The Wilmington Hospital Intensive Care Unit (WICU) has earned a Silver Beacon Award from the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses, the largest specialty nursing organization in the world. Christiana Care Health System is one of only 105 health care institutions in the nation and the only one in Delaware with Beacon Award recognition.

The WICU is the third Christiana Care unit and the first at Wilmington Hospital to earn a Beacon Award. The Medical Intensive Care Unit and the Cardiovascular Critical Care Complex at Christiana Hospital hold gold Beacon Awards.

“The Beacon Award reflects the WICU team’s dedication, passion and focus on patient- and family-centered care in advancing The Christiana Care Way,” said Janice E. Nevin, M.D., MPH, Christiana Care president and CEO. “It demonstrates the power of partnership across units and disciplines to share and implement best practices that produce better outcomes for our patients.”

The Beacon Award recognizes exceptional critical care through improved patient outcomes and greater satisfaction among patients and nurses. The nine-bed WICU, which cares for some of the most vulnerable patients, met these criteria with initiatives to support the optimal health of patients and ensure an exceptional experience for them and their families.

Sandy Wakai, MSN, RN, CCRN (center right), now of the Center for Advanced Joint Replacement, catches up with her WICU colleagues. She had moved the Beacon application forward while she was WICU nurse manager.
Sandy Wakai, MSN, RN, CCRN (center right), now nurse manager of the Center for Advanced Joint Replacement, catches up with her WICU colleagues. She advanced the Beacon application while she was WICU nurse manager.

Through the unit’s commitment to continuous learning and improvements to achieve optimal health for patients, the WICU successfully addressed some of the most challenging aspects of critical care to:

  • Experience zero catheter-associated urinary tract infections (CAUTI) since 2012.
  • Sustain 46 months without a central-line-associated bloodstream infection (CLABSI).
  • Achieve zero instances of ventilator-acquired pneumonia for 26 months.
  • Significantly decrease falls.
  • Substantially decrease hospital-acquired pressure ulcers.
  • Implement the Mobility program, engaging critically ill patients in activity to maintain physical and cognitive functions.

The WICU team has a history of innovative approaches. In 2010, the team established the first unit-based patient and family advisory council and was instrumental in helping to develop the current systemwide Patient and Family Advisory Council. In 2013, the unit received the health system’s first unit-based Value Improvement Team Award for reducing hospital-acquired infections. In January 2015, they earned the Christiana Care Focus on Excellence President’s Award for achieving major decreases in Clostridium difficile, the most common microbial cause of health care associated infections in U.S. hospitals. The initiative is a model at the health system.

Dannette Mitchell, MSN, APRN, ACNS-BC, CCRN, clinical nurse specialist, attributes the WICU’s success to ownership of initiatives and results, thoughtful changes to process and multidisciplinary involvement.

“Every month we reviewed and investigated outcomes, identified problems and set action plans into motion,” Mitchell said. “We adopted an all-hands-on-deck philosophy that gave every person in the WICU responsibility for monitoring a task related to outcomes. When the staff nurses on the front line began to own the outcomes, we really started seeing results.”

To reach its goals, the WICU team partnered on a shared decision-making council and a value-improvement team that included nurses, physician assistants, therapists, physicians and staff across units and specialties including infection prevention, pharmacy, emergency medicine, surgery, respiratory, physical therapy and others.

“Striving to do better is a daily way of life in the WICU,” said nurse manager Michael Knorr, MSN, RN, PCCN. He commended the team and former WICU nurse managers Sandy Wakai, MSN, RN, CCRN, now of the Center for Advanced Joint Replacement, and Donna Casey, MA, BSN, RN, NE-BC, FABC, now vice president of patient care services, who both moved the Beacon application forward.

“We continue to review the processes they set in motion and that have demonstrated success,” said Knorr. “We conduct monthly reviews. We look for opportunities during huddles and rounds. We actively seek out ideas from patients, families and colleagues. Every member of the unit is in some way engaged in the monitoring and actions to deliver the best patient care.”