Beacon Awards Shine Across Rush System

Every intensive care unit across Rush University System for Health has received critical care’s highest honor
Nurses in the medical intensive care unit at Rush University Medical Center

All eight of the intensive care units across Rush University System for Health, and an intermediate care unit, have received a Beacon Award for Excellence from the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses. Granted at gold, silver and bronze levels, the Beacon award honors excellence in intensive care nursing and is regarded as the top honor in the field.

“Our nursing team set a very lofty goal of having all our intensive care units earn Beacon designation, because all the patients we serve in those units need and deserve this level of excellence and expertise. I am very proud that Rush nursing has achieved this goal, and I congratulate our extraordinary nurses,” says Angelique Richard, PhD, RN, senior vice president of hospital operations for Rush University Medical Center and chief nursing officer for the Medical Center and the Rush system.

The eighth ICU to be honored, the medical intensive care unit at Rush University Medical Center, received a silver-level Beacon award in January.

Most recently, Rush Copley Medical Center received gold-level designations for its ICU and intermediate care unit. The intermediate care unit is the only progressive care unit in Illinois — and one of only seven in the country — to have earned the gold award. Copley's ICU previously had received gold and silver Beacon awards, and the ICU had earned a silver-level designation.

Previously, Rush University Medical Center’s adult intensive care unit received a gold Beacon award in July of last year. The Medical Center’s cardioscience ICU and neonatal ICU received gold- and silver-level Beacon awards, respectively, in May and April 2021, and the pediatric ICU and neuroscience ICU previously were given silver-level designations. The Medical Center’s NICU and PICU are the only units of their kind in Illinois to earn Beacon honors.

Rush Oak Park Hospital received a gold-level designation for its ICU in September 2018.

“Across the Rush system, we are committed to the highest standards of care for our patients, and now having all eight of our intensive care units, plus an intermediate care unit, receive Beacon designation demonstrates the caliber and uniqueness of the Rush nurse,” Richard says. 

“Patients in need of intensive care need and deserve the best care possible, and they along with the parents of our NICU and PICU patients can be assured that they will receive it at any Rush hospital. This consistent excellence throughout our system and critical care specialties is one of the reasons why Rush nurses are nationally known as leaders in our profession for setting standards of practice and for their innovation in developing evidence-based care.”

“I am so proud of the accomplishments of our amazing team of nursing professionals at Rush Copley and across the Rush health system,” says Abby Hornbogen, MBA, MS, RN, vice president of patient care and chief nursing officer at Rush Copley. “Despite challenges all around us, our team stays committed to providing excellence in care for our community. Our Beacon awards recognize the dedication of our intensive care and intermediate care teams to enhanced quality outcomes. I congratulate all nurses across the Rush system for achieving Beacon status.”  

“Receiving a Beacon award is more significant than ever,” says Angela Cooper, DNP, RN, CNL, associate vice president of patient care services and chief nursing officer at Rush Oak Park Hospital. “It recognizes the excellence and dedication of our ICUs’ teams during one of the most difficult times in the history of health care. They, along with our community of outstanding nursing and medical staff throughout Rush, set the standard for exceptional patient care.”

Each of the Rush units submitted an application for a Beacon award that included three years of data to demonstrate the units have sustainable processes in place for ongoing improvements in care. “It’s what we would be doing anyway, but receiving Beacon awards validates the level of care we’re providing,” says Stephanie Yohannan, DNP, MBA, RN, NE-BC, CCRN, associate vice president, nursing. 

Yohannan was the unit director of the neuroscience ICU when it received its Beacon award and mentored the other Rush units in their pursuit of their own Beacon designations. “Anyone who comes into an ICU setting is emergent, they’re coming in for an emergent level of care, and we want to make sure they’re receiving that level of care,” she says.

Beacon awards recognize unit caregivers who successfully improve patient outcomes and align practices with the AACN’s six Healthy Work Environment Standards. Units that achieve this three-year award meet national criteria consistent with Magnet recognition, which all three Rush System hospitals have received.  

Receiving this award also shows that effective policies, procedures and processes are in place and engage staff and key stakeholders. The MICU and other honored Rush system intensive care units earned their Beacon awards by meeting the following criteria:

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

“Receiving a Beacon Award for Excellence demonstrates a team’s commitment to providing safe, patient-centered and evidence-based care to patients and families. Creating healthy and supportive work environments empowers nurses and other team members to make their optimal contribution,” says AACN President Elizabeth Bridges, PhD, RN, CCNS, FCCM, FAAN.

MICU's Beacon honors continued excellence while providing COVID-19 care

The medical intensive care unit earned its Beacon award while being one of the Medical Center’s primary units for providing care for patients with COVID-19. The unit has treated hundreds of these patients since the start of the pandemic, with outcomes above the best nationwide, while also continuing to provide care safely for patients with acute pulmonary (lung), endocrine (hormonal), renal (kidney) and gastrointestinal conditions.

“It’s an honor to receive this award and to complete our goal of having all the Rush ICUs be Beacon recipients,” says Kirsten Gidd-Hoffman, MSN, RN, NE-BC, CPN, the MICU unit director.

Abbey Weilbacher, RN, CCRN, the MICU’s assistant unit director, observed that the Beacon award “honors and celebrates the care we provide for all of our patients throughout the pandemic.” 

The adaptability of the MICU nursing staff and their expertise in providing high quality care is a reflection of their high level of engagement, which the AACN also noted. The unit has multiple staff committees that address issues such as skin care and infection control. 

“These are ways for the staff to have input on where they see opportunities to provide that high-quality care for our patients,” Gidd-Hoffman says.

The MICU’s education committee supports the nursing staff’s skilled competency and professional growth and development, according to Barbara Gulczynski, DNP, MSN, APRN-BC, CCRN, clinical nurse specialist. “The committee conducts a unit-based needs assessment annually to identify what nurses need to know, including how to use new equipment,” she says. 

The committee also helps organize training for the MICU’s nurses specific to the skills needed on the unit, in addition to the annual competency training the Medical Center provides all adult ICU nurses.

In addition to honoring the high level of care the MICU provides, the Beacon award also speaks to the culture at the Medical Center. “It acknowledges the work we‘ve done in the MICU and also recognizes the organization for supporting us in the work we do,” Weilbacher says. 

“We are very proud,” Gidd-Hoffman adds. “The unit has gone through two challenging years facing the pandemic, and this award couldn’t have come at a better time.”

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