Officials at St. Mary’s Hospital in Amsterdam may have to invest in a trophy case.
Tuesday afternoon, they had an impressive assortment of etched glass plaques on display along with a banner listing nearly a dozen recent honors, each one representing some level of achievement. But according to St. Mary’s CEO Vic Giulianelli, they all pale in comparison to the hospital’s most recent honor: the Beacon Award for Excellence in intensive care nursing.
“This is a further validation of the outstanding care people can expect here,” he said.
Hospital staff took a short break from their work to celebrate the honor, eat cookies and have a look at their shiny new plaque. Jean Haskin, who led the application process, said it’s an award worth celebrating.
She explained that the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses examines every aspect of an applicant’s intensive care unit, including leadership structure, documented success and patient satisfaction, before awarding the Beacon.
It’s a rigorous process of review boards and eliminations that has disqualified all but three New York hospitals since 2009.
Haskin said all aspects of the St. Mary’s ICU are up to a very high standard, but its low rate of illness related to staff error put them over the top into winning territory.
“We haven’t had a case of ventilator pneumonia in six years,” she said, referring to the dangerous condition that is woefully common in many other hospitals.
“You go on a ventilator because you can’t breathe,” she said, “and while you’re on there, you get pneumonia because of unclean practices.”
There is a system of strict protocols in place, but in everyday practice, the details come down to ICU nurse manager Stacy Warner and her team.
For her, the Beacon is the ultimate pat on the back, but it’s not the ultimate award. It’s still just silver and there’s one more level to go.
“There’s always more to do,” she said. “We want to make the gold.”
In 2015, their current Beacon will expire, leaving them open to apply for the next level, gold. Success requires three years of impeccably maintained standards. First-time honorees can get the bronze or the silver Beacon, but the gold-level award goes only to previous recipients who have maintained their level of excellence since winning the lower-level award.
As a reminder, each nurse was awarded a small Beacon pin. While the room was full of hospital officials, Teresa Winney was one of the few actual nurses to collect her pin during the event.
“Everybody else was busy,” she said. “We have a full ICU today, a few people on ventilators. We’re busy.”
In her opinion, good care comes down to doctor-nurse communication and patient interaction.
“We’re always in there with our patients,” she said, “and we involve their families in treatment.”
Directly after the award was officially bestowed on the ICU team, Winney was back to work.