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By Chad Frey
Newton Kansan
May 12, 2015

Critical Experience
Staff in the Critical Care Unit of Newton Med full of long-time nurses

Inside the main doors of the Critical Care Unit of Newton Medical Center sits a display that patients and visitors walk by but may not notice. Their minds are on other things.

But that board — made by nurse Deb Hageman — speaks to the kind of care patients will receive when in the CCU. That care comes from a very experienced group of nurses.

“We are blessed to have such caring and experienced nurses here at Newton Medical Center. The expertise of all our nurses, including those in our CCU, demonstrates our commitment to providing exceptional patient care,” said Steve Kelly, Newton Medical Center president and CEO.

Having quality care in the CCU is critical according to a study published by the Critical Care Medicine Journal in 2014 that looked at 55,159 older adults on mechanical ventilation. The population looked at had a high mortality rate, however patients in hospitals with better critical care nurse work environments and higher proportions of critical care nurses with a bachelor’s degree in nursing experienced significantly lower odds of death.

In that study, the average experience for critical care nurses was 11.6 years. The staff listed in Newton, 24 members strong, sport more than 358 years of experience. That’s an average of nearly 15 years per nurse.

“It is really important,” said Bert Hiebert, one of the staff members on that list. “It is important to bring new nurses on board and add to that to replace people. But there are some things you only learn through experience.”

She should know. She beats that 15 year average — and not by a little. She has 41 years of nursing experience, 39 of them in CCU.

All told, there are three nurses with more than 30 years experience. Gerri Klaassen posts 39 and Elaine Stanghor 35.

All of the CCU members also serve in other places in the hospital in addition to taking care of those in the CCU. But it is in that CCU where some, like Hiebert, are at home.

“I love to help people,” Hiebert said. “In here you can notice drastic changes in people quickly. They come in here very sick, and we can help them get better. We really notice changes.

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