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UK nursing leaders and alumnae honored for excellence

Current and retired faculty members and distinguished alumnae in the UK College of Nursing have been honored by a number of organizations for their work in the fields of teaching and health care.

Carolyn Williams, dean emeritus of the UK College of Nursing and former president of the American Academy of Nursing, was one of five nurse leaders to receive the academy’s designation of Living Legend, the organization’s highest honor, at a special ceremony in Washington, D.C. on Oct. 5.

The Academy recognizes a small number of fellows as Living Legends each year. To be eligible, the Living Legend must have been an academy fellow for at least 15 years and have demonstrated extraordinary, sustained contributions to nursing and healthcare.

Williams was honored for her work in public health epidemiology and nursing education. Her groundbreaking work advocates for community health through population-focused research and care. She was actively involved in efforts that led to the creation of the National Institute for Nursing Research. As dean of the UK College of Nursing, she launched the nation’s first doctor of nursing practice (DNP) program. As president of the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, she pressed for development of the DNP nationally.

Janie Heath, current dean of the UK College of Nursing, was recognized as a distinguished alumna by her alma mater, the University of Oklahoma College of Nursing on Oct. 27. The award was established by the college and the Alumni Board of Directors to recognize graduates who demonstrate “outstanding leadership related to the field of nursing or healthcare” and who have made “significant clinical, academic, research or other contributions to nursing or health care on a local, state, national or international level.”

In addition, the UK College of Nursing honored five new inductees in its Hall of Fame on Nov. 10 at 21C Hotel in Lexington. The honorees are:

  • Karen S. Hill ’87, chief operating officer/chief nursing officer for Baptist Health in Lexington.
  • Sheila H. Ridner ’78, director at Vanderbilt University School of Nursing.
  • Marcia K. Stanhope ’67, former director of Good Samaritan.
  • Colleen H. Swartz ’87 DNP ’11, chief nurse executive/chief administrative officer at UK HealthCare.
  • Gail A. Wolf ’78, former chief nursing officer, University of Pittsburgh Health Care System.

Established in 2006, the College of Nursing Hall of Fame identifies distinguished graduates and their extraordinary contributions to the nursing profession.

“Drs. Hill, Ridner, Stanhope, Swartz and Wolf are pioneers who truly embody the Wildcat spirit – a spirit of curiosity and determination,” said Heath. “One that impacts nursing practice through teaching with excellence, advancing scholarly practice, generating nursing science and embracing differences.”


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College of Nursing faculty member receives grant to fight opioid abuse among pregnant women

Kristin Ashford, PhD, APRN, WHNP-BC, FAAN, associate professor and associate dean of Undergraduate Faculty Affairs in the UK College of Nursing, has been awarded the Hillman Innovations in Care Program grant from the Rita & Alex Hillman Foundation for her work in addressing the opioid epidemic and its impact on maternal-fetal health.

The $600,000 award will enable Ashford to continue to expand both the Perinatal Assistance and Treatment Home (PATHways) and Beyond Birth programs. The PATHways program integrates evidence-based knowledge through a comprehensive approach to perinatal opioid use disorder, offering buprenorphine maintenance treatment for both opioid use disorder and neonatal abstinence syndrome, peer support and education, legal support, prenatal and postnatal health services for mother and baby, and health system navigation during delivery.

PATHways has been expanded to include the Beyond Birth program, which provides wraparound services and access to resources to aid in maintaining recovery in the two years following delivery. 

“After women give birth, they experience the highest amount of stress in their lifetime, and this is when they need the most support in their recovery,” said Ashford.

The grant will be used to expand access to the program in communities that may not have the resources available to provide this type of multidisciplinary care to mothers with opioid use disorder. The grant will also be used to provide training to clinicians in high-need low-resource communities including Hazard and Morehead.

“The most important part of this program is helping mothers be the parents that they want to be,” Ashford said. “The Hillman Innovations in Care Program grant will enable the team to reach and help more women.”


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UK HealthCare takes proactive approach to nurse recruitment

Kentucky, like most states nationwide, is experiencing a shortage of qualified nurses. For UK HealthCare, which sees some of the sickest and most severely injured patients in the Commonwealth, this presents a particular problem. But UK HealthCare is working to combat the shortage by offering a wide variety of recruitment incentives and professional development opportunities.

