“Nursing is the toughest job you will ever love.” JoAnne Phillips MSN, RN, CCRN, CCNS, CPPS, recognizes that hard work can produce gratifying results. As a manager of quality and patient safety at Penn Home Care & Hospice Services, a clinical informatics professional development specialist at the University of Pennsylvania Health System, and a doctoral student working towards her DNP at Vanderbilt University, Phillips doesn’t take her role as a nurse lightly. She is constantly looking to improve the quality of life of those around her, which is why she is our next Nurse On the Move.
Phillips preiously served as a clinical nurse specialist in the transition, surgical critical care, and patient safety departments of the University of Pennsylvania. She earned her master’s degree in science in critical care nursing from Widener University, and prior to that, she served as a clinical instructor and staff nurse at Hahnemann University Hospital.
Through our interview, I learned why Phillips chose to go back to school, as well as why she sees nursing as the best job to make a difference in a person’s life.
Q: What made you choose nursing as a career?
A: When I was hospitalized as a child, I watched what the nurses were doing and I thought that is what I wanted to do. When I was older, I worked as a volunteer in the neonatal intensive care nursery. Then I knew that was what I wanted to do. I can’t exactly say it was a calling, but pretty close.
Q: What is your favorite aspect of being a critical care nurse?
A: I had the opportunity to work at the Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore, where I truly learned the impactful role that a primary nurse could play in the patient’s outcome. Patients could be incredibly sick, and I knew that the best medical care partnered with the best nursing care could lead to the best patient outcomes. As a lifelong learner, I thrived on the constant opportunity to learn more in critical care.
Q: You specialize in patient safety. What is the biggest concern you have regarding the well-being of patients and how are you combatting it?
A: I don’t think patient safety is one issue, but a virtual kaleidoscope of issues. We need to better understand how systems work together and the role human factors (how we interact with processes and technology). Since humans will always be part of the equation, we need to know that there will be mistakes. Our role as safety leaders is to make it less likely that humans will make a mistake. Something I tell my colleagues, “If we make it easy for people to do the right thing, they will do the right thing. If we make it too complex, they will do workarounds.” That is often where we see negative outcomes.
Q: In your role as a clinical informatics educator, why do you feel informatics is important to nursing?
A: I would encourage nurses to work toward letting the computer work for you, instead of you working for the computer. We hear from staff that documenting in the computer is too hard. My response is that we have not designed the system correctly. One of the staff told me it takes eight clicks to chart a dirty diaper – a great example that we have made it too hard. Bottom line is [computers] are here to stay; [they are] an unbelievable resource of information. Once we have better interoperability (computer systems talking to each other), it will be awesome.
Q: You are working towards earning your DNP. What made you decide to go back to school?
A: The more I learn about patient safety, the more I realize to work toward a solution, I needed to understand even more about systems. My DNP program is focused on health systems management, and I believe it will position me to take a leadership role in patient safety, to mentor and develop many others to understand how we can create a safe environment for our staff and patients.
Q: What is the most vital thing a nurse can do to improve their career?
A: To be a nurse today, I think you need to be a lifelong learner. Not just in an academic setting, but through ongoing personal and professional development. There are endless opportunities for nurses to learn and develop – conferences, memberships in professional organizations, online learning. If finances are a struggle, many of these opportunities are free.
Q: What do you see for the future of nursing?
A: Nurses are the solution to the future of healthcare. We spend 75% of our healthcare dollars on chronic care. There is no one better positioned to manage patients with chronic, complex medical issues than a nurse. We need to create an environment that will draw and keep the best people in nursing. What better job is there than to know that you made a difference in someone’s life? Even if that difference is helping them to a peaceful death. As many have said before, nursing is the toughest job you will ever love.
Do you work with a nurse that inspires you? Nominate them to be our next Nurse On the Move by emailing submissions to ClinicalEd