Program Manager Funds Certification for Fellow Nurses

KellieWhen Kellie Armstrong, MSN, RN, CBN, learned she received The Miriam Hospital’s 2021 Hurvitz Quality Award, there was no question what she would do with the award money: help others.

A Passion for Her Work

Armstrong, the program manager of the Center for Bariatric Surgery at The Miriam Hospital, has always found joy in helping others and seeing them change for the better, especially in her work with bariatric patients.

“I’m lucky because I have a job where my patients get better. Our patients regain their health and their lives,” she says. “They’re able to dance with their partners, chase their children, bend down and tie their shoes, sit in a booth or a movie theater—all these things besides a number on the scale.”

During the 2020 Covid-19 pandemic, Armstrong developed and implemented innovative ways to keep the bariatric program and patients on track virtually, setting up online orientation and classes, while maintaining quality measures. This proposal won Armstrong the 2021 Hurvitz Quality Award, which honors interprofessional hospital improvement teams, and comes with a monetary prize.

“I was the only one in all of Lifespan who was a bariatric certified nurse, so when we won these funds, I knew we needed to put this toward getting other nurses certified,” she says.

Sharing Her Passion

Armstrong requested permission from leadership to use those funds to support nurses who were interested in taking the Certified Bariatric Nurse (CBN) prep courses and exam. Then she worked with the organization that administers the exam and provides the prep courses to strike a deal. In the end, she was able to buy 20 prepaid codes for the online prep courses. The codes were offered to case managers, nursing supervisors, staff nurses, perioperative nurses—any RN at TMH who met the exam requirements, and worked in the care of bariatric surgery patients.

So far, 11 nurses have accepted the code, three nurses sat for the exam, and one nurse passed it. Amy Tetreault, RN, has joined Armstrong to become the second certified bariatric nurse at Lifespan. And while it’s certainly immensely helpful to Armstrong, she found her biggest reward in seeing Amy advance.

“I find it amazing when I see people grow and learn something new. I always find that one of the most rewarding things you can do,” she says. “That's one of the things I base my career on: being able to teach somebody else something.”

It’s this dedication to others that earned Armstrong yet another distinguished recognition. The American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery named her the recipient of the 2022 Distinguished CBN Award, an award given to a CBN who shows extraordinary effort to promote compassion, advocacy, research, and education in the field. The annual award is given out to only one nurse in the country and Armstrong was certainly deserving. She has been committed to the bariatric field for decades, advancing herself and others. She has been involved with the bariatric program since its onset in 2000 at Rhode Island Hospital, and received her own CBN in 2007 as part of the first group to ever take the examination.

“I think of the bariatric program as my baby,” she says. “Being able to see people's lives get better and living a healthier lifestyle - that's what I just find amazing.”