A shortage of registered nurses, whether they are in hospital or clinic setting, is a multifaceted dilemma. The aging “baby boomer” population places a strain on healthcare resources, and the expansion of the Affordable Care Act means that more people are seeking treatment. The high number of Kentuckians with diabetes, cancer, heart disease and strokes also increases the demand for trained nurses.

“We have some serious health issues in our state,” said Colleen Swartz, chief nurse executive and chief administrative officer of UK HealthCare. “It’s no longer, ‘I have a fractured hip,’ it’s ‘I have a fractured hip and I’m a diabetic and I have congestive heart failure. That has created care that is very complex.”

Educational incentives

To address both the shortage and the complex health issues with which nurses must contend, UK HealthCare and the College of Nursing have instituted education incentives designed to attract new nurses and provide current UK nurses with opportunities for professional development. These incentives include tuition assistance, loan-repayment programs and continuing education programs.

One such program is Nursing Professional Advancement, which rewards nurses with pay differentials added to their base pay for participating in development opportunities. The nurse residency program for new graduate nurses is a one-year educational and support program that provides regular contact with experts and mentors to help with the transition from student to professional.

“We try to provide students with the best learning environment we possibly can,” said Swartz.

The UK College of Nursing awards over 300 undergraduate and graduate degrees each year. The PhD program is ranked among the top eight programs in the U.S. by the National Research Council, and the Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) was the first of its kind the U.S. Online continuing education programs are available, as well as a number of graduate certificates geared toward preparing advanced practice registered nurses for national certification eligibility and licensure in a new or additional specialty area.

Expanding skills

“The registered nurse of today is not the registered nurse of a decade ago,” said Swartz. “There is an increase in demand on their performances and their understanding of complexities.”

While other healthcare centers offer monetary incentives, such as sign-on bonuses for new hires, UK focuses on recruiting nurses looking to expand their skill set or to advance their careers.

The hospital’s reputation is a factor as well. UK HealthCare was named the best hospital in Kentucky by the U.S. News & World Report, and has achieved top 50 rankings in cancer treatment, neurology, geriatrics, and diabetes and endocrinology.

“[Another benefit] is the culture of the environment such as hospitals with magnet status that treat employees with respect,” said Janie Heath, dean of the College of Nursing. “We recognize and promote their outstanding efforts to meet the mission of care delivery excellence.”


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colleen swartz hall of fame

UK HealthCare’s Dr. Colleen Swartz inducted into College of Nursing Hall of Fame

Dr. Colleen Swartz

Dr. Colleen Swartz

Congratulations to Dr. Colleen Swartz, the chief nurse executive and chief administrative officer at UK HealthCare, for her recent induction into the UK College of Nursing Hall of Fame!

Dr. Swartz earned her bachelor’s degree in nursing in 1987 and her doctoral degree in nursing practice in 2011 from the UK College of Nursing. Established in 2006, the UK College of Nursing Hall of Fame identifies distinguished graduates and their extraordinary contributions to the nursing profession.

Dr. Swartz became chief nurse executive for UK HealthCare in December 2008 and was appointed chief administrative officer in February 2017. Dr. Swartz oversees UK HealthCare’s more than 4,000 nursing service employees, which includes more than 2,000 full-time registered nurses. With the help of Dr. Swartz’ leadership and vision, our nurses play a vital role in enhancing our patients’ healing process and are instrumental in providing the world-class care available at UK HealthCare.

Among her many accomplishments at UK HealthCare, Dr. Swartz helped us earn Magnet recognition from the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) in February 2016. Magnet status is the gold standard for nursing excellence, and out of nearly 6,000 healthcare organizations in the United States, fewer than 7 percent have achieved Magnet designation.

Her prior experience includes serving as chief nursing officer at a regional community hospital, director of emergency and trauma services, flight nursing and as director of the Capacity Command Center for UK HealthCare.

Congratulations on this awesome recognition, Dr. Swartz!


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Nurses Week

We’re celebrating our awesome nurses during Nurses Week!

It’s Nurses Week and we’re celebrating all the excellent nurses at UK HealthCare who care for our patients every day.

UK HealthCare has more than 4,000 nursing service employees, including more than 2,000 full-time registered nurses. They are the best at what they do and play a vital role in enhancing our patients’ healing process. Through patient care, education and research, our nurses are instrumental in providing the world-class care available at UK HealthCare.

