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Voice of the President | July 2024



Deborah Zimmermann
Deborah Zimmermann, 2024 president, AONL Board of Directors

The COVID-19 pandemic shed light on the strategic value of the supply chain within health care organizations. It also revealed the importance of a nurse-centric supply chain that recognizes the critical role nurses play in achieving supply chain optimization.

Not only are nurses principal end users of supplies, but they are also an invaluable resource, helping recognize supply chain inefficiencies and patient safety issues. They serve as leaders for value analysis teams in assessing health care products for clinical efficacy, cost effectiveness and safety.

Inefficiencies in the supply chain can have serious patient safety implications and are a primary source of frustration for nurses. A nurse-centric supply chain that considers nurse workflow can lead to greater nurse engagement and better outcomes by ensuring the right supplies are available. Nurses will no longer have to spend time hunting and gathering and can devote more time to direct patient care and quality-improvement activities.

Nurses have long been involved in product evaluation and procurement, but there is a need for greater collaboration between nursing and supply chain professionals. Hospitals and health systems should encourage nurse participation to facilitate standardization, build systems to support supply and demand, and further assist in product evaluation. This issue highlights several ways nurses are engaged in supply chain optimization to enhance patient safety, care delivery and operational efficiency.

Nurses have long been involved in product evaluation and procurement, but there is need for greater collaboration between nursing and supply chain professionals.

Given recent drug shortages, hospitals and health systems have had to turn to safe pharmaceutical alternatives to avoid delays in treatment. Yet unfamiliarity with new medication alternatives can increase the risk of medication errors, especially when products have similar names and appearance. In their article, Melissa Quaid and Jill Anderson discuss the need for nurse leaders to consider the safety implications related to visual cues to reduce medication errors. Use of “tall man lettering” remains a valuable tool to draw attention to the dissimilarities between sound-alike drug names. Department-level and just-in-time teaching can help reinforce visual cues to ensure staff and patient safety.

Newly introduced materials also pose safety risks to patients and staff due to gaps in education. Through product standardization, organizations can streamline the selection process and ensure items meet key safety, workflow and financial objectives. At Sierra View Local Healthcare District and Medical Center in Porterville, Calif., value-based purchasing provides transparency into the product-selection process and ensures new products are vetted for usability and are in alignment with clinical best practice. Brandy Irwin and Jeffery Hudson-Covolo share how standardization facilitates better product training and education, enhancing outcomes and staff satisfaction. The involvement of multidisciplinary team members in the standardization process ensures all viewpoints are shared and understood to ensure the effective and efficient use of resources across the care continuum.

Technology adoption provides a unique set of challenges for health care organizations seeking to increase efficiencies and improve care delivery. To accomplish this, Cleveland Clinic places great emphasis on the collaborative effort between clinical teams and the supply chain. Scott Dwyer explains the role of the Nurse Product Evaluation Committee, comprised of multidisciplinary team members, and how it supports resource planning, product selection and implementation. Having a shared goal of elevating patient care delivery creates a culture that embraces change to transform the care experience for patients and clinicians.

As recognition of the importance of a nurse-centric supply chain grows, more nurses are shifting career paths to become supply chain leaders. Alysia Adams speaks with two nurses who have made this transition to understand how such leaders help navigate the complexities of procurement, logistics and inventory management. These nurse leaders have a unique understanding of how supply chain decisions directly impact patients and clinicians. They know greater collaboration drives supply chain optimization and ensures organizations have the necessary resources to deliver high-quality care.

The health care supply chain — like nursing — is an essential element that runs throughout the organization and directly impacts the cost and quality of care delivery. Fostering greater nursing and chain collaboration not only achieves greater cost savings and outcomes, but it also improves nurse engagement by building trust and assurance that the right supplies will be available when needed. An optimized supply chain eliminates the need for workarounds and time spent searching for supplies — perpetual pain points for nurses. Promoting greater collaboration is essential as we continue to navigate supply chain disruptions and seek to support our nurses in the delivery of high-quality patient care.