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Winning gold: Children’s Hospital Pediatric Intermediate Care Unit earns national honor

By Carolyn Kimmel

In the scope of scary childhood experiences, few things rival being in the hospital – for a child or parents.

Clear and effective communication between all members of the medical staff can go a long way toward easing fears and providing the best patient experience possible – an effort in which   Penn State Health Children’s Hospital’s Pediatric Intermediate Care Unit shines.

The American Association of Critical-Care Nurses (AACN) conferred a gold-level Beacon Award for Excellence on the Pediatric Intermediate Care Unit (PIMCU) at the Children’s Hospital, recognizing caregivers who successfully improve patient outcomes and align practices with the association’s standards.

“We learned we are the only Pediatric Intermediate Care Unit that currently holds the Gold Beacon status in the nation,” said Amanda Kells, nurse manager for the PIMCU “We are one of seven Gold Beacon Units in Pennsylvania and the only Children’s Hospital Unit of the seven teams.” The unit received a silver award from the AACN three years ago.

The process to be considered for the award is laborious. Unit council members and clinical ladder staff interviewed all team members to gather their input on what makes the PIMCU a wonderful place to work.  PIMCU Clinical Practice Nurse Leader Kaela Appleman compiled the staff responses on implementation of best clinical practices into a 50-page document filled with facts and patient stories, celebrating the outstanding and dedicated work of it’s staff

In bestowing the gold award – the highest level of recognition – the AACN noted that “The unit engaged staff and key stakeholders, initiated fact-based evaluation strategies for continuous process improvement and met or exceeded performance measures for relevant benchmarks.”

Equally impressive was that “Despite having overall exceptional performance in many domains, the unit continues to strive for improving outcomes.”

The reviewers highlighted several specific ways that the unit’s key members communicate effectively for optimal patient care, including nurse-doctor open forums that allow interdisciplinary staff to discuss performance improvements to communication. Reviewers also lauded a collaborative shadowing opportunity in which residents shadow nurses and graduate nurses shadow doctors to better understand each other’s workflow with the goal of avoiding communication pitfalls.

“Better understanding leads to a better working relationship, and that’s best for the patient,” Kells said.

Another way the unit practices its family-centered care approach is through multidisciplinary bedside rounding to discuss the plan for the day and solicit questions or concerns from the patient and family.

The top five diagnoses seen in the PIMCU are chronic lung disease, diabetes, severe acute asthma, acute respiratory distress, and chronic respiratory failure. The unit also provides care to children who experience physical trauma, have eating disorders, mental health concerns, gastrointestinal disorders, and scoliosis.

“It’s exciting to see that others view us as being exceptional in the work environment that our staff inspires,” Kells said. “We want families to trust us and know we’ll provide the best care to their child and do everything we can for them to thrive while here. That is evident through our clinical outcomes, but also the way staff connect with the patients and families on a daily basis. The team is always striving to normalize the hospital environment, so fun and laughter are part of the daily routine.

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