BayCare's Morton Plant Hospital Nationally Recognized for Nursing Innovation

October 16, 2023
Virtual Nurse Dave Paliga is sitting behind a desk with papers and two computer screens in front of him chatting online with patient Samantha Anderson. The screen on the left shows discharge notes and the screen on the right shows his image and her image.
Virtual nurse Dave Paliga speaks with B6 patient Samantha Anderson from his desk in the virtual nurse office prior to her discharge.


The nation’s leading nurse credentialing organization has named BayCare’s Morton Plant Hospital (MPH) in Clearwater as its 2023 ANCC Pathway Award® recipient for its innovative Virtual Nurse program. The annual recognition from the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC), a subsidiary of the American Nurses Association, recognizes a Pathway to Excellence®-designated organization that fosters a positive nurse practice environment using innovation and technology. 

Morton Plant Hospital plans to use the $100,000 in prize money to further develop the Virtual Nurse program, which is improving both patients’ and nurses’ experience. The award was presented last week at the co-located 2023 ANCC National Magnet Conference® and the ANCC Pathway to Excellence Conference® in Chicago. 

“I am extremely proud of our entire team for earning this prestigious recognition and for using the innovative Virtual Nurse program to continue to provide our patients with high-quality care,” said BayCare CEO and President Stephanie Conners. 

The new recognition is the latest accolade for BayCare’s longstanding commitment to the practice of nursing. Currently, 100% of BayCare’s eligible hospitals hold a Pathway to Excellence Program® designation and earlier this year, BayCare’s Ambulatory Surgery Centers (ASC) became the first ASC in the nation to obtain the designation. Pathways designation is obtained through rigorous application and surveying and is awarded only to those organizations that demonstrate a healthy work environment for nurses in a health care organization. Only BayCare Hospital Wesley Chapel, BayCare’s 16th hospital that opened in March 2023, has not earned the designation as it must wait to apply.  

Morton Plant Hospital's nursing team  led by West Region Chief Nursing Officer Jen Ransford, Nursing Directors Logan Johnson and Tim Tidwell  developed the Virtual Nurse program amid the nursing shortage of the COVID-19 pandemic to enable bedside nurses to spend more time directly caring for patients while shifting administrative tasks and education to virtual nurses with the help of technology.  

At the 11-unit, 599-bed acute care hospital, the Virtual Nurse program supplements Registered Nurse (RN) bedside care. It has been shown to reduce administrative tasks at bedside by two hours, improve nursing job satisfaction and retention, and enhance patient experiences and safety among other benefits. Under this model, virtual nurses (VNs) assume primary responsibility for discharge-related administrative tasks and patient education using technology to complete these tasks remotely in an environment minimizing interruptions. Patients, VNs, and other care team members can utilize technology to communicate and collaborate from admission through discharge. 

Both patients and nurses have embraced the concept, leading to a planned expansion to all medical/surgical units at MPH over the next year. Additional software development and continuous evaluation with positive results could lead to expansion of the virtual nurse program across BayCare’s entire 16-hospital, four-county network. Mease Countryside Hospital currently has one unit using virtual nurses for discharge. 

BayCare has been using virtual nursing in some capacity since 2015, when a virtual nursing unit was created to monitor ICU patients. During the pandemic, the use of telehealth appointments increased dramatically across the health care industry and at BayCare. The Virtual Nurse program is BayCare’s first use of the virtual space for administrative tasks in the acute care setting. 

“The Virtual Nurse program and earning this award reflects on BayCare’s commitment to the practice of nursing,” added Lisa Johnson, BayCare’s chief nurse executive. “We will continue to develop the virtual nurse model with the advance of technology and look forward to seeing its benefits for our patients.”  



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