When Leslie Thompson was looking for a job in nursing in 2011, she wanted to work at a place where she could grow both personally and professionally.

Thompson, 37, says she has found that in her role as a charge nurse at Piedmont Atlanta Hospital. She was promoted to the position in 2014 after three years at the 510-bed facility.
In the role, Thompson supervises a staff of nine nurses that work on 5 North, a 41-bed medical/surgical unit at Piedmont Atlanta, where patients are often struggling from complex conditions. Thompson has helped spearhead several initiatives to improve the care processes, benefiting patients and staff. For her work, Thompson is this year's recipient of the Unit/Departmental Nursing Leader Award.

In January 2015, Thompson was part of an effort to improve communication among nurses, doctors and patients and their family members during daily rounds. She said the initiative has received positive feedback from both staff and patients. It especially empowers nurses and keeps doctors accountable. “If they said (to a patient) they would address a pain issue, a nurse needs to say, 'Please order that medication,' ” she said.

Thompson also helped implement a new evaluation for a patient's risk of falling—given to all patients upon admission. Individuals are scored based on their mobility and awareness. If they are found to be at a heightened risk, a yellow sign is placed on their door, which is left open so staff can frequently check on them. A bed alarm is also used to monitor when a patient leaves the bed unsupervised.

Thompson participated in another initiative at Piedmont to decrease catheter-associated urinary tract infections. The floor reports and closely monitors the patients with catheters to ensure they are not at risk for infection. This includes frequently checking the patient to make sure the catheter is properly in place and when it is filled. “We have seen too many patients become septic because of UTI infections,” she said.

Unnecessary waste on the floor was also an issue Thompson took on. Staff was often disposing of linens when they should have been sent to be laundered. The unit installed blue linen bags and educated staff about how used linens should be properly handled, leading to reduced waste on the floor and long-term savings.

In addition to her leadership role for pilot initiatives, Thompson has also served as the safety coach for 5 North since 2013. She monitors the status of medication in crash carts, attends monthly meetings to discuss safety measures such as hand hygiene, and monitors and reports safety events including falls and fall precautions on the floor. She also writes the staff schedule and supports colleagues with any professional or personal concerns.

Thompson said she embraces all the responsibilities she's been given, saying, “There's no other career I would've wanted besides nursing.”

- Maria Castellucci