Betsy Ryan is president and CEO of the New Jersey Hospital Association. Her blog, Healthcare Matters, examines the many issues confronting New Jersey's hospitals and their patients. Readers are encouraged to join the discussion, because healthcare matters - to all of us.

With Love to Mom, Nurses and the Caring Pros at NJ Hospitals

The nation celebrates National Nurses Week May 6 -12 and National Hospital Week May 8-14. This year, Mother’s Day falls within both weeks – a fitting coincidence for a wonderful group of caring and compassionate people.

Mother’s Day may not have a direct relationship to healthcare, but they remain linked in my mind. I guess it’s because mothers have the same nurturing, compassionate qualities as the nurses and other employees I encounter in healthcare. There are 145,000 individuals working in New Jersey’s hospitals, and another 100,000 working in nursing homes. They are among the most committed and caring people I’ve met. For them, healthcare isn’t just a job or a profession. It’s an avocation – something they love to do.

On good days, being a mom is like that. (Of course, there are bad days too.) So this Mother’s Day, share the love with the caring professionals who take care of our health. And above all, reach out to your mom and thank her for her love and support. If you can, give her a break and take her out to brunch, lunch or dinner. And of course, any mom appreciates a small token of appreciation. (A word of caution from this particular mom to her husband: Small appliances don’t count.)

Written by Betsy Ryan at 17:08

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When It Comes to Nursing, Magnets Really Do Attract

Quick question: Which East Coast state has more Magnet hospitals than any other?

Answer: New Jersey. Our state is home to 24 hospitals that have achieved the prestigious Magnet award for nursing care. That's four times higher than the national average.

The Magnet® application and appraisal process, led by the American Nurses Credentialing Center, is recognition of a healthcare organization's attainment of excellence in nursing. The Magnet Program is based on quality indicators and standards of nursing practice. The Magnet application process is thorough and lengthy, and hospitals that undertake it find it to be a journey that fosters organizational advancement, team building and enhancement of individual professional self-esteem. The program promotes a professional environment guided by strong visionary nursing leaders who support development and excellence in nursing practice. The net result is an engaged, empowered and committed nursing team -- the very roots of excellent healthcare services and satisfied patients!

Excellent nursing care is critical to a good healthcare experience. New Jersey is proud of its tradition of outstanding nurses and healthcare organizations committed to nursing excellence. For nurses and patients, Magnets really do attract.

Written by Betsy Ryan at 17:41

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From Gold Star Moms to Health Reform: John Adler’s Legacy of Service

I had the opportunity to attend funeral services this week for former Congressman John Adler. They were incredibly moving. So many words have been spoken and written about him in the past week. The temple was packed with more than 1,000 people, many standing in the back. I sat next to a Gold Star Mom who had lost a child in service to our country. She told me how Mr. Adler had spearheaded legislation to help honor Gold Star Moms, and how much it meant to her and how accessible he was. Everyone in the room had been touched by him in some way.

I personally have nothing but fond memories of John Alder. I often worked with him while he was a state senator. I agree wholeheartedly with whoever it was who said Mr. Adler could disagree without being disagreeable. I remember approaching him on medical malpractice reform when he chaired the Senate Judiciary Committee, and he listened intently, thoughtfully and respectfully, even though he didn’t agree with the position I was taking. When I was younger, I actually ran for and won a seat on my local town council. John Adler contributed to my campaign when he found out I was running. I was so honored.

Just this past summer, Mr. Adler was holding Town Hall meetings in his district on national healthcare reform. He invited me to be a panelist at such a function – again, a real honor. You might recall that some of those district meetings on healthcare reform attracted a highly charged crowd. When I got to the session, the room was packed with well over 100 people, and when the Congressman asked those who had questions to line up on one side of the room, it seemed to me that half the room stood up. The crowd was a little raucous that day, but Mr. Adler handled the questions with grace, wit and the astuteness of a great mind.

He will be missed by so many, including me.

