Muir organizes RCAW events for ‘mindful listening’

October 6, 2016

By Judith Garber

In the frantic, noisy, and chaotic environment of an emergency department, stopping occasionally to listen and take in the present moment can make the difference between clinicians providing right care and a medical error. For Right Care Action Week, Jane Muir, BSN, RN, an emergency medicine nurse at the K. Jane MuirUniversity of Virginia (UVA), is organizing several events to demonstrate the importance of mindful listening and acquire different perspectives on right care.

Muir, a Virginia native and UVA alum, became interested in right care when her running buddy was diagnosed with a brain tumor. Through tireless work, communication, and cooperation, her health care team was able to give Muir’s friend just the treat
ments she wanted and get her back to running marathons. After hearing this success story, Muir knew that this was the kind of health care team she wanted to be part of. Taking a class in “Mindfulness and Awareness” in college further sparked Muir’s interest in right care and how clinician health affects health care delivery.

“Nurses and other clinicians are burnt out – they’re overworked, not collaborating,” said Muir. “The way the system is set up causes distractions and errors.”

To work toward a solution, Muir got involved with the Compassionate Care Initiative (CCI), a program at UVA that aims to build a resilient and compassionate health care workforce, and the Right Care Alliance (RCA). She started going to the Lown Institute conferences, joined the Nursing Council, and was a recipient of the first round of Young Innovator Grants (YIG). Through the YIG program, she developed a pilot program called Student Ambassadors of Resiliency, a series of workshops for student clinicians to recognize and minimize overuse through mindfulness and resiliency.

“Students know what overuse is,” said Muir, “but they don’t feel empowered to speak up when they see it happening.”

For Right Care Action Week, Muir is organizing events along with CCI to help clinicians listen to patients, their colleagues, and their own judgement. One highly anticipated event is the second annual “Social Histories” Story Slam at UVA, during which a diverse panel of clinicians share how they avoided harming a patient unnecessarily by taking a purposeful pause. Last year, one nurse told her story about a particularly busy day in the OR, when her team would have performed surgery on the patient’s wrong knee had she not requested and taken a “time out” to review the surgical plan.

“It took a lot of courage to ask for that,” said Muir. “We need to create a culture where that’s welcome.”

The title of the story slam, “Social Histories,” is meant to bring clinicians’ attention to the whole patient, not just their medical history. “It’s not just about the patient’s experience once they walk into the hospital,” said Muir. “It’s about what was happening on the bus before they got to the hospital, it’s about not having a way to get home.”  

As well as the story slam, Muir is helping organize two listening booths, one at the UVA hospital and one at in the university amphitheater. As a recent graduate, she is especially interested to hear how students get their health care. Do they find the student health center a helpful resource? What could be improved?

For those students just starting a nursing program, Muir offers some sage advice – Fight what you see wrong in the system and don’t be afraid to speak up.

“You’re not ‘just a nurse,’ you’re a huge part of the health care team,” said Muir. “Become passionate about what you see that isn’t right and get involved!”

And, of course, learning to make time for yourself is an essential skill for clinicians-in-training. “You have to take care of yourself before you can take care of others,” said Muir.