TAMC changes to save money, elevate level of care

Posted April 17, 2009, at 9:20 p.m.
Last modified Jan. 30, 2011, at 11:49 a.m.

PRESQUE ISLE — A number of changes made at The Aroostook Medical Center are expected to save money while helping the hospital provide a higher level of patient care.

TAMC Vice President of Nursing Services Lynn Turnbull said Friday that the new plan has allowed the hospital’s Medical-Surgical and Telemetry units to merge, while also allowing nurses who work at the hospital to receive more training so they are able to fill openings in Critical Care Services and the Emergency Department.

The merger of the units was completed March 22.

Turnbull said the move was necessary because the hospital is treating a number of patients who are older and suffer from chronic illnesses such as diabetes and cardiovascular and lung disease. To treat such patients, she explained, TAMC physicians want technology available to monitor the hearts and lungs of those hospitalized in their rooms.

With the hospital’s Medical-Surgical and Telemetry Units on the same floor, patients who check into TAMC for surgery do not have to be moved to undergo monitoring. Ultimately, TAMC will have special monitoring equipment in all of its medical-surgical-telemetry patient rooms. The hospital also will have that same equip-ment in its critical care patient rooms.

The nursing staff at TAMC also changes under the plan.

According to Turnbull, the hospital once staffed its critical care unit with a number of traveling nurses. Traveling nurses often are more expensive to employ than nurses who live in the area.

Under the new plan, more medical-surgical nurses will be available to staff the critical care unit after successfully completing a critical care course at Northern Maine Community College.

Upon completion of the 13-week course, nurses can begin working in critical care and the emergency room.

“Like most hospitals, we have struggled at times to attract experienced nurses in specialty areas,” Turnbull said. “This project will allow us to be more efficient with our staffing and decrease the use of temporary nurses in critical care and the Emergency Department. It helps us take better care of our patients and gives our local nurses the opportunity to grow professionally.”

As a result of the changes, she said, there currently are no traveling nurses working in the hospital.

She estimated the staffing changes would result in a yearly savings of $400,000 for the hospital. She added that the $400,000 figure was a “very modest estimate.”

No layoffs will result from the project.

“With local nurses taking care of our patients, there is a higher level of ownership and a stronger commitment to the quality of care that we expect and provide here at the hospital,” Turnbull said.

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