It was always a surprise to me how some programs opened the door to many unexpected opportunities for our department. One of these involved having a liaison from nursing attend our regular monthly department meetings. This provided a regular conduit between us and nursing and it enabled us to work together more effectively. When we first requested this program, our nursing vice-president suggested that we periodically shift the liaison to different nursing units. That way, we became better acquainted with the differing needs of various patient care areas. The result of the program was improved harmony as it gave us a much better understanding of nursing issues. Members of the nursing department appreciated our willingness to reach out and learn more about the problems they face daily.
Beyond improving relations, we learned more about each nursing specialty and the individual needs of each department. Nurses learned that that we were eager to assist with technology related issues and they asked us to get more involved in equipment selection, education, and in-service programs. They asked us to teach about device related issues during the orientation of all new nurses. Because of this teaching program, all incoming nurses got to know us for our technological expertise.
One of the more surprising aspects of the program was that as nurses began to turn to us to help solve problems it created entirely new department opportunities. It started when they told us that persons coming in to visit patients complained that nurses always seemed to be sitting and writing rather than spending time with their patients. Nurses recognized that there was some truth to this complaint because the only space they had for writing was in corridors or at nursing stations. Consequently, the first thing visitors saw upon entering nursing units was nurses who were sitting and writing. Nurses asked if it was possible to for us to devise a portable writing surface that they could take from room to room when they took vital signs and made notes. Our solution was to attach a writing surface to the rolling stands of our portable vital signs monitors. This enabled nurses to spend more time in patient’s rooms and less time writing at the nurse’s station.
The success of this first request led to many others. As word spread through the hospital other departments began coming to us for design solutions to their problems. Design eventually became a routine component of our departmental services as physicians and researchers also began looking to us regularly for help. One of our major projects included designing a portable cardio-pulmonary support system that was FAA approved for use in helicopters and airplanes. Another was a special chamber for housing infants while they were undergoing metabolic studies. The development of the chamber enabled our researchers to apply for and receive major grant money.
The big lesson I learned from all of this was that paying attention to my customer’s needs could lead to many interesting directions and opportunities for us.
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