In fact, UK HealthCare is part of an elite group of hospitals that has achieved Magnet status – the gold standard for nursing excellence. Out of nearly 6,000 healthcare organizations in the United States, fewer than 7 percent have achieved Magnet designation.

Kudos to our nurses for being so awesome!

Interested in working at UK HealthCare?

Are you interested in working in nursing at UK HealthCare? We’re hiring! Find out more during an open house this Thursday, May 11 from 1-3 p.m. in Room H-178 of UK Chandler Hospital. Recruiters will be available to answer questions about employment opportunities.

Parking is available in the UK HealthCare parking garage at 110 Transcript Ave., directly across South Limestone from Chandler Hospital. Take the free shuttle from Level A of the garage to Stop 2. After entering Pavilion H, take hallway on your immediate right to Room H-178. Bring your parking ticket with you and we will validate it for you so that parking is free.


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Lacey Buckler, assistant Chief Nursing Executive at UK HealthCare, spoke about how graduating from UK directly impacted her career.

Kentucky native Lacey Buckler pursues nursing excellence at UK

Making the RoundsLacey Buckler, who earned three degrees from the UK College of Nursing, currently serves as an assistant chief nursing executive at UK HealthCare. She has a special interest in working with heart transplant patients at the UK Transplant Center.

How did you go from being a UK graduate to your current position?

I started out as a critical care nurse in the Cardiovascular Intensive Care Unit (ICU) here at UK, spent a couple years working there and then moved into a case management position where I did discharge planning for cardiovascular services. I graduated with a nurse practitioner degree here at UK. Then I worked again with cardiology at that point as an acute nurse practitioner and continued my trajectory to earn my doctoral degree. I moved into the director role for advance practice and also cardiovascular nursing and over the past couple years, moved into a chief assistant nurse role.

What is a typical day like in your position?

There is definitely never a dull moment! UK HealthCare is a very busy academic medical center, and we consistently have a large volume of patients moving through our system. Ensuring my teams have what they need to care for the patients while balancing planning and preparing for what’s coming next is how I spend many of my days.

I also enjoying mentoring emerging leaders within the team and supporting students as they rotate through my areas.

Why did you choose a career in nursing?

I think it’s a passion for taking care of others and seeing the happiness on a patient’s face when they get to leave and they’ve been well taken care of – just being a part of that and being part of their family.

What is the most challenging aspect of your work?

I think healthcare is ever-changing. So right now with the political climate that we’re in, it’s hard to be in healthcare because you don’t know what’s coming down the road from bundled payments and changes in how we take care of patients. So I think just not knowing what the next steps will be makes health care challenging in general.

What is the most fulfilling part of your job?

The most fulfilling part of my job is seeing patients get better. I’m involved with the UK Transplant Program here for heart transplantation, so that’s a huge, neat part of UK HealthCare – seeing those patients get better and going on with their lives with a new chance on life is really an awesome experience.

Do you have a favorite UK memory? 

I have a lot of favorite UK memories. I’m a big basketball fan, so I had the pleasure of being an undergraduate student when Tayshaun Prince shot all the 3’s at the North Carolina game. We had really good seats right behind the bench that my friend and I got in the lottery at Memorial Coliseum.


Originally from Morganfield, Ky., Buckler discusses why helping people throughout the state is so important to her.


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Colleen Swartz

Colleen Swartz, UK HealthCare chief nurse executive, named Leader to Watch

Congratulations to UK HealthCare’s chief nurse executive, Dr. Colleen Swartz, who is featured on the cover of this month’s Nurse Leader journal as a national nursing Leader to Watch.

Swartz sat down with Nurse Leader for an extensive interview about her career, the nursing profession and what it means to be a leader in health care.

She also offered advice for new nursing leaders, emphasizing the importance of ongoing self-improvement.

“Self-reflection and self-awareness must be an ongoing process for nurse leaders throughout their careers. An essential piece of the process is identifying the gaps in one’s repertoire of leadership skills, then developing a plan to address them,” Swartz said. “The strongest nurse leaders I know have honed this process and engage in it on a daily basis. It is truly an expression of humility that is foundational in leadership.”

Swartz also had a chance to reflect on the legacy of her career in nursing.

