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Medical ICU at Emory University Hospital receives Beacon Award for critical care nursing excellence

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Janet Christenbury

The staff of Emory University Hospital's Medical ICU.

Emory University Hospital's Medical Intensive Care Unit (or MICU) has been granted a Beacon Award for Excellence - Silver Level, for exceptional nursing and patient care in the critical care setting. Created by the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses (AACN), the award is intended to recognize individual units that distinguish themselves by improving every facet of patient care.

For patients and their families, the Beacon Award signifies outstanding care through improved outcomes and greater overall satisfaction. For critical care nurses, the Beacon Award means a positive and supportive work environment with greater collaboration between colleagues and leaders, higher morale and lower turnover.

"Our critical care staff has been working diligently for over two years to enhance the care given by our nurses, which in turn, leads to better clinical outcomes for our patients," says Ray Snider, RN, MSN, CCRN, unit director of the Medical ICU at Emory University Hospital (EUH). "We have also improved upon our commitment to our staff in providing a supportive work environment, which includes shared-decision-making with other disciplines, combined with positive reinforcement and recognition."

The Beacon Award for Excellence acknowledges top U.S. hospital units that employ evidence-based practices to improve patient and family outcomes and align those practices with AACN's Healthy Work Environment Standards. Silver-level recipients demonstrate continuous learning and effective systems to achieve optimal patient care.

AACN's criteria for the Beacon Award of Excellence incorporates the following:

  • Leadership structures and systems
  • Appropriate staffing and staff engagement
  • Effective communication, knowledge management, learning and development and best  practices
  • Evidence-based practice and processes
  • Patient outcome measurement
Beacon Award for Excellence

The MICU at Emory University Hospital is a 14-bed critical care unit, which is comprised of two units on separate floors under the direction of a single leadership team. Approximately 60 employees work in the unit, 48 of which are registered nurses. Over 50 percent of those RN's are certified in critical care nursing.

Patients admitted to this unit have diagnoses of: flu, pneumonia, severe sepsis, multi-system organ failure, acute respiratory distress syndrome, pulmonary hypertension, cystic fibrosis, lung transplants with complications, acute or advanced liver/kidney disease, active bleeding and cancer complications, to name a few.

"Because our nursing staff cares for such complex, critically-ill patients, providing the support the staff needs to effectively do their jobs is extremely important," says Carolyn Holder, MN, APRN-BC, CCRN, CCNS, clinical nurse specialist for critical care and pulmonary medicine in the EUH MICU. "We rely on resources such as pastoral services to speak with our staff and offer debriefings to assist them in coping with caring for these extremely sick patients and their families. This support provides a healthy work environment for our staff, aimed at preventing moral distress."

Nurses in the MICU are also encouraged to participate in patient and family and team meetings, Ethics Grand Rounds, Schwartz Rounds (an interdisciplinary dialogue when caregivers listen to a case or topic and share their experiences and thoughts on the subject) and the annual Emory Healthcare Quality Conference.

"We are committed to working together, and across other disciplines, to achieve evidence-based excellence in patient care, training, mentoring, recruitment and retention at Emory, for the best possible outcomes for our patients," says Pam Cosper, MSN, RN, NEA-BC, specialty director for critical care at Emory University Hospital. "I am extremely proud of our entire MICU staff for their never-ending dedication to our patients, and each other."

The Neuroscience ICU at Emory University Hospital received the Beacon Award last year. Each designation lasts for three years. Four of the five critical care units at Emory University Hospital have received or currently hold Beacon Awards.

The Beacon Award announcement comes on the heels of Emory University Hospital's recent achievement as a Magnet-designated facility, also for excellence in nursing standards.

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