IU Health Ball Memorial Hospital

Nurses Find Answers: “Why Do We Do This?”

We are IU Health

May 30, 2018

Gena Coers, RN, BSN, is a mentor for a new training model at IU Health that helps nurses refine their skills and learn the best practices for bedside care.

“Why are patients sometimes reluctant to turn on their call button when they need assistance getting out of bed?”

“Why do we adjust the light cycle in the room of a preemie?”

There’s a simple question that nurses are encouraged to ask: “Why?”

And Gena Coers, RN, BSN, is one of several mentors on hand to help find answers to those questions. It’s all part of a training program that encourages nurses to critically review and discover the best practices for patient care.

“We think about best practices and the use of evidence to discover those best practices - that’s the foundation of everything we do and if we don’t ask ‘why’ then we are not delivering the highest level of care to our patients,” said Coers, a nurse at IU Health Ball Memorial.

The goal is to find answers to those burning questions. Why are patients sometimes reluctant to press their call button for assistance? After careful review, the answer in part, came down to trust.

Interviews with some 30 patients uncovered the answer to that ‘why’ question. “If the patient truly trusts that the nurse will care for him, he is more likely to put the call button on,” said Coers. It sounds like a simple answer but what it means is constantly instilling that level of trust from the time the patient enters the hospital.

And what about adjusting the lighting in a preemie’s room? A little research about developmental care uncovered evidence that the way an infant is positioned, and even the exposure to light and dark cycles can impact long term cognitive development.

So another question why: Why is it important for nurses to question their practice?

It comes down to ongoing learning, said Coers. “As someone who has been a nurse since the day I graduated, I know there are basic skills we learn such as the warmth, safety, feeding and general care of our patients that we have done for ages but things change, things are different and sometimes more complicated. Evidence and research give us good guidelines to expand our practice.”

A graduate of Ball State University, Coers has been a nurse for 39 years. She started college as a journalism major but in her first year at Ball State her younger sister was admitted to Riley Hospital to have a tumor removed from her hip.

“I can remember watching the nurses taking care of her and I looked at my dad and said, ‘I think I’m going to change my major; I want to be a nurse,’” said Coers.

Her life experiences in healthcare didn’t’ stop there. The oldest of six children, she has witnessed the death of one brother diagnosed with a brain tumor, another diagnosed with lung cancer, and a third brother diagnosed with prostate cancer. She has two younger sisters.

It’s been more than 40 years since her sister’s surgery at Riley Hospital but Coers draws on her experiences to guide her through her own profession and as a mentor to other nurses.

“It doesn’t matter how a patient comes to me – how he is dressed or who she is – I treat my patients like my family, like they are someone’s mom, dad, sister, cousin, friend. I am respectful of each life. I saw that with the care my siblings received,” said Coers. And asking the question “why” is how she improves on that patient care.

At IU Health Ball Memorial Hospital, she’s seen nearly 500 questions come before nursing councils in the shared governance system – representing every area of nursing care.

“As a general rule you don’t go into this profession not wanting to do your best for your patients,” said Coers. “It’s about competency, compassion, and confidence. Our patients need to know that we are constantly asking ‘why’ because we want to deliver best care.”

-- By T.J. Banes, Associate Senior Journalist at IU Health.
Reach Banes via email at
T.J. Banes or on Twitter @tjbanes.

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