Virtua Honors Nurses for Service

From the Burlington County Times

After a life-threatening car accident during his senior year of college, Richard Miller came to understand how influential a nurse’s care can be for a patient.

Miller, the president and CEO of Virtua, fell asleep at the wheel while driving home from his serving job in a restaurant in 1974. He suffered multiple injuries, including a broken leg, total lung collapse and kidney failure. It took him months to recover, but he never forgot the kindness of his nurse, Joanne, who would read him the hockey scores from the newspaper each day. 

Miller recalled the story Monday as the Evesham-based health system honored its nurses' "commitment to excellence" during the inaugural celebration of Virtua Nurse Day. Earlier this year, Virtua teamed up with Sen. Diane Allen, R-7th of Edgewater Park, to designate the fourth Thursday in September as Virtua Nurse Day.

Organizers said the health system will recognize its award-winning nurses separately from National Nurses Week in May.

More than 300 nurses attended the event at the DoubleTree Suites hotel on Fellowship Road as the celebration was planned before the health system received word of the official designated date. Nurses took part in professional development and education sessions on topics such as cybersecurity and furthering education. Guests could also learn various nursing practices through poster presentations, browse through items from vendors, and enjoy refreshments.

Sessions rotated three times throughout the day to accommodate the nurses’ schedules.

“You have to be special to be a nurse, because you have wins and losses every day,” Miller said. “They’re the caregivers, day in and day out, for our community.”

In the past five to 10 years, Miller said he has seen growth in the level of care nurses are able to provide. Nurse practitioners, for example, are allowed to treat patients with certain conditions without a doctor’s direct supervision. The model allows physicians to “look beyond episodic care” for illnesses like common colds, he said, and focus on patients' more consistent health needs throughout their lifetime.

The health system is moving away from the hierarchy of doctors acting as an authoritative figure over nurses, according to Miller. Many ask for a nurse’s opinion on a patient and make a collaborative effort. 

Nationwide, about 3 million registered nurses care for the sick in hospitals, private homes, long-term care facilities and patients in medical offices. The New Jersey Collaborating Center for Nursing released a 2014 report using a survey taken from 2,000 registered nurses statewide. The center expects the nursing demand to increase by 2 to 3 percent every year for the next 20 years as the population ages and the delivery of patient care expands. 

Tracy Carlino, senior vice president and chief nursing officer of Virtua, was excited to offer a day of recognition specifically to the 3,000 Virtua nurses for what can be a thankless profession. Virtua has hospitals in Evesham and Mount Holly in Burlington County and Voorhees in Camden County.  

“If you think you’re not appreciated, know that you are, and not just by us at Virtua,” Carlino said during her welcome speech at the event.

“Nurses have been special to me going back to 1974,” Miller later said to the crowd. “I will never forget that experience ... and we are blessed to have you here as nurses.”