Milwaukee VA Nursing Recognized with National DAISY Award | VA Milwaukee Health Care

A Milwaukee VA Medical Center nurse was recognized nationally with HealthImpact’s DAISY Nurse Leader Award for advancing compassionate care in policy.

Meghan Lorbiecki, assistant nurse manager with the Milwaukee VA Medical Center’s acute mental health unit, received the award June 4 at the National Nursing Leadership Advocacy Day Conference in Washington, DC, for leading an interprofessional team to renew the Milwaukee VA’s alcohol withdrawal symptom management policy while she was the unit’s clinical nurse manager.

“It was a great honor and I’m very shocked,” Lorbiecki said. “I know the DAISY award is such an important thing. It means a lot to me and I am very grateful to be nominated.”

The DAISY Award is a recognition program to celebrate and recognize nurses by collecting nominations from patients, families and colleagues. In 2020, the DAISY Foundation partnered with HealthImpact to create an award to honor nurses whose work advances compassionate care in policy.

Lorbiecki began working at the Milwaukee VA Medical Center as the clinical nurse leader for acute mental health in January 2020. Even before that, nurses at the unit were questioning testing and treatment policies led by the Clinical Institute’s Withdrawal Assessment Scale. Alcohol Revised, one of the most common methods of assessing alcohol withdrawal. Lorbiecki was brought in to help review and revise the policy and assembled a team to help, including a nurse scientist, pharmacy resident, psychiatrist and mental health registered nurses.

“We reached out to other MVs, other local hospitals, and then revised and updated the policy based on current best practices and standards,” Lorbiecki said.

Once the policy was renewed, it had to be implemented in a way that would educate and build confidence in the nurses involved in treatment. Lorbiecki collaborated with Tina Smith, program manager of the Milwaukee VA simulation center, to create an interactive, simulation-based escape room to teach treatment protocols.

As more nurses passed through the escape room, word spread about its innovation and effectiveness—so much so that High Reliability Organization program manager Lindsey Ladell asked Lorbiecki and Smith to submit it for a local Hero Award. The awards are given to outstanding projects and people who support the principles of High Trust Organizations.

The escape room represented VISN 12 nationally for Hero work, being named the national winner in the clinical team category in 2022. The escape room was also presented at numerous conferences and has since been adapted from the Health Administration Learning Simulation of Veterans. Assessment, Evaluation and Research Network, a program that provides an ever-growing body of curriculum and best practices that improve health care for our nation’s Veterans.

“I think it’s pretty amazing that something so small that started in 3C is now going across the country with other VAs implementing the protocol and the escape room,” Lorbiecki said. “It’s something I didn’t expect at all.”

When the policy was fully implemented, mental health registered nurses accepted the policy changes as they were part of the process early on. The revised order established improved personalized care for veterans, and there were no documented adverse events at the Milwaukee VA Medical Center after the policy was in place.

Lorbiecki is very excited that the team’s work will be published in an upcoming issue of the Journal of Addictions Nursing. She added that she would not have been able to produce such an impactful protocol and publish this work without the help and support of her team.

“It’s so important to network and make those connections to move your project forward and help you in the future,” Lorbiecki said. “The policy and escape room would not be what it is today without the help of everyone involved, including 3C nurses Tina Smith and Dr. Hagle, the nurse scientist at the time.”

Tandria Williams, the Milwaukee VA Medical Center’s associate director of patient care services, made the same point in Lorbiecki’s nomination letter.

“This entire project represents the tremendous efforts of the Mental Health Nursing and Research Team in improving patient and staff safety and nursing practice through policy development,” Williams wrote.

Lorbiecki shared that her time and work at the Milwaukee VA is unlike anything she has experienced anywhere else.

“There’s a lot of opportunity for growth and progression and learning, something that’s so important,” she said. “It just amazes me how much there is here at VA for you. If you want to do something new or tackle a project, VA does everything possible to help you achieve that goal. It’s a great place to work if you’re a lifelong learner and want to make a difference in the lives of veterans.”

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