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Crystal Farmer: A Dedicated Leader in Providing Patient Care

Crystal Farmer
Crystal Farmer

A leader’s actions are the support system of their thoughts. Things from managing teams to executing tasks within any department are crucial for an effective leader. For a leader in healthcare, effective communication and fostering relationships with patients strengthen the hospital’s position.

Exemplifying all these skills is Crystal Farmer- Senior Vice President, Chief Operating Officer, and Chief Nursing Officer who oversees the financial operations of the nursing department at Augusta Health. Crystal balances the organization’s financial realities with delivering high-quality patient care. Her role is all about providing personalized care and maintaining effective communication with an unwavering focus on patient satisfaction and outcomes.

Let’s learn more about her approaches and how it all started:

Patient-Centered Approach 

Crystal is passionate about ensuring that her nursing staff understands the importance of empathy, compassion, and respect when interacting with patients. She and her team prioritize comfort, safety, and well-being throughout their healthcare journey for patients. When dealing with a difficult situation, she always asks her team, “Where is the patient in this?” This helps her refocus her attention and prioritize the work that needs to be done.

  • Effective Staffing: Crystal works closely with her staffing team to ensure appropriate nurse-to-patient ratios. By maintaining optimal staffing levels, she recognizes that the team can provide individualized care, address patient needs promptly, and enhance overall patient outcomes.
  • Quality Monitoring and Improvement: Augusta Health establishes systems to continuously monitor and evaluate patient care quality. Crystal notes that this includes regular assessments, audits, and feedback loops to identify areas for improvement and implement necessary changes.

How It All Started

Both personal and professional motivations inspired Crystal to enter the healthcare sector. She strongly desired to make a difference and positively impact people’s lives. For these reasons, Crystal saw nursing as an opportunity to contribute to the well-being and recovery of people. Before becoming a nurse, she always found fulfillment in being there for others in times of need, providing comfort, compassion, and support.

Professionally, Crystal was interested in science, the human body, and lifelong learning. The ever-evolving nature of healthcare offered her a dynamic and intellectually stimulating environment. She always felt that healthcare was the best of both worlds- it combines her passion for science and learning with the ability to help others.

Building a Unified Healthcare Team

To promote collaboration and teamwork among nursing staff and other healthcare professionals, Crystal

  • Organizes regular interdisciplinary meetings where healthcare professionals from various departments can exchange ideas, share best practices, and collaborate on patient care and organizational projects
  • Is actively involved in licensed, unlicensed, and non-nursing professionals to participate in Shared Governance Council
  • Conducts team-building activities and events that foster strong relationships, trust, and effective communication among the nursing and non-nursing staff
  • Encourages nurses to join committees and project teams in the organization to improve ownership and strengthen team collaboration

Skillful Healthcare Leader

Crystal notes that staffing optimization and resource allocation are the skills she uses most in her role. A significant portion of the nursing budget is allocated to staffing. Her team optimizes staffing levels to meet patient care needs while balancing our financial constraints. She also collaborates with the supply chain and procurement teams to identify cost-effective options without compromising patient safety and quality of care.

Key Steps in Enhancing Nursing Care

Ensuring that all nursing staff provide quality care and follow established protocols is top of mind for Crystal, which is why she focuses on the following steps to continue to enhance care:

  • Comprehensive Training and Orientation: Crystal provides thorough training and orientation programs to all nursing staff members, ensuring they have the knowledge and skills to deliver high-quality care while adhering to protocols.
  • Clear Communication Channels: Crystal fosters open communication channels within the nursing department by rounding, attending staff meetings, leveraging social media platforms, and attending shared governance, where staff members can ask questions, seek clarifications, and report concerns. This facilitates knowledge sharing and helps address any deviations from established protocols promptly.
  • Establishing Metrics and Quality Performance Evaluations: Regular quality performance evaluations with dashboards and constructive feedback sessions are conducted to assess adherence to protocols and identify areas for improvement. These evaluations also recognize and appreciate exemplary performance.

