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PICU Recognized With Beacon Award for Critical Care Excellence


Children’s Hospital Central California Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) has received the Beacon Award for Critical Care Excellence, an award given by the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses (AACN).

PICU Nurse With Baby“This is a good acknowledgement of the fantastic work that goes on here in the PICU, it’s well deserved,” said Dr. Newton Seiden, a pediatric anesthesiologist and Chief of Staff at the Hospital. “The Beacon Award is a reflection of our critical care nurses’ dedication to keep up with the public’s desire for safety, transparency and high quality care. Our nurses work hard and are very involved with their patients, families, respiratory therapists, physicians and each other. This has been a long time coming.”

For the past year and a half, the PICU has been on a journey to excellence. In January 2010, this designation was awarded to Children’s PICU. The award recognizes the nation’s top pediatric, progressive and adult critical care units across a multitude of hospitals. The recognition represents extraordinary commitment to high-quality critical care standards and dedication to the exceptional care of patients and their families. It highlights the links between the quality of the work environment, excellence in nursing practice and patient care outcomes.

“The Beacon Award is an exemplary award for critical care units throughout the nation,” said Stacy Hamilton, charge nurse and past chair of the Professional Development Council, who led the process. “We are only the sixth pediatric hospital to win this award. It shows an exemplary standard of care through collaboration with our physicians, our staff and the important advancements we are making.”

There are approximately 6,000 critical care units in the U.S. and only 186 of these units have achieved this award. Fewer than 10 PICUs in the nation have received this award, three of those in California.

“It’s a significant award because we’re one of the few PICUs in the U.S. that have earned the award,” said Ken Hamilton, a transport and staff nurse in Children’s PICU and a current member of the Professional Development Council. “It’s not something that any ICU can just get, you have to really be outstanding.”

Eighteen months ago, the PICU’s multidisciplinary Professional Development Council engaged in the process to become a Beacon unit. The process began with a goal and a set of staff meetings in which members shared the meaning and process of the award. Staff signed the “Bold Voices Statement,” a commitment to excellence and to the process of becoming a Beacon Award winning unit.

As a Beacon Award recipient, Children’s Hospital’s PICU succeeded in the following areas, as measured against evidence-based national criteria:

  • Recruitment and Retention
  • Education, Training and Mentoring
  • Research and Evidence-Based Practice
  • Patient Outcomes
  • Healing Environment
  • Leadership and Organizational Ethics

“It covers every aspect of care from when patients first come in, to how their care progresses, to when they are discharged,” said Ken. “There’s a variety of measurements, both quantitative to qualitative, that help us determine whether we are doing a good job or not.”

There are 42 standards used to measure achievement towards this award, representing evidence-based and relationship-centered principles of professional performance. Studies have demonstrated that effective and sustainable outcomes emerge when these standards are met. Forty-two questions were divided among these categories and each question had a required standard attached that had to be achieved.

A 6-foot Beacon poster was created, with the questions in red, serving as the body of the poster. Progress in the completion of the application was measured by replacing red questions with gray, stone colored questions. When all the red questions had been replaced with gray ones, the “We have made improvements in patient care by putting processes and policies in place,” said Mary-ann Robson, a clinical educator and member of the Professional Development Council.

Children’s Hospital’s PICU has improved outcomes in many of the standards set by the AACN, including:

The development of the Catheter Associated Urinary Tract Infection (CAUTI) Team: Prior to achieving the Beacon Award, there was no measurement of CAUTI in place. A team was formed, policies were reviewed and a process was created to decrease infection rates in the PICU. By the end of the fiscal year in 2009, the average rate was decreased by 50 percent, with a stretch of no urinary tract infections for three months.

The development of a “PICU Pals” mentorship process: No mentoring program existed at the beginning of the journey to achieving the Beacon Award. Today there is a voluntary program of experienced staff mentoring new staff.

Improvement towards the 65 percent required standard for certified nurses: In spring 2007, there were six nationally certified Critical Care Registered Nurses (CCRNs) in the PICU at Children’s. Through education, support and hospital-wide efforts, there are 38 CCRNs in the PICU.
“It’s very exciting that we have won this award, because it shows that we have exceeded the expectations and standards of many hospitals,” said Stacy. “It means to families that they are getting the best care possible. They are going to be involved in their child’s care and are going to be an important member of the team.”

The beacon poster will remain in the PICU until it is replaced with the Beacon Award plaque. “It’s been a great visual reminder,” said Diane Civiello, RN, director of the PICU.

“I’ve been an ICU nurse for quite awhile and I see a lot of hospitals because I do transports in different communities,” said Ken. “There are very few hospitals that provide the same level of care that we provide. We do a fantastic job here.”