Written by Betsy Ryan at 19:21

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4 Big Reasons Why I'm Jersey-Proud

For the past two days I've had the privilege of attending the American Hospital Association's Regional Policy Board which covers New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania. The meeting kicked off with an unexpected agenda item -- we had to go around the table and each participant had to provide a "bright spot" in healthcare. At first, I had that feeling in the pit of my stomach, similar to when someone at Thanksgiving suggests,"Let's go around the table and say what we're thankful for." But the panic subsided and the ideas began to flow so much that I couldn't wait for my turn.

I talked about being proud that New Jersey hospitals, through a quality collaborative led by our Health Research and Educational Trust, reduced bloodstream infections by a whopping 81 percent. (The CDC reported this week that hospitals nationwide have reduced bloodstream infections by 58 percent.) And I mentioned NJHA's Physician-Hospital Demonstration Project, in which we've been working with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to see if hospitals and physicians can work together and drive down costs while maintaining and even improving healthcare quality and safety. The project is going very well. And finally, I talked about the pride I felt after colleagues from other states complimented New Jersey on the outstanding work being done here on medical homes. My colleagues in other states had all read the recent article in the New Yorker by Dr. Atul Gawande regarding the good work being done in Camden by Dr. Jeffrey Brenner and the teams at Virtua, Lourdes Health System and Cooper Health System and in Atlantic City by AtlantiCare. Excellent models exist throughout New Jersey.

So my moment on the hot seat became a moment of great pride over the innovative work being done in New Jersey. And I didn't even get to mention that New Jersey Congressman Rush Holt, our very own rocket scientist, beat Watson the IBM supercomputer in Jeopardy...

What makes you Jersey-Proud? I'd love to hear your success stories and share them on this site. Click below to share!

Written by Betsy Ryan at 17:30

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Hospitals Embrace NJ’s Diversity

New Jersey is a model of diversity. The state’s residents hail from more than 100 nations, and the U.S. Census Bureau ranks the Garden State third in the nation in the percentage of foreign-born residents. In addition, the Pew Research Center reports that New Jersey is home to a half-million undocumented immigrants – the fifth-largest population in the nation.

The state Department of Health and Senior Services issued a report today on these newest New Jerseyans. We applaud Commissioner Poonam Alaigh and her team for taking on this very important effort. Before we can best serve our communities, we need to really know our communities. Data is key.

Hospitals all across the state delve deep into demographics and other data to ensure they’re providing the best, most culturally appropriate care to their unique communities. Here at NJHA, we provide leadership and support such as a statewide program to train more medical interpreters (with 200 “graduates” to date); outreach and educational materials in multiple languages and targeted quality improvement initiatives like Dulce New Jersey, a diabetes management program specifically geared toward African-American and Latino/Hispanic communities.

Our hospitals likewise have numerous programs in place to care for their diverse populations. Starting at registration, our intake workers ask patients about their ethnic background and primary language. People sometime don’t understand why we ask that, but hospitals must know their patients and their backgrounds. We use this information to identify disparities in healthcare services and outcomes, develop targeted programs for local populations and tailor our communications based on the different languages spoken by patients.

In addition, New Jersey hospitals play a vitally important role as the safety net for New Jersey’s large population of undocumented immigrants – again, a population that totals about a half-million people. Many of these individuals don’t have a so-called medical home – a physician’s office where they receive routine and preventive care. That leaves the hospital emergency department as their main source of healthcare services. Hospitals serve all patients who come through their doors – regardless of their legal status or their ability to pay. And most of the time, hospitals are forced to absorb the cost of that care, which reaches beyond $500 million annually.

New Jersey is wonderfully diverse, so caring for our residents’ healthcare needs is a complex challenge. But it’s a challenge we embrace, and we look forward to being an active partner with the state, with other healthcare providers and our many community- and faith-based groups to improve the health of all New Jerseyans.

Written by Betsy Ryan at 19:57

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