Helping to address the issue of fatigue
Jaime Potopinski, MSN, MBA, RN, is a director for Home Health and Hospice at Affinity Visiting Nurses, part of Ministry Home Care, where she focuses on quality, satisfaction and finance. Her 75-person agency covers the home health and hospice needs of patients in 13 counties in northeastern Wisconsin. Since 2005, she has been active in the Wisconsin Nurses Association (WNA), serving on several committees and as a past district board member. She currently is a member of the American Nurses Association’s (ANA) Nurse Fatigue Professional Issues Panel Steering Committee.
How did your career path lead you to your current role?
While at Carroll University, Columbia College of Nursing in Milwaukee, I had a clinical rotation at Horizon Home Care. I loved home care, being able to visit with a patient for 45 minutes at a time and do one-on-one patient teaching. After graduating in 1999 and spending a year at Columbia Hospital, I accepted a position with Ministry Home Care, seeing patients for three years while also working on my MBA. I became a supervisor, earned a master’s degree in nursing, and was promoted to the director of home health. In my current role, I oversee leaders and staff in home health and hospice. The majority of people we see are geriatric patients. We provide follow-up, post-surgery care, manage many patients with chronic illnesses, and those with palliative and hospice needs.
How do you use your nursing skills and knowledge in your various roles?
I’m always using the foundational skills that I learned in nursing school — the nursing process. It’s in everything I do. I’m constantly assessing, implementing, and evaluating quality and satisfaction measures to improve care. Even in my business and leadership roles, I use the nursing process as a way to make decisions.
How did you develop your leadership skills?
I developed a lot of my leadership skills while getting my MBA and MSN. I think the things you learn while getting advanced degrees, such as an understanding of theories and research, can benefit anyone who is interested in building leadership skills. I also recently participated in “Lean training” with Six Sigma (which focuses on quality improvement processes). And twice over the years I’ve been at Ministry, I’ve asked for an organizational development plan, in which someone else assesses my skills to help me determine how to advance and improve.
I’d encourage nurses to ask for coaching or an organizational development plan, which is not meant to be correctional in nature. It is not a sign that you are weak, but that you are going places.
I also became active on WNA committees, first on the Communications Council, then district board member and now on a panel aimed at addressing nurse fatigue [in addition to the ANA fatigue panel].
What can other nurses do to lead efforts in their work environments, such as addressing issues like fatigue?
One of the easiest ways for nurses to start is to join a committee. It will get them noticed, and because most committees are about change, they can really make a difference. Step forward and be confident that, as nurses, they have the answers.
I became interested in addressing fatigue, because it’s an issue in home care. Home health nurses work eight hours and often get called after hours to solve problems, so their patients don’t end up in the ER or readmitted. Hospice nurses get calls in the middle of the night for crisis management all the time.
Because of my involvement on the WNA and ANA panels, Ministry Home Care has asked me to work on a system-wide policy to address fatigue.
And I think every nurse needs to figure out how to manage fatigue. Nurses can get involved in scheduling and developing other policies that can mitigate this [safety and health problem].
What’s on the horizon for professional nursing, and what advice can you give to nurses to prepare for potentially new or different careers?
I believe there are four things that will be increasingly important for nurses. The first is research. Everybody can do some level of research — you don’t need a PhD. So nurses should start looking at data, quality measures, and see what they can do to improve care. The second is we need to be prepared for evidence-based practice. There no longer will be any room to say, “We’ve always done it that way.” Third, we need to be using research and evidence-based practice to standardize our care. If research backs up how we should care for our patients or treat disease processes, we need to believe it’s true — not think that the way we provide care should be unique.
As we move into the future, every single nurse will have to lead and to delegate, including to more non-nursing staff. We are facing a huge nursing shortage as many nurses begin to retire. If younger nurses don’t have the skill set to lead, everything will fall apart and we will be in a world of hurt.
Professional issues panels
Do you know a nurse leader? If you want to recommend an ANA member to be featured in this column, please write to TAN editor at 8515 Georgia Ave., Ste. 400, Silver Spring, MD 20910-3492 or via email at TANeditor@ana.org.