Brandywine Hospital hired Tammy Torres as an administrator, not a reformer. But when she became chief nursing officer in 2007, Torres soon realized that dramatic changes were needed. “In the community, the perception was that Brandywine didn’t deliver quality care at the bedside,” she says. “Nurses are usually wonderful caregivers, so I knew something was wrong.”
Torres discovered that Brandywine was depending on temporary agency nurses to fill its staff. “That drives up costs and talks to the consistency of care, because the job becomes about a paycheck and not a commitment to patients,” she says. “We weren’t offering competitive salaries to attract enough nurses, but we ended up spending that money on agency nurses.”
In the middle of the fiscal year, Torres persuaded Brandywine’s top brass to agree to salary increases. She then set out to attract more great nurses, even holding open houses. “Nurses want to feel supported by their unit director and their peers,” says Torres.
It took Torres a year to hire 50 nurses, who underwent a two-week training program that covered everything from bedside end-of-shift reports to phone etiquette. And there was another big change: private rooms to improve patient care. “We now have an amazing nursing staff, and we can better serve the community,” she says.