Providence VA Medical Center, Rhode Island
5-S Project Streamlines Medical Supply Process in Telemetry
Registered Nurse Michele Peloquin moved briskly through the telemetry unit on the 6th floor of the Providence VA Medical Center. She needed an oxygen bottle and oxygen tubing for her pending patient—a typical day on 6A. Scouring multiple rooms for these materials became common practice. “If we had a patient with difficulty breathing, we had to go to several rooms to get supplies. It is dangerous because critical time is lost,” Michele explained.
The 6A staff decided enough was enough and attended a Systems Redesign course on Lean methodology. Lean methodology is the concept of streamlining processes and eliminating waste to keep costs low, while maintaining high quality products or services. At the Lean training, Michele and the rest of the 6A staff met Systems Redesign Coordinator Bob Harris and his dedicated Systems Redesign team. The team introduced the 6A staff to “5S,” which stands for Sort, Set, Shine, Standardize, and Sustain—it is a Lean tool that helps ensure that workspaces are kept systematically organized, decreasing wastes and barriers to a process. Upon completion of ‘5S’ training, 6A staff enlisted the support of David Quinones, a Medical Supply Clerk in Logistics. David could certainly empathize with the 6A staff. “The supplies were not organized in a user-friendly system,” he noted. “We (Logistics) faced a lot of obstacles in replenishing the supplies.”
Michele agrees. She recalls how prior to the ‘5-S’ project, 6A staff had to go to several rooms to get supplies. “When we had a patient having difficulty breathing, you had to go to one supply area for the oxygen bottle and another room for the oxygen tubing….this process was not only ineffective but dangerous because critical time was lost.”
After using some Lean tools (a spaghetti diagram, for example) and analyzing the data, the 6A staff re-organized the supplies on the entire floor by system, with the respiratory equipment in a designated area or wound supply together in another. The project resulted in reductions in time and frustration when gathering medical tools, which was an added value to the Nursing and Logistics staff. Further, David Quinones used past data figures to establish inventory par levels, which helped avoid overstocked items.
As a result of this ‘5S’ project, the team reported a significant amount of savings, as much as $1,400. More importantly, 6A staff can now locate medical supplies in a timely fashion because everything they need is located in one area. “All medical supplies are together,” says Michele, “which saves valuable time and nursing energy. The supply area is now organized by systems: the respiratory equipment is together, the wound dressing material is together…It saves so much time and has decreased staff frustration in obtaining supplies.”
Bob Harris is also pleased with the team and the end result. “A strong team effort not only saves costs,” he notes, “but it also frees up time wasted on searching for supplies that can now be spent on direct patient care.”
Thanks to the stellar efforts of the 6A staff, this ‘5S’ project was recently selected for the Miriam Conference in November—a forum for nurses to showcase evidence-based research projects. Yet, despite the well-deserved kudos for the 6A staff, Michele is the first to admit that they couldn’t have done this project alone. Both Logistics and the Systems Redesign team were instrumental. “As a clinical staff member, you really don’t think about other departments outside of the ‘clinical box,’” Michele reflects appreciatively. “It really does take all departments to make the Medical Center function.” She’s both excited and proud that her team project has been accepted for the Miriam Conference in November. “I can’t wait to go!”