I t’s not every day that Vicki Johnson-Poynter can mention Schneck Medical Center and Johns Hopkins Hospital in the same sentence.

But now, she can.

TopRNtoBSN.com, a nursing career and education website, recently released its 30 Most Nurse-Friendly Hospitals in the United States.

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Schneck, in Seymour, was at the top of that list for the second year in a row and is the only Indiana hospital recognized. Johns Hopkins, in Baltimore, was second.

“I think what it says is that you can be a small hospital and still achieve the same type of working environment that you can get in a larger facility, like Johns Hopkins and that sort of thing,” said Johnson-Poynter, vice president of nursing services at Schneck. “What you build as far as the working environment for a registered nurse, it really is the same no matter where it should be.”

Stephanie Furlow, Schneck’s director of marketing and public relations, said the honor is a reflection of the hospital’s culture, which puts patients first, having them involved in every decision that is made and including all staff, including nurses, in those decisions.

“We’ve heard stories time and time again when someone walks into Schneck Medical Center, it just feels different,” Furlow said. “It’s just the people they pass in the hall that look in their eyes and smile at them. That’s just the culture here, and I think this award is just another reflection of that culture.”

In 2013, the satisfaction levels of nurses at Schneck went beyond the National Database of Nursing Quality Indicators standard for the third straight year, according to TopRNtoBSN.com.

In 2011, when Schneck received the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award, a national honor for performance excellence, its workforce was described as “empowered and involved.”

Schneck twice has been and is currently recognized by the Magnet accreditation system, too. Magnet designation is awarded to facilities that employ registered nurses and follow a set of standards and guidelines. Ultimately, it’s meant to improve patient care and foster development and growth of registered nurses, Johnson-Poynter said.

“Being Magnet and having achieved the Baldrige status, all of the things we’ve done, I think we have set ourselves apart, and we can compete with any size hospital,” she said. “We benchmark with people like Johns Hopkins so we know how they perform; and if they are the best of the performers, then that’s what our benchmark is for different measures that we might be looking at for quality or safety.”

That’s something Schneck has done for some time, she added.

“We have compared ourselves with not just local facilities or small facilities for a long time, so we’ve kind of been used to knowing what they do, and we’re not afraid also to reach out and say, ‘How did you do that?’ and then going for it.” she said.

The hospital also has a recruitment policy in place that consults current personnel and enables peer reviewing, which has helped the staff turnover levels plummet to the lowest they have been in two decades, according to TopRNtoBSN.com.

Johnson-Poynter said Schneck has a rich history of offering tuition reimbursement for registered nurses working toward a bachelor’s degree in nursing. Many nursing jobs require a bachelor of science degree in nursing (BSN) or higher.

The Institute of Medicine has put a focus on patient safety, which includes the education of registered nurses and physicians.

“They have good data that supports in those facilities that have higher percentages of bachelor-prepared nurses, the mortality rates are lower,” Johnson-Poynter said.

The American Nurses Association continually tries to upgrade the profession, she added. That organization set a goal for 80 percent of the 4 million registered nurses in the country to have a bachelor’s degree by 2020.

Schneck, though, is way ahead of the game. The hospital began working on that initiative in 2010 and currently has 76 percent of its 255 registered nurses with a bachelor’s degree. Johnson-Poynter said she expects that number to be well beyond 80 percent by the end of the year.

“Then, we have a policy and guidelines in place that would keep us there,” she said.

Schneck works with colleges such as Indiana University and Indiana University Purdue University-Columbus to create groups of nurses going through the BSN program.

“The colleges have been wonderful to design sort of an accelerated program from an associate degree to a bachelor’s degree,” she said. “Our nurses have really worked hard. We’re really proud of them.”

Schneck has gone a step further by offering a nurse practitioner program through which registered nurses can become advanced practice nurses.

“That was a special program that Schneck created in order to meet the health care needs of the community because primary care, of course, is an area that’s lacking providers,” she said.

This past fall, nine Schneck registered nurses began the journey together through the Indiana University School of Nursing. They have been receiving clinical experience in family practice and health center offices in Jackson County. In August, they will finish the program and be set for certification.

“That’s a very happy story, too, because they’ve all been successful, and we’re just so looking forward to embedding them into family practice groups and into clinics and into our Schneck Family Care, wherever they may be needed,” Johnson-Poynter said.