Efficient Use of Tech

It can be challenging to stay updated with advancements in nursing practice and technologies with a busy schedule. However, it remains a professional and personal priority for Crystal. The easiest way to stay abreast of the latest advancements is to join professional organizations such as the American Organization for Nursing Leadership (AONL), American Nursing Association (ANA), and American College of Healthcare Executives (ACHE). She proactively seeks local and national professional development opportunities such as webinars, seminars, conferences, and workshops.

Collaboration and networking with industry experts is another excellent way to stay current. Crystal remains a lifelong learner by regularly researching scholarly articles, journals, and online resources. She engages with nurses and nursing within the organization to stay informed about emerging trends and innovations at the bedside.

A Strategic Thought Leader

Crystal developed a formal collaboration structure with educational institutions to expand nursing programs, increase the number of nursing graduates, and ensure that graduates are equipped with the necessary skills to meet the demands of the healthcare industry.

She invested in nurse leadership development, nurturing, empowering, and preparing nurses for leadership roles. Elaborating more on it, Crystal highlights that they have,

  1. Implemented mentorship programs to attract and retain new nursing graduates by leveraging and engaging experienced nurses to provide guidance, support, and professional development opportunities to new nurses. This has resulted in a nurturing environment that encourages them to stay in the profession.
  2. Leveraged technology and streamlined workflows to improve efficiency and alleviate some burdens on nursing staff by automating administrative tasks and documentation.
  3. Crystal actively advocates for the nursing profession at organizational and policy levels. This work includes highlighting the importance of nursing, addressing legislative and regulatory issues that impact nursing practice, and promoting the value of nursing in healthcare delivery.

Vision for the Future

Crystal recognizes the importance of being a forward-thinker and her vision for the future includes:

Patient-Centered Care: Providing personalized care plans, effective communication, and an unwavering focus on patient satisfaction and outcomes.

Interdisciplinary Collaboration: Striving for a future where nursing collaborates seamlessly with other healthcare professionals, fostering a culture of teamwork and shared decision-making.

Excellence in Clinical Practice: Continuing the tradition of having a nursing team that consistently demonstrates excellence in clinical practice. This involves remaining up-to-date with the latest evidence-based guidelines, participating in ongoing professional development, and providing high-quality, safe, compassionate care.

Nursing Leadership and Empowerment: Fostering an environment where nursing team members are empowered, engaged, and recognized as leaders. This involves providing opportunities for professional growth, supporting leadership development initiatives, and creating a supportive work environment that values nursing expertise and contributions.

Addressing Health Disparities and Social Determinants of Health: Her vision for the future includes nursing actively addressing health disparities and recognizing the impact of social determinants of health on patient outcomes in our community. This involves advocating for equitable access to healthcare, implementing culturally sensitive care practices, and collaborating with community organizations to improve health outcomes for all patients.

Advice to Fellow Healthcare Professionals

Crystal has the following key takeaways for fellow healthcare professionals:

  1. Embrace Lifelong Learning: Nursing is a dynamic field with continuous advancements. Stay committed to ongoing learning, seek opportunities to expand your knowledge and skills, and be open to embracing new technologies and practices.
  2. Build a Strong Support Network: Surround yourself with mentors, colleagues, and other healthcare professionals who can guide and support you in your journey. Collaborate with others to enhance your knowledge and contribute to the field.
  3. Cultivate Resilience and Adaptability: Nursing can be challenging, but it is also highly rewarding. Cultivate resilience, adapt to change, and maintain a positive mindset. Embrace new opportunities, challenges, and innovations that arise in the field.
  4. Advocate for Patients and the Profession: Remember your “why.” Remember why you wanted to be a nurse. What attracted you to the profession? Participate in activities that help you connect with patients and families. As a nurse, you have a unique opportunity to advocate for your patients and influence healthcare policies. Stay informed about healthcare issues, engage in professional organizations, and advocate for the best interests of patients and the nursing profession.

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