ICU Achieves Patient Safety Milestone

As patients and visitors to Union Hospital can verify, an increasing emphasis on patient safety is a part of the daily hospital routine.


Carey Gardner, director of development and community relations, says patient safety is a top priority in hospitals across the country.


?Patient safety can be as simple as confirming the patient?s identity and as complex as verifying the correct medication dosage and preventing adverse drug interactions,? Gardner says.  ?Every person at the hospital has a role to play in reducing the risk of an accident, infection, or mistake that would harm the patient.?


While some patient safety initiatives are as quick as checking the wristband, others are more complex but they all have tremendous payoff by preventing injury or illness and the resulting health care expense.  An extremely successful patient safety project at Union Hospital has been a focus on central line infections in the hospital?s Intensive Care Unit.  A central line is a catheter placed in a large blood vessel to allow injection of medications, fluids, blood, and nourishment.



ICU nurses Shelly Cochran, RN (left) and Monica Scott, RN, (right)

demonstrate the use of gowns, gloves, and other equipment as part

of the hospital?s program to protect a patient?s central line from becoming infected.


?A central line can be a life-saving measure for a seriously ill patient,? according to Vonnie Cahaney, RN, a disease manager in the Quality Improvement Department.  ?But it can also literally open the door to infection, including some of the multi-drug-resistant organisms that we?re facing today.?

In collaboration with Donna Fortner, RN, manager of critical care, E.J. Siebold, RN, critical care educator, ICU nurses, physicians, and support departments, Cahaney says the ICU adopted the CUSP: Comprehensive Unit-Based Safety Program developed at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Maryland.  Since the protocols were adopted at Union Hospital Cahaney says central line infections in ICU patients dropped to zero for the entire year of 2010 and none have been reported so far in 2011.



A central line being placed in a vessel in the patient?s neck

is kept sterile by using alcohol wipes to carefully clean each

hub where medications, blood, and other fluids are injected. 

The white ?biopatch? at the central line insertion site

provides a sterile barrier on the skin?s surface.


According to the Centers for Disease Control, an estimated 250,000 central-line infections occur in U.S. hospitals each year.   Cahaney estimated there had been an average of three to four central line infections annually among ICU patients.


?This is very important because a central line infection can complicate the recovery of an already seriously ill patient and even threaten their life,? Cahaney adds.  ?Plus there is the added cost to the hospital, estimated at $25,000 of additional expense to care for the infected patient.?


?Karen Stewert, our infection control specialist, taught me so much about this,? Cahaney says.  ?Among many factors that contribute to reducing infections, few are more important than effective hand washing, not only to help reduce central line infections in the ICU but to improve patient safety throughout the hospital.?


Gardner says the National Institute of Medicine has estimated there could be as many as 98,000 preventable deaths each year in hospitals.


?The next time hospital staff asks for your date of birth, checks your wristband, or suggests that you wash your hands, remember these are important Patient Safety measures and could save your life.?


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