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From our readers: The making of a newsletter

When I was working as an ICU nurse on the evening shift, I could tell you what was happening on my unit and with my ICU colleagues. We took great care of our patients, reduced our CLABSI (central line–associated bloodstream infection) and CAUTI (catheter-associated urinary tract infection) rates, followed evidence-based practice, obtained our certification, and attended conferences. But ask me anything about the other nursing units or anything about the rest of the hospital and I couldn’t tell you much besides how I got to them when I had to respond to a code or transfer a patient.

Is this the state of affairs at your hospital? If so, consider publishing a nursing newsletter to keep staff well informed. While not a new concept, using modern technology and staff-level reporters is an enhancement that makes today’s nursing newsletter effective. A newsletter provides a forum for nurses to write articles, exchange ideas, be inspired by others, and most importantly be informed about all the innovative things happening at your hospital.

Building a team

Our chief nursing officer (CNO) was the visionary of our community-hospital system’s nursing newsletter. She recognized that a forum was needed to enhance and maintain open communication with the 850 members of the nursing staff and to keep them apprised of evidence-based practice and new information. The newsletter staff consists of the CNO as the executive editor, a member of nursing leadership as editor, a production director from the marketing department, and two RN staff writers. An editorial board was also established to provide oversight and recommendations on the publication. The board consists of the hospital’s Director of Nursing Operations and the Director of Education, along with a university faculty member and a nursing publication expert. The nursing publication expert provides particularly helpful leadership in challenging the editorial staff to choose a style and to copyedit each issue.

Nuts and bolts

At the time the newsletter was started, the Nurse Practice Council chose the Careful Nursing Theory by Catherine McAuley as the theoretical framework for nursing practice in our system. A newsletter-naming contest was held, resulting in Careful Nursing News. Because a nursing theoretical framework is new for our health system, each issue of the newsletter focuses on a different concept of Careful Nursing Theory. The concept of the issue is explained in the CNO’s column, and then other regular columnists incorporate relevant concepts into their articles.

A recent issue focused on the concepts of self-care and the care of each other, and included an article from a nurse in our complementary medicine department. The “Must Read” book column also relates to the Careful Nursing concept, and in that issue we recommended a book of poetry written by nurses. The “Becoming a Nurse” column, written by a nurse from our Nurse Residency Program during her first year of practice, described using the self-care strategy of humor and laughter. This novice nurse’s perspective about the struggle to find a nursing job and then the stress of juggling more than two patients allows readers to remember and reflect back on the beginning of their own careers, and may encourage them to be more supportive of novice nurses.

In this issue…

Careful Nursing News, published bimonthly, is well read, as evidenced by the buzz on the nursing units about the articles. In one of the articles, a message is hidden telling the reader to send an e-mail to the editor if they are interested in entering a contest. Responding to this hidden opportunity gives the reader a chance to win a gift certificate or the book that is the focus of the newsletter and allows the newsletter editorial board to assess the readership. Many responses are received for each issue and the gift is awarded to one of the nurses who responds.

The most popular upbeat columns are the “Kudos” and “Roving Reporter” columns. Readers enjoy seeing photos and reading about their colleagues. Nurses who have obtained national certification, had articles published, graduated from an advanced degree program, or received awards or elected positions are all mentioned in the Kudos column.

“Roving Reporter” asks a question that relates to the Careful Nursing concept of the issue. Because a recent issue focused on self-care and the care of each other, the “Roving Reporter” asked nurses, “What do you do to take care of yourself?” The nurses’ pictures and responses were published; for this question the responses ranged from off-roading in a Jeep to baking cookies. Puzzles and word searches, based on Careful Nursing, are also included in the newsletter and are easy to create with online puzzle makers.

Other regular columns include “Education Beat” with the latest news from the nurse educators; “Ask Allyson,” in which our nurse recruiter answers questions about career development; “Advice from Risk Management”; “Patient Safety,” which may discuss new ideas on falls prevention or list the number of days since the last CAUTI or CABSI; and the “Journey to Magnet.” Also in each issue an RN staff writer with journalism experience interviews and challenges new members of the hospital team with thought-provoking questions. This RN staff writer finds these interviews very motivating and inspiring, and these new employees have motivated her to return to school for an advanced degree.

Feature articles vary each month and have included articles about our new therapeutic hypothermia initiative, a nurse’s experience serving the needy during a Philippine Medical Mission, and a nurse’s doctoral research study on breast-feeding continuation rates. The best feature articles come from listening to the nursing staff and mentoring them during the process of writing the article. An Emergency Department nurse was talking about her spin class and with some coaxing wrote “Ready Set Spin” to explain the benefits of taking a Spin Class. “I am learning to play the harp but don’t ask me to write an article,” stated a nurse. Finding a nurse on her unit who does enjoy writing solved this dilemma and the result was an interview and another great article. A recent and quite talked about feature article concerned fecal transplant. A staff nurse had a patient receive a fecal transplant so she researched and wrote the article.

Stellar results

At the 1-year anniversary of the newsletter, a survey was distributed to the nursing staff to evaluate the newsletter. The bimonthly newsletter is available electronically with some paper copies, and the survey results indicated that the staff wanted more paper copies available. Overall, the survey responses were positive and included comments such as “it is interesting to read about what other nurses at other campuses are involved with” and “it is nice to link the Careful Nursing Theory to nursing at Saint Clare’s.” These comments were significant and eye-opening to nursing leaders, who appreciate that the newsletter provides information about the activity of nurses throughout the hospital.

Metrics from our annual Employee Engagement Survey demonstrate that the newsletter has enhanced communication. We saw dramatic improvement in our scores related to communication from management to staff and in scores of overall understanding of what is going on in the system. While we use other mechanisms to communicate, like Town Hall Meetings, staff meetings, council meetings, and others, adding the newsletter has spread information more thoroughly throughout the organization.


Establishing a hospital-nursing newsletter enhances communication and provides nurses with a forum to write and publish. Some of our articles are submitted to nursing publications for consideration. A reporter from a nursing publication, for example, is interviewing the nurse who wrote the article on fecal transplant. A newly formatted, Internet-delivered, nurse-driven newsletter can truly spread your nursing news.

Susan H. Weaver is operations manager, Nursing, and Suellyn Ellerbe is the former executive vice president, chief operating officer, and chief nursing officer for Saint Clare’s Health System in Denville, New Jersey. Ms. Ellerbe is now president and CEO of Suellyn Ellerbe & Associates, Inc., a healthcare consulting firm in New Jersey.

From our readers gives nurses the opportunity to share experiences that would be helpful to their nurse colleagues. Because of this format, the stories have been minimally edited. If you would like to submit an article for From our readers, click here.

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