Danbury Hospital
Commitment to Innovation

Government Boosts Primary Care Education
Nurses Advance Care through Service Improvements, Education and Research

Hoping to stem a critical shortage of primary care physicians, Danbury Hospital received $4.5 million from two grants awarded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in 2011 to strengthen its new primary care residency program.  The grants, made available under the Affordable Care Act, are designed to “strengthen the primary care workforce and provide community-based prevention.”

The new primary care residency program will focus on the “patient-centered medical home” model, which encourages primary care physicians to care for the underserved. The three-year program will train 18 candidates, with six primary care physicians graduating each year. Under the patient-centered medical home model, a primary care physician leads a multidisciplinary team that provides continuous and coordinated care throughout a patient’s lifetime. The team addresses all patient needs from providing preventive care and medical services to appropriately arranging care with qualified clinicians, when necessary.

“Danbury Hospital is committed to the mission of training the next generation of primary care physicians because expanding the primary care workforce is a national priority,” said Ramin Ahmadi, MD, Director of Medical Education and Research at Danbury Hospital.

The federal dollars come at a time when the nation faces a critical shortage of primary care physicians that experts say will worsen by 2015. That’s when 32 million Americans who are currently uninsured will have access to health insurance coverage as a result of healthcare reform.

 “As a nation, we must begin training additional primary care physicians now in order to address this looming crisis,” said John Murphy, MD, President and Chief Executive Officer of Western Connecticut Health Network. “Otherwise, millions of Americans with health insurance will not be able to find a primary care physician.”

The grants are the latest in a string of incentives from the federal government to support medical institutions committed to expanding the primary care workforce. Hospitals currently receive federal reimbursement for training physicians in sub-specialties, but not in primary care. Experts expect the reimbursement formula to change as the nation focuses on preventive and primary care as a way to effectively and economically deliver high-quality medicine.

Nursing teams at Western Connecticut Health Network continued their tradition of excellence in 2011, combining leadership, research and advances in nursing practice to influence health policies and improve care for the benefit of all patients in our region.  At Danbury Hospital and New Milford Hospital, nurses in many disciplines made significant contributions to advance their skills and showcase their clinical findings and accomplishments at the national level, according to Moreen Donahue, the network’s chief nursing officer and senior vice president of patient care services.  Recently named among an elite group of 142 national nursing leaders (and only four in Connecticut) as a Fellow of the American Academy of Nursing, Donahue cited several examples of our network nurses working to provide the highest level of quality, safety and service for our patients.

In collaboration with an interdisciplinary team at Danbury Hospital, nurses successfully implemented an advanced medication administration check system, using bar code technology and an electronic medical record for all patients admitted to medical, surgical and intensive care units.  This system uses state-of-the-art information technology to improve patient safety.

Through a three-year, $480,000 grant awarded by the Department of Health and Human Services, Division of Nursing, Comprehensive Geriatric Education Program, several hundred nurses and nursing assistants at Danbury and New Milford hospitals, and Western Connecticut Home Care (formerly Danbury VNA) will be educated to provide more specialized care for older adults. The grant targets quality improvements for hospitalized, homebound and underserved elders, who are considered at-risk groups within the healthcare community.  “Many senior adults, whether living independently or in group settings, will require a more culturally competent and sensitive workforce of health professionals,” Donahue explained.  “We are working on an approach that is more family-centered, and that provides an understanding of the special needs of elder citizens – in low-income neighborhoods, in senior communities and among the growing immigrant population, many of whom are elderly.”

Education of nurses remains a top priority at Danbury Hospital, where cohort programs with Western Connecticut State University, Fairfield University and Oakland University, are helping nurses move to a higher level of competency and performance.  In 2011, these cohorts have included ongoing studies of 30 diploma-registered nurses seeking their Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN), 10 BSN nurses looking to achieve their Master of Science in Nursing (MSN), and 10 nurses engaged in studies to earn their Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree.

“We want our nurses to thrive and achieve their full potential – with their careers and in their daily efforts to serve patients and families,” Donahue said.

Additionally, Western Connecticut Health Network nurses initiated and received approval for seven research studies through the Danbury Hospital’s Institutional Review Board (IRB), to conduct their clinical investigations to improve medication administration, information systems, pain management, communication, and bedside care for patients.  They also published nine articles in national peer-reviewed journals, setting new standards for service excellence in emergency care, laser safety, surgical care, geriatrics, shared governance and nursing leadership.

“Our nurses are dedicated to their profession, but it doesn’t stop there,” Donahue added.  “They are continuously improving their skills and capabilities, while leading the way to share nursing knowledge.  In an environment like this, it’s a winning proposition for our patients.”

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