Post-Anesthesia Care Unit Receives Beacon Award

Is the first PACU in Illinois to receive top honor in critical care nursing
The post-anesthesia care unit's Beacon Award team

The post-anesthesia care unit at RUSH University Medical Center recently received the 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.

All eight intensive care units across RUSH University System for Health, and an intermediate care unit, previously have received Beacon Awards as well.

The post-anesthesia care unit, or PACU, is the first unit of its kind in Illinois to receive a Beacon Award and one of only eight in the United States to be so honored. The PACU cares for post-surgical inpatients with a wide range of conditions who have received some form of anesthesia, including newborns and older adults.

“This was the pinnacle for us, because we worked together as a team for many years to ensure that quality, positive patient outcomes and patient satisfaction are at the forefront of all we do," said Michelle R. Smith, MSN, RN, CAPA, unit director of the PACU. “Receiving the Beacon Award means patients can know everything we do is evidence-based practice, ensuring they're getting the highest quality of care, and we're going to continue to build on that."

“Belonging to a team that's setting the standards of PACU care is a tremendous achievement. We know we do things really well here, but seeing us be set apart from the state and the nation is great," added Camille Brownlee, MSN, RN, CNL, education and quality coordinator, perioperative services and endoscopy, who led the team that prepared the PACU's Beacon Award application.

The award further extends the Beacon Award recognition across RUSH, observed Katrina Blade,  DNP, RN, CPPS, NE-BC, CPAN, assistant unit director for pre-operative surgery and pre-operative evaluation units. “The Beacon designation showcases and highlights what we do in perioperative services. We are proud to contribute to the outstanding standards of RUSH and to make our own mark as a team."

Beacon Awards shine across RUSH

“Across RUSH, we are committed to the highest standards of care for our patients and excellence in nursing practice, which is why our nursing team made it a goal for all our intensive care units to earn Beacon designation. With the PACU's Beacon Award, we have taken this tradition of excellence in nursing practice and patient care even further, setting a standard for Illinois and the country," said Angelique Richard, PhD, RN, CENP, senior vice president of hospital operations for RUSH University Medical Center and chief nursing officer for the Medical Center and RUSH.

RUSH Copley Medical Center received its third Beacon award for its ICU and second award for its intermediate care unit earlier this year. The eighth of the RUSH ICUs to be honored, the medical intensive care unit at RUSH University Medical Center, received a silver-level Beacon award in January.

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.

Empowering nurses to make optimal contributions

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 hospitals have received.

The PACU's silver-level award signifies innovative and continuous improvement strategies and good performance measures (when compared to relevant benchmarks) that are evident on the unit and in nursing practice. Receiving this award also shows that effective policies, procedures and processes are in place and engage staff. The PACU and other honored units at RUSH 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

“The Beacon Award for Excellence is a testament to 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," said AACN President Beth Wathen, MSN, APRN, CCRN-K. 

The members of the PACU’s Beacon Committee are pictured above. From left to right: Mallarie Domke, RN, CPAN; Michelle Smith, MSN, RN, CAPA; Katrina Blade, DNP, RN, CPPS, NE-BC, CPAN; Anna Bresnahan, RN; Camille Brownlee, MSN, RN, CNL; Robbin Neville, RN, CPAN,  CAPA; and Maira Roman, MSN, RN. (Not pictured: Denina McCullum-Smith MSN, RN, CMSRN; Carmen Avila, RN, CPAN; and Heather Darnell, RN.)