By Susan Skog
|Cheryl Milner treating a PVH patient
|Cheryl Milner conferring with Cinthia West, pharmacist.
If Cheryl Milner had a work-mantra poster on her office wall, it might read: “Slow down; step back; see the patterns. Now, think BIG!”
That philosophy runs through Milner’s work as a clinical nurse specialist on Poudre Valley Hospital’s surgical unit.
In her position, created two years ago, Milner thoughtfully scans the health-care landscape on the unit, rounding with the medical team and observing patient treatment and outcomes.
She gathers in-depth feedback from nurses, physicians, and patients and their families. Her goal: to bring the bigger quality-care picture into focus to see which policies and practices work well -- and which could be improved, whether in reducing infections or treating the wounds of diabetic patients.
“I always feel a bit like Sherlock Holmes,” she admits. “You have to be inquisitive and investigative. And look beyond the black-and-white picture for answers to help put the pieces together. Nurses are really like sleuths.”
Mission to improve patient transition
A 30-year PVH veteran, Milner says her mission is to improve the patient transition from the ICU to the surgical unit and significantly boost results for patients, families and the medical team. “We offer good quality care already—and now, how can we raise the bar to the next level?”
A good listener and an astute, warm presence on the unit, Milner uses her Sherlock-like observations to identify gaps in the care process. Then, she recommends ways to boost efficiencies, satisfaction and results.
For one of her projects, Milner spent six months examining patients’ lengths of stays to identify discharge delays. She also chairs a committee working to reduce catheter-associated urinary tract infections.
Kudos and respect
Milner has garnered kudos and the respect of her colleagues for her sound judgment. Even simple improvements have greatly enhanced the surgical unit, says Heather Roth, a registered nurse and the unit’s clinical educator who nominated Milner for the 2012 Colorado Nightingale Award for Excellence in Human Caring. Roth says that Milner, among other achievements, paved the way for Lidocaine to be stocked in medication units so doctors don’t have to wait for it to come from the pharmacy.
Milner also gets high praise for her interesting and inspiring case-study presentations at staff meetings. During those presentations, she encourages team members to step back and think critically not just about a particular task but how the entire process can be improved.
Milner’s presence and work have “breathed more passion and effectiveness into our unit,” Roth says. “When staff members have a question about a complex patient or a procedure or policy, the first person they think of is Cheryl. She incorporates evidence-based practice into her daily work.
“What is most outstanding is her ability to take quality concerns, problem-solve with the appropriate people and improve the process. Her input is greatly valued because she’s always thinking outside the box. She listens attentively, gives constructive feedback and valuable suggestions, and treats everyone’s ideas with respect.”
In turn, Milner says she greatly values her colleagues’ trust and collaboration. She appreciates how her years of PVH nursing experience in neurosurgery, ICU trauma and critical care now help her better navigate the system and see it holistically.
“I’m so grateful that I am trusted to use good judgment, initiative, common sense and work autonomously on an issue and recommend improvements,” she says. “I really love what I do.”
Susan Skog is a Fort Collins-based author and freelance writer. Sue Larsen and Susan Webster, the other two UCHealth northern Colorado finalists for the Colorado Nightingale Award, will be featured in future issues of Insider North.