Lifetime Achievement Award winner Lynne Palmer
Submitted by Elaine O’Connor, Communications and Public Affairs

Throughout her career, clinical nurse specialist Lynne Palmer demonstrated an unending drive to improve the birth experiences and outcomes for women and infants.

Why has Lynne Palmer dedicated 40 years of her life to finding better ways to care for patients? To her, the answer is simple. “I was born with an inquisitive mind,” explained the perinatal clinical nurse specialist for the Maternal, Infant, Child and Youth Program. 

Because of it, thousands of mothers and new babies born in Fraser Health each year have benefited. Over four decades as a registered nurse, Lynne has demonstrated an unending drive to improve the birth experiences and outcomes for women and infants, and her innovations have made a lasting difference to the quality and safety of maternity care.

Lynne began her career at Vancouver General Hospital’s School of Nursing, inspired to pursue nursing by a friend’s mother who worked at Surrey Memorial Hospital. After graduation she joined VGH, caring for general surgical patients and occasionally providing end-of-life care.

After a couple of years, she felt the call to move to the other end of the health care spectrum. “It is such a privilege to be part of the birth experience,” says Lynne. She’s done so with passion, tenacity and compassion. Lynne transitioned into maternity care at Vancouver General Hospital and then moved to the Grace Hospital, (now B.C. Women’s Hospital), and worked there for nearly 20 years before being hired to implement the Antepartum Care at Home Program at Surrey Memorial Hospital in April 2001. 

By September, Lynne had this unique approach to caring for women with complicated pregnancies at home up and running at Surrey Memorial, just as it was at B.C. Women’s Hospital. The new program initiated a culture change across our health authority where the standard had been long hospital stays. It was so successful that the program expanded to Royal Columbian Hospital. 

Last year, Lynne led a research team to evaluate and compare hospital care and home care on maternal and newborn outcomes for women with preterm prelabour rupture of membranes. They found that the Antepartum Care at Home Program is a safe alternative to in-hospital care for this condition and by reducing length of hospital stay for mother and baby, it promotes family-centered care. This quality improvement project was published in the International Journal of Gynecology and Obstetrics.

“For Lynne, being a health care provider for women of child-bearing age is not just a job,” said Brandi Newby, Neonatal and Pediatric Pharmacy Coordinator. “She has a passion for ensuring the wellbeing of women and it translates into every interaction.”

The veteran nurse has also turned her eye for innovation to fetal monitoring, and worked with a team to create “Baby Pause”, a tool to enhance communication about fetal wellbeing in labour. 

With another team, she developed a tool and protocol to help perinatal nurses recognize signs of deterioration early in unwell obstetric patients, a project that won her team a Salus Global MOREOB Patient Safety Award for Western Canada. 

And working with a clinical pharmacist, Lynne simplified the magnesium sulfate protocol to make it easier for nurses in Fraser Health to safely administer this potentially-toxic medication to pre-eclamptic patients. The new guidelines resulted in fewer errors and their quality improvement project was published in the Canadian Journal of Hospital Pharmacy.  

These examples only scratch the surface. Lynne has led more quality improvement projects than she can count – from  creating outpatient nausea and vomiting of pregnancy clinics to developing evidence based protocols for keeping mothers and babies together when opioids were used in pregnancy.

“Her leadership and passion for improving patient care and advancing practice for high-risk obstetrical patients helped transform Surrey Memorial Hospital from a community hospital to a large tertiary obstetrical hospital caring for more than 4,500 women each year,” Monica Nichol, who served as Lynne’s clinical director from 2013 to 2017, said in praise of the maternity care expert. “Even after 40 years in nursing, Lynne’s enthusiasm for her work never fades. She leads by example and ensures capacity and sustainability by educating others leading this work.” 

Lynne shares her knowledge by mentoring younger nurses and partnering with them on research, quality improvement projects, and development of clinical decision support tools. 

In short, if there’s a way to improve it, Lynne is determined to find it. When Lynne retires this month, she leaves a legacy in Fraser Health: a culture of modern, responsive and innovative maternity care that delivers not only babies, but exceptional patient experiences.

“Pregnancy and birth are such memorable events. We want to support women at every stage,” Lynne explained. “Pregnancy is a well condition. Being there to help women make choices that fit with their culture and values means a lot because each unique woman is the expert of her own body.”

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