Golden Teamwork Hurley Level 1 Trauma ICU Nationally Recognized for Excellence


The nurses in Hurley’s Level 1 Neuro, Trauma, Surgical, Burn Intensive Care Unit (NTSB-ICU) care for and treat the sickest patients with the worst injuries. “We are the region’s only Level 1 Trauma Unit,” says Michele Paulic, RN. “Our patients come in with the most life-threatening trauma. Every day in the NTSB-ICU is our patient’s worst day.” “We deal with brain injuries, open bellies, severe burns and other emergencies 24/7,” adds Chris Berry, Trauma Nurse Clinician.

With so much on the line for each patient, it is imperative that the team works together as flawlessly as possible in procedure, communication and process to save lives and help patients get back to health. The continuing efforts of Hurley’s NTSB-ICU to be the best it can be has led to national recognition when it was recently awarded the gold-level Beacon Award for Excellence from the American Association of Critical Care Nurses (AACN) – the only trauma unit in the country to achieve the gold-level distinction. “It was an amazing collaboration effort by all the nurses and the Level 1 Trauma Team,” says Paulic.

The Beacon Award for Excellence honors hospital units that demonstrate professionalism and excellence in five categories: Leadership Structures and Systems; Appropriate Staffing and Staff Engagement; Effective Communication, Knowledge Management and Learning Development; Evidence-based Practice and Processes; and Outcome Measurements. Awards can be designated as Bronze, Silver or Gold. The application process is lengthy and in-depth, requiring collaboration from office staff, surgeons, nurses and others. The application for the Beacon Award was compiled by Paulic. “Once submitted, our application is reviewed by a panel of five and they pick apart, piece by piece, everything we do as a nurse,” Paulic explains. “Demographics of our region are included, how many beds we have, everything is reviewed. The category with the most weight is, of course, the Outcome Measurements.” The measurable outcomes are those that can be statistically analyzed such as infection rate, length of hospital stay, etc.

The road to gold started when the Unit received the Silver-level Beacon award three years ago. “We knew we weren’t done,” says Chris Berry. “We wanted gold-level.” The Beacon Award can only be applied for every three years, so after receiving the results from its silver-level evaluation, Hurley’s NTSB-ICU got busy. “In addition to the results, the AACN also provides information about areas that they believe need improvement,” says Paulic. “All the nurses were driven to improve. We applied evidence-based practices to our procedures to improve our scores and patient outcomes. The goal of the improvements is to shorten our patient’s length of stay and lower readmittance numbers.” Examples of areas that were improved immensely during the three years between awards include number of medical errors, better blood management, and lower infection rate, to name a few.

In addition to patient outcome metrics, staffing is another category the AACN uses to rate a hospital unit. The Hurley NTSB-ICU exhibits one of the best staff retention rates in the entire country. “Our nurse turnover rate is 11%,” says Paulic, “far below the national average. Over 60% of our nurses have over five years of experience in the Unit and we have a 94% referral rate. Our nurses take pride in working for the NTSB-ICU.”

The award and the recognition that comes with it are cherished by the staff of the NTSB-ICU and the hospital itself. “Our work affects all of us emotionally, physically and spiritually,” says Paulic. “Many of us are here more than we are with our families. The Beacon Award enhances our sense of teamwork and department morale. I am very grateful that we were allowed the autonomy and capability to put it all together.”

The end result is a more engaged nursing unit and a better outcome for each NTSB-ICU patient. It has been proven that each and every nurse there cares to improve and make things better each and every day for everyone involved. “We love the population we serve and we love being part of the community,” says Paulic. “Many of us have the opportunity to go elsewhere, but we don’t. We stay to give the best care to our patients here.”

Congratulations to the Hurley NTSB-ICU for receiving the 2023 Gold-level Beacon Award of Excellence!

The Award-winning Hurley NTSB-ICU Nurses are:

Stephanie Rosenberg, Alan Atendido, Marcie Matlock, Angela Malott, Wendy Foltz, Carl Tedford, Lisa Hobson, Leah McMillan, Eric Dekoski, Kim Campbell, Patrick Smith, Michele Paulic, Desiree Fellows, Lee Tidwell, Amanda Day, Renee Alfery, Buck Wright, Stephen Lanphear, Kimberly Wright, Andrea Neeley, Lien Murphy, Elisse Starrs, Leah Watson, Amber Mach, Veronica Garza, Bridgette Collins, Sarah Richardson, Shelby Austin, Markie Parker, Allison Richardson, Kody Eddy, Dustin Blom, Miranda Fowler, Angelica Thibodeau, Brian Flynn, Connor Wood, Joseph Black, Brandon Deszell, Alexis Carmody, Perry Hyder, Jenna Carson, Anita Wilhelm, Jordan Marzi, David Rutherford and Nicholas Hartwick.

The NTSB-ICU nurses would like to thank Kimberly Lipka (Nurse Manager), Christopher Berry (Trauma Nurse Clinician), Mary Hewitt (Clinical Coordinator), and Michelle Maxson (Trauma Program Manager), along with the trauma surgeons, trauma PAs and hospital administration for their continuing support and efforts.


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