2 virtual nurses, 4 big changes at a Yale New Haven hospital

In six months, Lawrence + Memorial Hospital (Conn.) and a team of two virtual nurses have overseen 898 discharges, 466 admissions and reduced the average length of stay for patients in the medical/surgical unit by nearly half a day.

Lawrence + Memorial is the second Yale New Haven Health hospital to implement virtual nursing. The program, which launched in December with two virtual nurses, works exclusively with the med/surg units.

Those units have the highest vacancy rate for the hospital outside of the operating room, Shannon Christian, MSN, RN, chief nursing officer and senior vice president of patient care services at Lawrence + Memorial and Westerly, told Becker's. Virtual nurses work in a hybrid model, working for three to four days a week virtually, and spending two days a month as a bedside nurse. 

"We did that to help virtual nurses establish and maintain relationships with the bedside nurses," Ms. Christian said. "Working together builds credibility and trust between colleagues so the bedside nurses feel more comfortable relying on their virtual counterparts. It also helps the virtual nurses understand how hard and challenging it is, so they know what to do to support that bedside nurse."

Since implementing the program, the small team has reduced the median length of stay for one unit from 5.13 days to 4.7 days. It also improved 11 a.m. discharges from 5.8% to 6.75% for one unit and 6.78% to 8.53% for the second unit.

"These are the only two units in the green," she said. "And nurse turnover rate in these two units has also improved." 

The hospital anticipates adding up to four more virtual nurses to the team to support all the med surg units to further improve its nursing and patient satisfaction numbers.

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