Those nurses will be able to care for children and adults, and they also could work independently while receiving a collaborative physician review.

“Nurse practitioners, they do a great job. Patients love them,” Johnson-Poynter said. “They are able to take a little bit more of a role in education and communication and so forth.”

Johnson-Poynter said another aspect contributing to Schneck receiving the honor relates to its well-rounded nature, offering a variety of services such as home care, hospice, palliative care and a pain center.

“It makes it a really nice place to work because you can see your patient move through different stages and still stay connected to them,” she said.

Schneck has received a lot of positive feedback about patient experiences since Furlow posted a link to a story about the nurse-friendly honor on its Facebook page.

Johnson-Poynter said the comments are appreciated.

“I think it gives the community confidence in the nursing staff and that we do strive to be better,” she said of the nurse-friendly designation.

“We want to get better, we want to provide safe, quality care, and we want our RNs to be able to come to Schneck and build a rewarding career and have the ability to advance themselves, to grow professionally, to learn new things, to be a part of the community and to be involved in things that are going to make people healthier. That’s why you become a nurse is to be able to do these things.”

At a glance

TopRNtoBSN.com 30 Most Nurse-Friendly Hospitals in the United States

1. Schneck Medical Center (Seymour)

2. Johns Hopkins Hospital (Baltimore)

3. Ann and Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago (Chicago)

4. Baptist Medical Center (Jacksonville, Florida)

5. West Virginia University Hospitals (Morgantown, West Virginia)

6. Houston Methodist Hospital (Houston)

7. Children’s Medical Center of Dallas (Dallas)

8. Rhode Island Hospital (Providence, Rhode Island)

9. Massachusetts General Hospital (Boston)

10. Mayo Clinic (Rochester, Minnesota)

11. Hackensack University Medical Center (Hackensack, New Jersey)

12. Cedars-Sinai Medical Center (Los Angeles)

13. Baylor University Medical Center (Dallas)

14. Winchester Hospital (Winchester, Massachusetts)

15. Cleveland Clinic (Cleveland)

16. Northwestern Memorial Hospital (Chicago)

17. Mercy Medical Center (Baltimore)

18. Seattle Children’s Hospital (Seattle)

19. Lowell General Hospital (Lowell, Massachusetts)

20. Vanderbilt University Hospital (Nashville, Tennessee)

21. Carolinas Medical Center (Charlotte, North Carolina)

22. St. Joseph’s Regional Medical Center (Paterson, New Jersey)

23. Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center (Hershey, Pennsylvania)

24. El Camino Hospital (Mountain View, California)

25. Case Medical Center (Cleveland)

26. University of Colorado Hospital (Aurora, Colorado)

27. Yale-New Haven Hospital (New Haven, Connecticut)

28. Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center (Los Angeles)

29. Baptist Health South Florida (Coral Gables, Florida)

30. Sentara Norfolk General Hospital (Norfolk, Virginia)

For information about these hospitals, visit toprntobsn.com/nurse-friendly-hospitals.

Pull Quote

The Tribune asked people about their experiences at Schneck Medical Center in Seymour. Here are some of their responses:

“Every time my mom or I have ever been in the hospital, we have had the utmost professionalism. They have been very respectful, kind and considerate of our particular situation and have taken very good care of us and our families. I don’t ever recall any negative thoughts concerning our time in the hospital.” Donna Baughman of Brownstown

“Seymour is creating community attractions for new visitors and new residents such as the new sign and the planned downtown park. I think the rank of Schneck as No. 1 in nurse-friendly hospitals supports the attractiveness of our community for future residents and future nursing staff. The honor of being No. 1 speaks volumes to the management and staff that we have at our local hospital. Well done, Schneck.” Debbie Felix of Seymour

“I love the nurses. Some of them are great friends, and they’re just as amazing on a personal level than they are on a professional level. The OB nurses are phenomenal. I always felt so overwhelmed by how sweet and sincere they were. I would talk to some for what seemed like hours. I just can’t say enough about the nursing staff from ER to OB to surgery. The nurses there are wonderful, so this doesn’t come as a surprise.” Amanda Ruddick of Seymour

“They’ve always been nice and professional with me. Three knee operations — no problems at all.” Fred Lewis of Seymour

Author photo
Zach Spicer is a reporter for The (Seymour) Tribune. He can be reached at zspicer@tribtown.com or 812-523-7080.