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Darlene, MICU



I began working in MICU at VUMC in 1985.

I was honored to be able to participate in the Frontline Leadership Program at Vanderbilt in 2011 – 2012.  In addition to learning leadership skills, the participants were required to identify a problem in their work area and to implement a plan to solve this problem.  

DarleneCLABSIs have been an ongoing problem in our unit, as in other ICUs nationwide.  We had attacked this hospital-acquired infection from several different angles and after implementing some best practices had brought our rates way down.  But we were still struggling in the practice of removing central lines as soon as they were no longer needed.  Dr. Wheeler, our medical director, has always stressed that the best way to prevent a CLABSI was to remove a central line as soon as possible.  But with so many other urgent matters to focus on in our patients, we often overlooked how long these lines had been in or even if they were still necessary.  

So for my Frontline Leadership project, I worked with Tom Mack, our Systems Support representative, and the IT department to create a computer dashboard indicator that displayed every patient with a central line.  Inside each indicator box, a number would display how many 
days a line had been in.  I also worked with our unit’s CLABSI committee to educate our nurses to make the physicians aware of how long a central line has been in during rounds each day and to discuss whether they were still needed or not.  The main objective of the project was to increase awareness of central lines and to increase communication about them between the nurses and physicians.  This would hopefully help us to reach our goal of reducing the duration of our patient’s central lines.

The central line indicator has worked really well on our unit.  Both physicians and nurses can see the indicator from any of our workstation computers.  The indicator even turns yellow after the central line has been in five days.  And as an extra bonus – the IT department added a central line dressing indicator that turns red when a central line dressing has been on for 7 or more days.  Also very helpful!
I must give Tom Mack, with Systems Support, much of the credit for helping to get this dashboard indicator implemented in our unit.  He did a lot of the “legwork” in working out the details with the IT department.  Tom is a very dedicated nurse and passionate in his role of helping bedside nurses use technology to improve their patient care and to have more time at the bedside.  

I will always appreciate our wonderful manager in MICU, Julie Foss, and the support she gives to all of us in our unit.  If any of us have an idea on how we might improve patient care, work flow, team spirit, etc. – Julie immediately becomes our #1 fan and supporter.  She guides us and encourages us to put our ideas into motion and to make a difference.  I guess that is what I love best about working at Vanderbilt – Nurses have an important voice here.  We can change things for the better.  The year before I attended the Frontline Leadership program, I was very blessed to participate in the Evidence Based Practice Fellowship program here at Vanderbilt.  Nancy Wells, who directs the program, forever instilled in me the desire to find ways to improve our patient care based on the best evidence in literature.

DarleneThe biggest obstacle I have had to overcome during my nursing career was my own fears which stemmed from my childhood.  Some of these fears were definitely legitimate, but some not so much.  Unfortunately, these fears followed me into my adulthood and my nursing career.  I still laugh when I think of my first clinical in nursing school when I walked into my very first patient’s room and she announced to me that she couldn’t breathe.  I started trembling and just ran out of the room!   I’m sure I could have easily been voted as the least likely person to succeed as a nurse!!  But my passion to help sick people and somehow make a difference in this world drove me on.  Little by little I learned to face my fears instead of run from them.  A Bible verse I had learned at summer camp as a young teenager became my constant support – “Do not be afraid, for I am with you.” Isa. 41:10.  I still carry that verse in the pocket of my scrubs when I come to work.

I am married to a wonderful and supportive husband, Perry, who is also a nurse.  We have three beautiful children, a beautiful daughter-in-law, and a beautiful soon to be daughter-in-law.  Our 3 children were born here at Vanderbilt, our daughter-in-law is a Vandy grad, and our soon to be daughter-in-law is a nurse here in the Children’s Hospital.  We are all big Vanderbilt fans and even our 2 dogs have Vanderbilt jerseys!

I have been blessed beyond measure to work here at Vanderbilt and in MICU for nearly three decades.  I really can’t imagine working anywhere else!