Winning Beacon Awards is nothing new for nurses at The Valley Hospital in Ridgewood, N.J. But when the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses changed its requirements for recognition and added gold, silver and bronze level awards in 2012, a new challenge was created.
All four adult critical-care units at Valley earned Beacon Awards for Excellence for a third consecutive time, including three golds and a silver. Only three other hospitals in the nation had four units recognized.
“I felt it was much more difficult — much more rigorous — this new application process,” said Assistant Vice President of Medical/Surgical Services Bettyann Kempin, RN, MSN, MSHCM, CCRN, NP-C, NE-BC. “Kudos to the teams. They rose to the occasion.”Edith Grote, RN
Gold level winners at Valley were the Cardiac Surgery ICU, the Coronary Care Unit and the Intermediate Care Unit. Silver went to the ICU.
The Beacon Award recognizes unit caregivers who successfully improve patient outcomes and align practices with AACNs six standards for a healthy work environment. Units achieving this three-year designation meet national criteria consistent with Magnet recognition, the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award and the National Healthcare Award
“Personally, I was beyond proud and ecstatic because I knew they could do it, and I knew they represented everything that Beacon represented,” Kempin said.
Kempin, who has been in her role for two years but has overseen the critical care units since the mid-1990s, said the nurses collaboration plays a big role in their success, as well as the support of upper management. Those are themes echoed by others at Valley, including Clinical Shift Supervisor Laurie Nagle, RN, CCRN, who was one of those instrumental in writing the application for the CCU.
Nagle started at Valley in 1978 out of nursing school and moved into critical care in 1980. She was away from the hospital when word came about the awards, but it didnt take long for her to find out.
“I was out of state to see my grandson at the time,” she said. “I must have gotten about 10 texts. Everyone was so excited.”
Nagle said a bit of friendly competition among the critical care units helped when it came to writing a strong application.Lusana Gapikia, RN
“We didnt want to be the one that got bronze when everyone else got gold,” she said. “So we really put a lot of time and effort into it.”
Nurses met regularly throughout the year, and those meetings intensified as the application deadline approached. Those responsible for writing the applications, such as CSICU Staff Nurse Lusana Gapikia, RN, CCRN, felt that pressure the most.
“Most of our peers dont understand the stress you go through writing something like this,” said Gapikia, who started at Valley as a resident in 2008. “It was so rewarding to find out all our hard work had paid off. The unit is a great unit, but being able to translate that into writing can be a challenge. Id feel like we were letting them down (if we didnt win).”
Although being a Beacon Award winner means a unit is doing things the right way, it doesnt mean its perfect. All units have their share of setbacks, and Valleys Intermediate Care Unit was no exception, said staff nurse Edith Grote, RN, CCRN.
Grote, one of the application writers for her unit, said she and her colleagues struggled with the notion of including negative information. But in the end, they decided not doing so wouldnt be right.
“I think its important that it be included,” said Grote, who has been at Valley since 1975. “You have to recognize your shortfalls and say what youre going to do. If youre lacking in one area, youve got to respect that and take measures to improve.”
Tom Clegg is a freelance writer.
LEARN MORE about the Beacon Awards at AACN.org.