Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of May 14, 2007
Nurse puts patients' needs first
Dianne Johnson honoured for operating rooms that work for patients
- WCR photo by Bill Glen
Dianne Johnson prepares to enter an operating room at the Grey Nuns Hospital.
By BILL GLEN
WCR Staff Writer
There are times when Dianne Johnson has only a few seconds to gain a person's trust. And it might occur while she is inserting a needle.
Johnson is patient care manager of the operating and recovery rooms at the Grey Nuns Community Hospital in Mill Woods.
"This is my world - not their's, and sometimes I have to remind myself what an intimidating and threatening environment it is," Johnson said.
"We have a small window of opportunity to establish trust and to make a connection."
For her commitment to her operating room team and to the value and dignity of her patients, Johnson was selected to receive the 2007 Individual Mission Award from Caritas Health Group.
"A lot of the work is administrative, but I still have the opportunity to go into the (operating room) theatres and see the patients. Holding a patient's hand is very satisfying. They say 'thank you' to the team, and that's very important."
Johnson recalls one patient in particular who was about to have his larynx removed.
"I realized that as he was speaking to me, I was the last person who would ever hear his voice," Johnson said. "It was a quiet conversation. I just told him he was about to go off to sleep."
Johnson trained in a hospital-based program in Edmonton and went directly into the operating room at the Royal Alexandra Hospital where she worked until the first of her two children were born. She returned to nursing in 1988 after her brother-in-law was injured in the July 31, 1987 tornado.
Following an operating room refresher course, she went to work at the U of A Hospital.
At the Grey Nuns, she was looking for what she described as "operating room culture."
"Each operating room has a unique culture. The culture here is that we all stand shoulder-to-shoulder supporting each other. We care for each other so that we can care for the patients.
"It is our ethic that we do not abandon each other or our patients. From the minute you walk in the door of this hospital, that ethic is palpable," she said.
The Grey Nuns is located in a culturally diverse area. Johnson ensures that her staff does not discriminate. People with varying cultural backgrounds or positions in society can come through the operating room doors at any time. Staff members are ethnically diverse, as well.
"We do not segregate. We sit together for coffee and lunch. We make every effort to respect that," she said.
"Anything we can do - whether it's something as simple as language, bringing in someone for spiritual care or if the patient needs to keep his turban intact, we will cover it. Our culture is to embrace everyone."
Johnson heads a leadership team that stays current with the technologies in patient care. They, in turn, train the operating and recovery room staff members.
Gordon Self says that resiliency was one of the reasons she was selected to receive the award.
"Dianne adapted to tremendous changes within the surgical program," said Self, vice president of mission, ethics and spirituality for Caritas. "She is a tremendous team player, someone who mentors and coaches her staff.
"Dianne works for the patients, not because of the patients," he said.
Johnson says health care is in a period of growth, gaining both energy and momentum.
"The Grey Nuns is positioned to take advantage of opportunities that are available to ensure the highest level of care," she said.
Caritas funded integrated operating rooms at the hospital that use digital technology, resulting in minimally evasive surgery. Tiny instruments are used that create smaller incisions. Scopes are inserted into a patient with video images fed to television monitors.
The surgeons guide the instruments while watching the view screens. The results are shorter surgeries, less blood loss, fewer scars and better recovery times.
"The surgery is less traumatic and they are home in their own environment in less time. Patients experience a quicker return to normal daily living," Johnson said.
Working with other nurses across Canada, Johnson was involved in producing the Operating Room Nurses Association of Canada standards binder.
"It was very important because you have to have standards to achieve excellence in care."
If a child is having surgery, the parents are invited into the operating room. They meet in a pre-op area where they are dressed in surgical attire.
"It's a chance for them to ensure the children are settled. Once they are safely off to sleep, mom or dad comes back. It's less stressful for everybody," she said.
And a high level of health care goes beyond the capability of one person, Johnson insists.
"This award really isn't about me. You can't run an operating room without a really strong team," she said.