Magnet in the Gastrointestinal Surgery and Surgical Oncology Nursing Unit

Jennifer Roberson, BSN, RN; Rebecca Shell, BSN, RN


June 13, 2008

In the Gastrointestinal Surgery and Surgical Oncology Nursing Unit (W7N) at UAB University Hospital in Birmingham, Alabama, the staff is very committed to the hospital's mission of providing high-quality patient care as a Magnet recognized hospital.

To validate the quality of care delivered, several of the nurses on our unit have participated in the career advancement program. This program is based on Patricia Brenner's "novice to expert" theory, and provides an opportunity for nurses to showcase accomplishments in nursing. Applying for an advanced position allows the nurse to quantify achievements as a clinical expert and to look objectively at his or her own practice. Two of these nurses have advanced to a clinical nurse level three, the highest level, and have maintained this level for two years. A unit project is part of the program. Each nurse had been instrumental in deciding what needed to be done to improve patient care through their project. These projects included writing a unit visitation policy, setting up physicians order sets in the computer system to make patient care flow smoothly, creating a database used in monthly chart audits, and conducting research on hand hygiene.

The program also includes case studies in which nurses write about the care they give and how it makes them feel to be able to give that care. Here are a few case study reports:

"The time spent with the patient reminded me of how important daily activities are to us. It was also a reminder of how we feel about ourselves when there is an alteration in body image and then are able to resume those activities that make us see that life can be good again."

"When Mr. M saw me, he just smiled and held out his hand to greet me. He appeared relieved when he saw me, knowing that we had had a rapport in the past. Caring for him reminded me that when you spend a little time to get to know the patient, it makes their stay easier and also easier for you to care for them."

"We not only learn how to truly care for people, but we learn more about ourselves. I have learned to put aside my fear of the unknown and embrace new challenges."

"Working with Ms. S that day helped me to realize how important it is to provide patients with individualized care. Ms. S's needs were completely unique from any of my other patients that day. When she asked if I had other patients to care for that day, I knew my goal to provide individualized care for her was accomplished. She left feeling that she was the only person I had to care for and that is how I wish to make all of my patients feel each day."

These nurses are members of unit and hospital-wide committees, including the Nursing Quality Committee, Council of Nurse Educators, Professional Nurse Practice Council, Nursing Pharmacy Liaison Council, Unit Quality Council, Joint Commission Preparedness Council, Magnet Re-designation Council, and Bariatric Network Center Team. They also participate in community activities, such as the Transplant Olympics, March of Dimes, and American Heart Association, canned food drives, Habitat for Humanity, and church and local school activities.

The staff of the Gastrointestinal Surgery and Surgical Oncology Nursing Unit consistently receives comments of praise from the patients and their families. Examples are:

  • "(This) is the seventh time I have been admitted since March 2006. It is a pleasure to inform you that I was once again the beneficiary of a truly outstanding level of care."

  • "...calmness, poise and self-assured manner convey an authority that inspires confidence and trust."

  • "You and the staff that took care of me were simply amazing."

  • "It is no wonder why you all come so highly recommended. Consideration and compassion always goes a long way."

  • "If surgery can be pleasant, you and the staff on W7N certainly made it pleasant."

  • "Thanks for all of your TLC for my daughter... Your exceptional professionalism in health care brought her through a very difficult period of her life."

Nurses on this unit have been instrumental in preparing and assisting the hospital to receive accreditation in December 2006 from the American College of Surgeons to become a Level IA Accredited Bariatric Center, Adult and Pediatric. The staff on this unit received the first ever Patient Care Excellence Award in December 2006 and has since received another award in February 2007. During recent years (2004-present) we have had two Registered Nurses receive an Award in Clinical Excellence in Nursing, a Patient Care Technician receive an Award for Excellence in Patient Care and a Unit Secretary receive an Award for Customer Service. The staff also secretively submitted an application for the nurse manager who won the Chief Nursing Officer Award for Excellence in Nursing Leadership.

The culture of our unit is one that is both diverse and inclusive. The history of interdependence among the disciplines continues as the personnel and professions evolve. The staff on our unit works well with all disciplines, and appropriate care is provided for our diverse patient population. Most of the staff has been working together for well over a decade. These are the qualities that prompted ABC Good Morning America's advice to seek out "nurse Magnet hospitals where the best nurses work, the morale is the highest, and the hospital has the most resources ... you want to be where nurses want to be."


This content is provided by American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) for publication on the web site.

The American Nurses Credentialing Center's (ANCC) internationally renowned credentialing programs certify nurses in specialty practice areas, recognize healthcare organizations for nursing excellence through the Magnet Recognition Program®, and accredit providers of continuing nursing education. In addition, ANCC offers an array of informational and educational services and products to support its core credentialing programs.

ANCC is passionate about helping nurses on their journey to nursing excellence. Visit ANCC's web site at

The American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) is a subsidiary of the American Nurses Association (ANA).


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