Nurse Profile: Mary Ann Christopher
Cultivating Neighborhood Nursing at the Visiting Nurse Association of Central Jersey
At the Visiting Nurse Association of Central Jersey (VNACJ), president and chief executive officer Mary Ann Christopher, MSN, RN, FAAN, maintains a $100 million annual budget, a 4,000-patient daily census, and a 1,700-person staff. Services available to residents in 10 central New Jersey counties include home care, primary care, wellness services, mental health care, rehabilitation, homeless services, and hospice and palliative care. Yet despite the size and complexity of the 98-year-old organization, Ms. Christopher’s primary objective has remained simple in her 27-year career there. “People need to know that you stand for what you say you stand for,” she said. And what the VNACJ stands for is local communities “driving” the services provided. Ms. Christopher has called it Neighborhood Nursing, a collaborative model in which nurses are assigned to specific neighborhoods so they and community members can respond to what they identify as the most pressing health issues.
As an example of the model, she cites a VNACJ nurse who noticed that many residents of a retirement community were exhibiting signs of congestive heart failure. The nurse proposed that the VNACJ set up a
kiosk that would contain a telehealth monitor. The device would permit residents to check their weight, oxygen saturation, and blood pressure levels and automatically transmit the values to a cardiac nurse. If a patient’s indicators were outside the desired range, the nurse and patient would converse remotely, in real time, and patients needing a medica
Nurses also are underrepresented on institution and hospital boards, either their own or others. A biennial survey of hospitals and health systems conducted in 2007 by the Governance Institute found that only 0.8 percent of voting board members were CNOs, compared with 5.1 percent who were vice presidents for medical affairs (Governance Institute, 2007). More recently, a 2009 survey of