“Our nursing motto at UK, ‘Every patient, every time,’ is very personal to me, and I hope I have been able to impart that as a grounding principle for all of those whom I have had the privilege to lead,” she said. “Never losing sight of the reality that leading is both a privilege and a responsibility – one that can never be taken lightly or for granted.”


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Former UK nurse Kristin Ashford has dedicated her life to researching ways to prevent pre-term birth and promote healthy pregnancies.

UK nurse, researcher helps prevent pre-term birth

Working as a labor and delivery nurse for a decade, Kristin Ashford was surrounded by happy beginnings. She helped women and families welcome healthy babies into the world. But Ashford also helped mothers and their families deal with the stressful and heart-wrenching experience of pre-term birth.

As a first-hand witness of the negative outcomes associated with pre-term birth, Ashford was motivated to make a difference. She transitioned from nursing into a researcher, studying risk factors of pre-term birth and creating strategies to prevent them through pregnancy interventions.

“It really got me interested in how to help these women more,” Ashford said of her nursing experience in labor and delivery. “Not only to reduce their risk, but also to help them emotionally cope with pre-term birth.”

Risk factors for pre-term birth

Pre-term birth is defined as delivery prior to 37 weeks gestation. Several risk factors, including smoking, substance abuse, poor socioeconomic conditions and obesity, increase a woman’s chance of experiencing pre-term birth. The consequences for the baby include respiratory illness, gastrointestinal disorders, immune deficiency, hearing and vision problems, and a prolonged hospital sta. There can also be longer-term motor, cognitive, visual, hearing, behavioral, social-emotional, health, and growth problems.

Now, as the assistant dean of research in the UK College of Nursing, Ashford oversees multiple research projects and interventions driven by the common goal of prolonging pregnancy.

“I think that any time that you can prolong a pregnancy, it is a rewarding experience,” she said. “If you can prevent the child from being sick, prevent that family’s stress and prevent life-long complications associated with that risk, that’s extremely rewarding.”

Research and interventions

Ashford’s research covers the issues relevant to pre-natal care, as there are many things that can be changed in order to prevent pre-term birth, like tobacco use. Her interventions aim to prevent tobacco and illicit drug use, manage chronic conditions such as diabetes and obesity, and reduce emotional distress in expectant mothers.

Ashford’s interventions are founded on the CenteringPregnancy model, which prepares women for pregnancy, labor and delivery, and motherhood through a peer support groups led by nursing and other health professionals. Ashford has designed CenteringPregnancy interventions to help pregnant women in high-risk categories like diabetes, tobacco use, substance abuse, or other socioeconomic or ethnic risk factors.

“Our UK program actually wants to put women together that have more in common with one another,” Ashford said. “So, in addition to being put in the group about the same time that they’re pregnant, they also are put in (a group) based on their most high-risk factor for pre-term birth.”

One intervention effort led by Ashford effort seeks to inform pregnant women about the dangers of using tobacco products while pregnant and give them resources to quit. Despite the known risks of using tobacco products during pregnancy, many pregnant women in Kentucky still smoke. Ashford is troubled by the rising popularity of e-cigarettes among women of childbearing age. Her research studies indicate that women are using both e-cigarettes and traditional tobacco products during pregnancy.

“Tobacco causes birth defects in pregnancy — that’s known,” Ashford said. “And so, it’s very clear that electronic cigarettes contain tobacco. Certainly, there’s risks associated with electronic cigarette use in pregnancy.”

Ashford is expanding CenteringPregnancy programs to areas in Eastern and Western Kentucky. She is working with local health departments to provide a Centering support network for pregnant women in high-risk groups.

She said her position in the UK College of Nursing allows her to research and circulate interventions, teach future nurses and nursing researchers, and serve communities by improving the quality of health care.

UK HealthCare earns nursing’s highest honor

We’re thrilled to announce that UK HealthCare has achieved Magnet status – the highest institutional honor awarded for nursing excellence – from the American Nurses Credentialing Center’s Magnet Recognition Program.

Achieving Magnet status involves a rigorous and lengthy review, but what it means is simple: our nurses are the best at what they do.

Magnet status is the gold standard for nursing excellence. Out of nearly 6,000 health care organizations in the United States, fewer than 7 percent have achieved Magnet designation.

The status represents a solid commitment to continuing education and nursing specialty certification, a cultural transformation of the work environment involving a shared governance model and laser focus on patient safety.

Congratulations to our nursing team — you’re the best!


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