Two intensive care units at Rush University Medical Center recently received the Beacon Award for Excellence from the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses. The cardioscience unit, or CVICU, received a gold level award on May 3, and the Renée Schine Crown Neonatal Intensive Care Unit received a silver designation on April 27, making it the only NICU in Illinois to earn Beacon recognition.
They join five other Rush University System for Health ICUs in achieving Beacon status. Rush Oak Park Hospital has earned a gold level designation for its ICU, and Rush Copley Medical Center has received a gold level designation for its ICU and a silver level designation for its intermediate care unit. In addition to the CVICU and NICU, Rush University Medical Center has silver level designations for the neurosciences ICU and pediatric ICU, the only Beacon PICU in the state.
“The nursing profession looks to Rush nurses and nurse leaders to set the standards of practice, excellence and innovation in developing evidence-based care, and to direct and advance the practice. One example of this is our goal of achieving Beacon designation — excellence in critical care nursing — across the Rush system,” 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 the Rush system.
Beacon awards are considered the highest honor in intensive care and are given at gold, silver and bronze levels. They 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 — the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award and the National Quality Healthcare Award.
The gold-level Beacon earned by the CVICU signifies excellent and sustained unit performance and patient outcomes. The NICU’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 inclusive and engage the multidisciplinary unit teams and key stakeholders. The CVICU and NICU earned their Beacon awards by meeting the following evidence-based 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
A years-long effort to enhance care
“Our team feels strongly that we provide the best of the best care, and receiving a gold Beacon award shows that others agree with our assessment,” said Lilly Hall, MSN, APRN, ACCNS-AG, CCRN-K, director of the CVICU.
Hall pointed to the unit’s quality data as one of the distinguishing features that led to its Beacon honor. “We have worked for years” on enhancing quality, she said, including piloting products to decrease hospital-acquired pressure injuries, which led to their implementation and reduction of injuries across the Medical Center’s ICUS. Hall also cited the CVICU's work decreasing the administration of medication without scanning the drug’s bar code to ensure it matches the prescription in a patient’s electronic medical record.
In addition, Hall praised the unit’s effective teamwork. “Nurses’ voices are very important to us; shared governance is important. Leadership respects the opinions of the frontline team,” she said.
Work groups drive quality efforts
The NICU’s Beacon award reflects similar efforts, according to Kim Carmignani, MSN, RNC-NIC, PCN, NEA-BC, the unit’s director. “For us, the Beacon award is all about the work we do around the quality and safety of our patients,” she said.
Carmignani noted the role of continuing education of the nursing team, including both monthly internal training and opportunities for external learning, in maintaining that quality level. “The Rush nursing culture is about providing professional development opportunities. Receiving the Beacon award speaks to how successful we are in the NICU at providing those opportunities.”
In addition, the NICU’s nurses enhance care through their work on the unit’s 19 committees, including work groups focused on extremely low birth weight infants, safety, infection, and palliative care.
“This award recognizes the amazing work that the nurses in the NICU at Rush do every single day,” Carmignani said. “It speaks to all that our team does to make the patients’ experience great, and they deserve this so much.”
AACN President Elizabeth Bridges, PhD, RN, CCNS, FCCM, FAAN, applauded the caregivers in the Medical Center’s CVICU and NICU for working together to meet and exceed the high standards set forth by the Beacon Award for Excellence. “Receiving a Beacon Award for Excellence demonstrates a team’s commitment to providing safe, patient-centered and evidence-based care to patients and families. Achieving this award is such an honor for those who have worked so hard to achieve excellence in patient care and positive patient outcomes.”