The DNP Project That Transformed the Health of a Hospital

What if your community was ranked highest in the U.S. for adult obesity per capita? What if the health of your nursing staff was also at risk? Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) graduate Mary Sas, DNP, MSN, MBA, BSN, BS, who oversees a 14-bed critical access hospital in a rural, mountain community in West Virginia, had her work cut out for her.  

At Hampshire Memorial Hospital in Romney, Dr. Sas is the Vice President and Chief Nursing Officer (CNO). While the hospital has an employee-based wellness program (EWP) throughout its hospital system, the nurses and nursing support staff in this particular location had the lowest participation rates across the system.

“A colleague came to a leadership meeting at our hospital and expressed concern over the health of my staff,” she said. “In the two years I had been there, we were so focused on increasing the quality of care for our patients that I hadn’t looked at the health of my nurses—the caregivers.”

This interaction with her colleague inspired her to create a culture of health, and she began the outline for her DNP project.

Being a Role Model

What helped push the Hampshire nursing staff shift to a healthy lifestyle was the idea of role modeling. As healthcare providers, the staff realized that it was important for them to be good role models of healthy living in their community. That made a great impact on the way they viewed their wellness.

Dr. Sas also knew that role modeling could affect her staff’s lives in different ways, like advancing their education and careers, and knew she had to be a leader in this area. She connected role modeling to the reason why she decided to earn her DNP degree in the first place. 

“I was very impressed with Chamberlain’s DNP program; it amazed me,” she said. “I’ve been in healthcare for over 30 years and was a physical education teacher before that, so I was a little hesitant to go back to school. The hospital system has a goal to have 80% of its nurses BSN-educated by 2020. I thought, ‘How can I ask our nurses to go back to school without setting an example?’ And because we have few options in the community, I knew that I could be a mentor and preceptor for my staff if they needed one.”

The Project

Dr. Sas conducted a pre-and-post health risk assessment (HRA) questionnaire and Body Mass Index (BMI) measurement at the beginning and end of the eight-week project, which aimed to decrease BMI across the nursing staff. She designed the project around an education component focused on nutritional choices and physical activity, including a face-to-face interaction with participants to provide motivation and support through coaching, reward and recognition. 

The Results

The results demonstrated statistically significant improvements in physical health, mental health and decreased BMI for the 30 participants who completed the program. Questions acknowledging physical health and mental health over the previous weeks reflected a dramatic improvement on the pre-and-post survey.

“We saw a positive shift from 15% to 33% for good responses about general health,” she said. “Both the physical health and mental health averages improved and there were no responses that were in the ‘poor’ or ‘very poor’ category on the ending survey.”

Dr. Sas explained that the BMI numbers were the most difficult to shift because even the smallest shift in BMI requires significant change in eight weeks; however, the group average decreased its BMI by 0.7.

Creating this culture of health and wellness had such an impact that the hospital saw change realized across departments—Hampshire’s nutritional services now prepares a healthy option for lunch. The nurses and support staff who were a part of the project were so engaged in it, that they named themselves the “Wellness Warriors.”

“Some of our wellness warriors are still on the warpath,” said Dr. Sas. “Several of them have joined our hospital’s wellness center, are still doing peer challenges and have maintained their accountability partners.”

Do you want to make an impact like Dr. Sas did in her community? Learn more about Chamberlain’s DNP program here.

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