U.Va. Nurses Recognized for Critical Care Excellence

March 29, 2007 -- Three of the University of Virginia Medical Center’s intensive care units have been recognized for excellent staff communication, high patient satisfaction and low turnover rates.
The Surgical Trauma Burn ICU (STBICU), Medical ICU (MICU) and Thoracic-Cardiovascular Postoperative ICU (TCV-PO) have become three of just 78 critical care units across the country to receive the Beacon Award for Critical Care Excellence.
The Beacon Award, which is given by the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses, is  presented to units that, like beacons, guide and inspire staff, patients and their families. Units interested in receiving the Beacon must fill out a lengthy application addressing factors that influence staff and patient satisfaction as well as patient outcomes, including educational opportunities available for nurses, nursing research, patient infection rates and recruitment practices.
“There are a wide variety of criteria,” said Gary Jones, RN, and a Clinician III on the MICU, which sees critically ill patients with many different needs. “Basically, the criteria are a measure of great patient care. They also include the nurturing and mentoring among staff.”
The AACN looks carefully at a unit’s recruitment and retention rates before deciding whether to award Beacon. All three of UVa’s Beacon units have no vacancies and when one occurs, new employees are often recruited by existing staff.
Barbara Barnett, RN, clinician III, has worked on the 16-bed STBICU for more than 20 years. The STBICU sees some of the hospital’s sickest patients, including burn and trauma victims, liver and pancreas transplants and complex surgical cases.
“I’ve been here that long because of my love for the patients, but also because I believe with all my heart that the STBICU has always maintained high standards, has always put the patients first and maintained incredible outcomes for our patients,” she said.
Staff on all three of U.Va.’s Beacon Units said they had placed an emphasis on creating healthy work environments for clinicians. Managers emphasize open, honest communication. For example, Roxie Macfarlan, an RN, Clinician IV, and interim manager of the TCV-PO, endorses the six standards of a healthy work environment: skilled communication, true collaboration, effective decision making, appropriate staffing, meaningful recognition and authentic leadership.
“All of the staff are expected to attend Crucial Conversations this year,” she said, referring to a two-day workshop where nurses learn to express differing opinions in high-stakes, high-emotion conversations.
Dr. Pamela Cipriano, U.Va.’s Chief Clinical Officer and Chief Nursing Officer, praised the nurses’ dedication to excellent patient and family care. “The criteria for Beacon establish a high bar for patient outcomes, use of evidence-based practice and creating a healing, healthy environment,” she said. “When these three units receive their awards, we know the real winners are our patients and families.”
U.Va.’s nurses were also recognized last August when the hospital was awarded Magnet Recognition by the American Nurses Credentialing Center, an honor given to only three percent of U.S. hospitals.