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|Path to Certification|
Ronette Wiley oversees patient safety, risk management, quality improvement, and care coordination at Bassett Medical Center in Cooperstown, NY. She became interested in certification as a way to quantify her expertise in the very areas for which she is responsible.
Ronette Wiley earned a bachelor’s degree in nursing in 1986 with the help of a scholarship from the Veterans Administration. She remembers that as being around the time that the VA was undergoing a transformation into high reliability and focusing on quality and safety.
“I was there when things were just turning, and I fully expected to have a progressive career in nursing leadership,” Ms. Wiley says. “I loved being a clinician…and I really thought my ultimate goal was to be a chief nursing officer one day.
“At the end of the first week, I felt like she had progressed enough that she had the capacity to be aware of everything, so I went back to work,” Ms. Wiley says.
She was three hours’ away when she called her mother that first night after leaving her, but even over the phone, she knew something was very wrong. Through a series of calls, Ms. Wiley finally got a supervisor to check on her mother, who was experiencing pulmonary edema. She was moved to the Intensive Care Unit, and the medical team subsequently discovered a medication error had been made during her care. She died about 6 weeks later.
“It’s been 13 years, but every time I tell that story, it’s like it was today,” Ms. Wiley says. “I became convinced that at the local level, in nursing leadership, I could make a difference with the nurses I was responsible for. But to effect change at a more global level, I needed to get into health care quality. Patient safety was really emerging into its own at that point, and so I began that track, and I haven’t looked back.”
Ms. Wiley, who is vice president for performance improvement and care coordination at Bassett Medical Center in Cooperstown, NY, recently became one of only seven professionals in New York state to be certified in patient safety.
In her role at Bassett, Ms. Wiley oversees patient safety, risk management, quality improvement, and care coordination. She became interested in certification as a way to quantify her expertise in the very areas for which she is responsible.
“I thought this may be an excellent way to show that there is a demonstrated, expected proficiency level, that there are core standards for people who work in patient safety,” she says. Many people who have worked in clinical care or in quality improvement for some time may think they know all about patient safety; but Ms. Wiley contends that, unless they have challenged themselves to assess their knowledge of safety science, they should not be satisfied that their understanding is current and relevant.
As a result of her experience, she and the leadership team at Bassett are going to introduce the Certified Professional in Patient Safety credential as a required certification for staff working in their quality, performance improvement, and patient safety areas. “We are, as an organization, working very strategically and very diligently to advance patient safety as the way we do business and as being at the forefront of everything we do,” Ms. Wiley says.
That is a sentiment echoed by Bertine McKenna, PhD, chief operating officer at Bassett Medical Center. “Patient safety is a bit of a buzzword in health care,” Dr. McKenna says. “Supporting Ronette in her pursuit of this certification, and encouraging others to become certified, is one way for us to say, “At Bassett, it’s not just a buzzword; it’s an indicator of a professional designation that allows us to be better, always striving for excellence wherever we can.”
Dr. McKenna further points to certification as an indication that one has a commitment to furthering his or her education—which can be especially important in health care, where physicians still largely dominate in leadership roles . “Education and certification is something that physicians believe is important and that they’ve worked much of their lives to get, so I see this as a career path for people and an opportunity to set yourself apart in the health care business,” she says.
Ms. Wiley and Dr. McKenna both see certification as a potential path for front-line staff as well as those in leadership or quality and safety roles. “As the National Patient Safety Foundation recognizes, there is a growing body of knowledge and a growing need for patient safety specialists,” Ms. Wiley says. “I think the more we can get bedside nurses to know this work, to understand it, to be able to use critical thinking skills to improve patient safety, that is where we will really see the care quality and safety of patients transforming at the point of care.