Emergency Medicine News

Spotlight: Denise Foster, RN, MSN

Denise Foster, Director

Denise Foster, RN, MSN
Emergency Department Director

Denise Foster has been the Emergency Department Director at Oregon Health & Science University for less than one year, yet has quickly charted a course to the future of the E.D. that sees growing process and performance improvements, as well as greater employee and patient satisfaction. All this has been achieved while seeing a substantial growth in the number of patients that are seen in the ED.

Prior to coming to OHSU, Denise held the position of Emergency Dept. Manager at Sharp HealthCare in San Diego for 3 years. "I started at Sharp in 1981 and over the years moved into different positions. My managerial experience began at Mary Birch Hospital for Women in womens' health." Over those years, Foster continued her education, first earning her BSN in Nursing from California State University in 2000, next completing her Master's in Nursing Leadership and Education in 2008. She was recognized for her excellence in education when admitted as a member of the honor society of nursing, Sigma Theta Tau.

When Foster took the role of ED Director at OHSU in November of 2009, she quickly worked on successfully building a strong professional relationship with physician leadership to partner in creating positive outcomes for staff and patients.

In the past year, Foster has hired 12 new RNs (including 5 new grads) and 1 new CNA. Her clear understanding of the needs of the nursing staff have resulted in greatly reduced turnover rates that are far below the national average; a feat that is quite remarkable in this specialty known for its very high attrition due to the stress and high demands. A 2008 study published in the Journal of Emergency Medicine found a trend of lower staff nurse turnover with transformational leadership style. Foster's time so far as Director certainly seems to support that study.

Her efforts to promote a stronger sense of collaboration between staff nurses and nursing administration at OHSU propelled Foster to become a member of the Coordinating Committee and co-chair of the Hospital Staffing Committee. She now represents the hospital for the Oregon Nurse Staffing Collaborative (a joint effort of the Oregon Association of Hospitals and Health Systems) which meets with the State quarterly. In addition, she also serves on the Department's service Excellence Committee.

Foster is extraordinarily dedicated to the quality of care for all patients. Since her arrival at OHSU, she has been a champion for at risk patients. She worked with a consulting psychiatric specialist to develop and improve standards of care for this patient population.

Foster's work has also focused on nurse initiated orders to improve throughput and patient care. She participates in the Robert Wood Johnson Aligning Forces for Quality ED Throughput Project.

Under Foster's leadership, fiscal year 2010 saw a volume growth of 8%, with the department exceeding ambulance diversion goals, nearly eliminating ambulance diversion in the ED completely. This was achieved by creating processes to support charge nurse decision-making. Foster is a nurse leader who motivates, empowers and inspires those around her to greater levels of achievement while maintaining a focus on quality patient care.

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