Schneck Medical Center in Seymour has been ranked the most nurse-friendly hospital in the nation for the third year in a row.

For Vicki Johnson-Poynter, vice president of nursing services, the accolade is one she is most definitely proud of, but it still seems strange because of the size and prestige of the competition, she said.

Hospitals such as Johns Hopkins in Baltimore, Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, Cleveland Clinic in Cleveland and Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles all rank behind Schneck on the list. No other Indiana hospital was mentioned.

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“We’ve been laughing about it because it’s nothing we apply for,” Johnson-Poynter said. “And it’s Johns Hopkins we’re talking about that placed second.”

Compiled by an online information source for nursing students — TopRNtoBSN.com — the list ranks the top 30 most nurse-friendly hospitals across the country on the work environment they provide for nursing staff.

The ranking is based upon the satisfaction levels of nurses at hospitals that have gone beyond the National Database of Nursing Quality Indicators for three consecutive years, according to the website.

Schneck’s Rebecca Floyd is a nurse in charge of gathering data such as nurse satisfaction, certification rates and other information and submitting it to the national database on a quarterly basis.

“We do nursing surveys,” she said.

Focus on staff

Another factor that helped was the hospital receiving the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award.It’s not about how friendly nurses are. The achievement is about how friendly the hospital is to its nurses.

“People will say, ‘Gosh, you have the friendliest nurses again,’ and yes, we do have friendly nurses, but that’s not exactly what they are referring to,” Johnson-Poynter said of the ranking. “What this means is that we have an environment that has been created here that is very conducive to nursing practice and in supporting nurses’ work.”

Although “nurse-friendly” is not an officially recognized designation, there are nursing groups in Texas that are creating the framework for such a program, Johnson-Poynter said. She would like to see those efforts adopted nationally. TopRNtoBSN.com states Schneck has an “empowered and involved workforce,” which has led to levels of nurse satisfaction beyond national quality standards for years.

At Schneck, nurses have a voice, and that voice is heard and respected, Johnson-Poynter said.

From addressing staffing levels to needed supplies and equipment to patient processing and quality of care, nurses are included in all aspects of the hospital’s operations.

Even the hospital’s recruitment policy involves current nursing personnel and peer reviewing and has helped staff turnover levels plummet to the lowest they have been in two decades.

Warren Forgey, Schneck president and CEO, said it’s an honor to be included among such a select group of hospitals.

“To earn this honor for a third time is a phenomenal tribute to the more than 250 dedicated, compassionate nurses who work at Schneck,” he said. “Our nurses are highly respected and regarded for their expertise and the quality of care they provide to our patients every day.”

Schneck has a total of 285 registered nurses, Johnson-Poynter said.

As a Magnet accredited hospital since 2006, Schneck also has been listed as among the top places to work in the state by several industry publications.

Schneck incorporates a shared governance structure where nurses, even those outside of leadership roles, are viewed as important in delivering quality health care.

A nurse practice council, consisting of a representative from every nursing unit in the hospital, both in- and out-patient, meets monthly to review and approve policies, make changes that need to be made, look at barriers and performance measures and ultimately drive decisions that have to do with nursing practice.

“Our nurses are able to be involved in making decisions and can talk about what is important to their everyday work and practice,” Johnson-Poynter said. “The people who are actually doing the work have a say into what is happening and how we do it.”

Eye on the future

Johnson-Poynter said another reason Schneck is at the top of the list of most nurse-friendly hospitals is because of its professional nurse practice program or what is called a “clinical ladder.”“It allows staff nurses to advance their careers yet stay at the bedside by offering opportunities to get more involved in things on their units,” she said. “They might act as a charge nurse or drive a project, and they are paid at a subsequent level that mirrors what you would get if you were a manager.”

The hospital also offers financial support in the form of tuition reimbursement for nurses to further their education. That has helped Schneck reach a total of 81 percent of its staff nurses having a bachelor’s degree, Johnson-Poynter said.

The Institute of Medicine has issued a challenge nationwide that 80 percent of all registered nurses have their bachelor’s degree by 2020.

“We have far exceeded that,” Johnson-Poynter said. “Our goal was to reach that level by 2016, and we started working on it in 2010.”

Schneck has partnered with colleges, including Indiana University-Purdue University Columbus and Ivy Tech Community College, to offer programs for nurses with an associate degree to easily and quickly get their bachelor’s degree.

“The hospital has been very supportive of our nurses going through that,” Johnson-Poynter said.

Some nurses have gone on to receive their master’s degree and even their doctorate degree in nursing, she said.

More than half of Schneck’s nurses — about 55 percent — have taken and passed national exams to be specially certified in different areas of nursing, such as medical-surgical, obstetrics and emergency.

Darla Rorick has worked in the intensive care unit at Schneck for nearly nine years. She is currently finishing up classes for her master’s degree.

“I have been very blessed to be able to have a flexible schedule that has allowed me to go back to school,” she said.

Working at Schneck, Rorick said she has the opportunity to work with “amazing” people.

“Everyone is so helpful, and I have learned a lot from everyone,” she said. “Our doctors are the best, very knowledgeable and they love to teach. That’s so important in a hospital to have doctors that welcome questions. They have definitely helped to make me who I am today in my career.”

Rorick said the ranking surprises her only because of how large and well-known the other hospitals are.

“To be in a list with them and to be ranked No. 1 is such an honor, but Schneck is an amazing place,” she said.

Her co-workers are more than just people she works with, they are family, she said.

“We care about each other and love to see each other succeed,” she said. “Schneck offers wonderful opportunities for their staff, and everyone is part of our organization from the housekeepers to the CEO. Everyone is important and is appreciated.”

Many reasons to shine

There’s not just one factor that sets Schneck apart from other hospitals, Forgey added.“There are many factors that contribute to our nurse-friendly environment, and much credit can be attributed to Vicki,” Forgey said. “She has created a … structure that empowers nurses to use their experience and expertise in daily decision making and to continuously evaluate processes to improve patient outcomes.”

After nearly 20 years at Schneck, the past 12 in her current position, Johnson-Poynter will retire this spring. At that time, Amy Pettit will take on the role of vice president of nursing services and chief nursing officer and will continue to foster the nurse-friendly culture at Schneck.

Pettit has more than 20 years of nursing experience at Schneck in both staff level and nursing leadership positions. She also has obtained her master’s and doctorate degrees in nursing while working at the hospital.

On the Web

To see the full list of the top 30 most nurse-friendly hospitals in the country, visit toprntobsn.com/nurse-friendly-hospitals.

Author photo
January Rutherford is a reporter for The (Seymour) Tribune. She can be reached at jrutherford@tribtown.com or 812-523-7069.