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Emory University Hospital surgical/transplant ICU recognized with Beacon Award for high nursing standards

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Janet Christenbury

The American Association of Critical-Care Nurses (AACN) has awarded a silver-level Beacon Award for Excellence to 5E-ICU (intensive care unit) at Emory University Hospital for its outstanding work in critical care nursing and providing a supportive work place for staff. Just five other health systems within the state of Georgia currently hold Beacon Awards.

The 20-bed, 5E-ICU is Emory University Hospital's surgical and liver transplant ICU, caring for approximately 6,500 patients annually.

The Beacon Award for Excellence is a significant milestone on the path to exceptional patient care and healthy work environments. Units that receive this national recognition serve as role models to other hospital ICUs on a similar journey. The award recognizes unit caregivers who successfully improve patient outcomes and align practices with AACN's Healthy Work Environment Standards. Those evidence-based standards include:

  • Leadership structures and systems
  • Appropriate staffing and staff engagement
  • Effective communication, knowledge management, learning and development
  • Evidence-based practice and processes
  • Outcome measurement
Beacon Award

The silver-level award signifies continuous learning and effective systems to achieve the best patient care. Units that achieve this three-year, three-level award with a gold, silver or bronze designation meet national criteria consistent with Magnet Recognition, the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award and the National Quality Healthcare Award. 

"I am extremely proud and honored for our unit to be granted such a distinguished award," says Stephanie Pieroni, MSN, RN, CCRN, unit director of 5E-ICU at Emory University Hospital. "Our staff works diligently every day to provide the care that is reflected in the Beacon document."

More than 100 employees work on 5E-ICU. That staff includes: 83 registered nurses, 13 advanced practice providers, 13 patient care assistants, along with a team of specialty physicians, social workers, pharmacists, respiratory therapists, chaplains and others. 

The unit reports excellent patient outcomes. The transplant population has a 95 percent graft survival rate at one year. Currently, 5E-ICU is in the top 10 percent of academic medical centers in the United States for patient satisfaction. 

"The staff and medical team work in concert with families to provide quality care to its patients around the clock. Teamwork is our key to success," says Pieroni.

Three other critical care units within Emory Healthcare are current Beacon Award holders. They include the Coronary Care Unit at Emory University Hospital and both the Medical ICU (71-ICU) and Cardiothoracic Surgery ICU (11-ICU) at Emory University Hospital Midtown.

"The Beacon Award recognizes every facet of patient care, and at Emory we are also guided by our Care Transformation Model focused on shared decision making, transparency, a fair and just culture, along with patient and family centered care," says Pam Cosper, MSN, RN, NEA-BC, director of critical care nursing at Emory University Hospital. "The journey to achieve this level of nursing excellence for most ICUs takes years, and the designation for 5E-ICU is well deserved by the nursing staff."

"Emory University Hospital patients cared for in 5E-ICU benefit from the level of nursing care recognized by this Beacon award," says Nancye Feistritzer, DNP, RN, vice president of patient care services and chief nursing officer for Emory University Hospital. "It is an honor to support this team as they continue to focus on patient- and family- centered care in the most critical of environments." 

Founded in 1969, the AACN is the largest specialty nursing organization in the world, with more than 500,000 acute and critical care nurse members. The Beacon Award for Excellence was established in 2003, offering a road map to help guide exceptional care through improved outcomes and greater overall patient satisfaction.

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