A Culture of Caring
Having recently earned a prestigious designation for its nursing staff’s dedication to the highest standard of care, Abington Health Lansdale Hospital stands apart
by Glori Gayster


American author and poet Maya Angelou once said about nurses, “They may forget your name but they will never forget how you made them feel.”


According to the Gallup Co.’s annual poll, nurses are among the most trusted of all professionals in the minds of the American public. These caring professionals share a wealth of knowledge and technical skills that, when combined, provide a highly valued level of service for patients, families and physicians.


At Lansdale Hospital, the 315 staff nurses may be well known for their commitment to clinical care. Yet patients are not the only ones who have noticed.


This June, Lansdale Hospital achieved the Pathway to Excellence designation by the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC), a recognition received by only 81 facilities in the United States, one of two in Pennsylvania and the only hospital in the Delaware Valley. “I am extremely proud of our nursing staff,” says Nancy G. Hesse, R.N., chief nursing officer (CNO). “Every day I hear examples of their practice excellence and the positive impact it has on our patients’ experiences and their outcomes.”


As the largest nursing credentialing organization and a subsidiary of the American Nurses Association, the ANCC grants the Pathway to Excellence designation only to those hospitals that show documented evidence of meeting the 12 standards defined by “The Pathway to Excellence Criteria.” The thorough application and review process can take up to two years and begins with an intensive GAP analysis of the organization’s strengths and weaknesses.


“We investigated every area in depth, and the application contained 12 to 18 months of extensive evidence illustrating that we not only met the 12 standards but did so with a level of excellence that set us apart from others,” says Hesse. Championed by Hesse and 10 other lead nurses, Lansdale Hospital took on this challenge, and a team of 25 began to put the pieces together. Throughout the process, according to Hesse, the entire nursing and hospital staff was extremely supportive.


“Before taking the CNO position at Lansdale Hospital, I had the opportunity to teach two major customer-service sessions to a wide range of Lansdale Hospital employees, and then 30 more education sessions to smaller groups,” she shares. “I found myself connecting with the staff right away. As CNO, I felt confident that we could make a difference across the entire hospital and take our nursing care to the next level for the community as a whole.”


What It Takes

In short, The Pathway to Excellence Program recognizes health care organizations for positive practice environments where nurses excel. However, that makes it sound all too easy. The 12 standards are far more specific and dig deep into the heart of what makes the hospital’s nursing department so unique.


At the top of the list, Lansdale Hospital had to illustrate a shared governance model in which nurses control the practice of nursing and are directly involved in making decisions.  “This was one of the most meaningful standards for me and one where I witnessed the growth,” Hesse says. “Our staff meetings have taken on a whole new meaning. They are standing room only and centered on collaboration. The notion of manager-driven, top-down agendas has all been put aside. Nurses impact our practice and ultimately the quality of care and safety for patients.”


The Pathway standards also include ensuring a safe and healthy work environment, defined systems to address patient care and practice concerns, and a detailed new nurse orientation. The team at Lansdale Hospital further had to show evidence that, as CNO, Hesse is qualified to participate in all levels of the organization as well as show that professional development is encouraged and equitable compensation provided.


Another standard high on Hesse’s list is consistently recognizing nurses for their achievements. “Whether it’s our quarterly ‘Above the Call’ award for illustrating extraordinary quality in a patient situation or the Annual Excellence recognitions given during Nurses’ Week each May, this is an area where we truly excel,” she says. “Showing others that their contributions are valued is priceless.”


Additional standards require applying organizations to show a balanced lifestyle is encouraged, collaborative relationships are valued and supported, and nurse managers are competent and accountable. Last but certainly not least is to illustrate the use of evidence-based practices. As the third part of Hesse’s top-three criteria, this is a nonetheless critical element because it directly translates into better patient outcomes. Specifically, the ANCC looks for evidence that displays how “nurses play a key role in quality initiatives for patient-care improvements and lead efforts to implement best practices in patient care.”


Key to achieving the recognition is showing each of the 12 initiatives and standards have an everyday presence in the facility’s practices, policies and culture. The verification process includes a confidential survey by nurses in the organization to confirm that the evidence outlined is in place.


Strength for the Community

For those at Lansdale Hospital, the Pathway to Excellence designation further shows its commitment to nurses, their importance in defining practices and the value placed on their contributions in the workplace. The benefits, which include improved satisfaction, teamwork and quality, directly translate to patient care. 


“The three-year designation is perfectly suited to small and medium-sized health care organizations such as ours,” says Hesse. “It shows our strength as a hospital and commitment to maintaining our community-style environment and approach to patient care.


“It is a prestigious honor to know that our nursing staff was recognized for their expertise and exceptional care at a national level and from a professional organization.”


Abington Health Lansdale Hospital

100 Medical Campus Drive  

Lansdale, PA 19446
Phone: 215-368-2100

Web: www.ahlansdale.org


Glori Gayster is a freelance writer from South Jersey.

Rob Hall is a photographer from Plumsteadville.