognizes those who seek to advance nursing, patient-centered care and clinical excellence and display outstanding leadership qualities within and outside their organization.
Both inside and outside the company, Baxter recognizes that nursing professionals play an essential role in improving patient outcomes and furthering the healthcare industry.
"When I look at the opportunities I've had at Baxter as a nurse, I feel the company really appreciates the clinical contributions that I've made," said Browne. "I feel so lucky that I've been able to touch so many different products and people."