RUSH University Medical Center’s extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) program has had at its core an ECMO specialist team since the spring of 2020. Practitioners on the team hold either a license in nursing or respiratory therapy and are trained as ECMO specialists. At baseline, team members are a vital part of managing ECMO patients and associated devices. Accomplishments over the past few years include minimizing the use of sedation, working toward the extubation of patients on the ECMO circuit and providing for greater patient mobility using physical and occupational therapies for those on ECMO. These achievements could mean that patients are more likely to survive ECMO and be discharged to their homes or an acute rehab center as compared to a long-term care facility.
The core team’s small size meant its members could be involved in projects, such as staff continuing education, hands-on water lab training and data collection for the Extracorporeal Life Support Organization (ELSO), the international ECMO registry. Proudly, over the past year, our team has grown. Many of our specialists are independent of perfusion while providing mobility and ECMO transport support. Their dedication and emphasis on patient-centered care, along with being a tight-knit and consistent group of individuals expert in the needs of ECMO patients, has helped us work toward our goal of improving the patient experience as well as patient outcomes.
For many years, RUSH has had survival rates significantly higher than the national average, especially when comparing COVID-19 ECMO patient populations. After facing the height of the COVID-19 pandemic from July 2021 to June 2022, the ECMO program has maintained a consistent amount of patient volume across its adult and pediatric programs. In 2020, there was an increase in the respiratory patient population, and since then we have seen a larger mix of patients with severe respiratory and cardiac dysfunction or failure. Our survival rates continue to be higher than the national average for both our respiratory and cardiac ECMO patients. In June 2022, RUSH hosted ELSO to survey our program as part of the process to be named an ELSO Center of Excellence. The visit was a great success: the surveyors noted the strengths of our ECMO mobility program. Ultimately, RUSH was designated for the third time as an ELSO Center of Excellence for both its adult and pediatric ECMO programs.