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The Catalyst

ECMO program wins ELSO award for fourth time

By Mary Ellen Dudash
Public Relations

Registered nurses Christine Cameron, from left, Emily Warr and Mical Parker pose in front of one of MUSC’s ECMO machines. The ECMO machines provide perfusion to a patient’s sick organs supporting patients for days to weeks recovering in the ICU while his or her body heals. photos by Mary Ellen Dudash, Public Relations

For the fourth consecutive time, the MUSC Extracorporeal Life Support Center has been presented with the Award for Excellence by the Extracorporeal Life Support Organization.

This distinction is awarded to a center that demonstrates excellence in promoting ELSO’s mission and vision, patient care, and training, education, collaboration, and communication. These extraordinary achievements support the guidelines of ELSO toward a healing environment for patients, families and staff.

Established in 2007, ELSO created the award so its members had an opportunity to apply to be designated a Center of Excellence and to demonstrate their commitment to remarkable patient care. Emily Warr, R.N., coordinator of the Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation Program, which is a member of ELSO, explained, “Being a center of excellence is an accolade that recognizes our achievements and reflects the dedication to advancing intensive care and nursing leadership at the bedside that we continuously work to achieve here at MUSC.”

According to Warr, MUSC’s ECLS Center is one of a few hundred across the world that provides this type of therapy; however, this is the only center in South Carolina that provides ECMO services.

The ECMO machine is an integral part of the ECLS center.

When a child’s heart or lungs are not able to function on their own or with the use of medicines or mechanical ventilation, extracorporeal life support can provide the necessary support for these organs to heal. ECMO is a treatment that utilizes a machine to bypass a patient’s lungs while circulating blood through an artificial lung back into the bloodstream.

In addition to Warr, the ECLS team is comprised of ECMO specialist nurses, Joel Cochran, D.O., the medical director, cardiovascular perfusionists, and intensivists from five ICUs throughout the hospital.

This team has become accustomed to receiving such an honor. For the fourth time in four terms, it has received the ELSO Award and this year, the center’s overall scores exceeded both the average and median scores.

In a letter to Warr informing her of the center’s award, the selection committee noted that one of the noteworthy reasons the center was recognized was the fact that the ECLS Center presents an example for improving workforce management that is comprehensive, detailed and precise. The committee further stated that implementation of a new staffing model is never easy and this center describes a route that other ECLS Center may emulate.

U.S. News & World Report recognizes the ELSO Award of Excellence as one criterion for top institutions and winning the ELSO Award was no small feat. According to Warr, the 45-page application process has become more difficult and extensive each year, including questions about various domains of the program. She explained that the application process was designed to bring to light the extraordinary achievements of representative centers.

The process also served to pinpoint what the ECLS Center at MUSC could improve on. “It is a continuous improvement project,” Warr remarked.

The ELSO award ceremony will take place later this fall, at the 25th Annual Conference in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

“Something that is really exciting,” explains Warr, “is that we are one of five centers selected to present a poster at the conference on one of the standards that we met.”

The poster will cover a workforce management solution that the ECLS Center installed in the last two years that includes recruiting R.N.s to the ECMO team from all ICUs in the hospital.

The center also worked on improving NICU staffing since they are the ICU that most heavily supports ECMO staffing hospital wide. The ELSO award committee noted this example of improving the workforce as going above and beyond their expectations.

When asked what the award meant for the ECLS Center, Warr humbly said that it is all about acknowledgment. “Really, the award is recognition that we are leaders in our field.”

July 18, 2014



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