Saint Clare Receives Patient Safety Award

 Updated: April 16, 2015

Saint Clare RT DepartmentRTs at Saint Clare’s Health System are proud of their Josie King Culture of Safety Hero Award.

Respiratory therapists work hard to ensure patient safety every day, and they certainly don’t expect anyone to congratulate them for their efforts. But it sure is nice when someone does. Just ask the RTs at the Saint Clare’s Health System in New Jersey.

They recently received an award from the Josie King Foundation for going the extra mile for patient safety.

“It was an honor to be recognized for something that is a part of what we all do on a daily basis,” says AARC member Carlos Marconi, BSRT, RRT, who manages respiratory care, pulmonary rehabilitation, and the Center for Sleep Medicine for the system. “As management, we are very proud that our staff takes a proactive role in our patients’ safety.”

Quick thinking pays off

Established by the parents of Josie King, an 18-month-old who lost her young life in 2001 after dehydration went unrecognized by the hospital where she was being treated for severe burns received in a bathtub accident, the Josie King Foundation is dedicated to working with health care providers and consumers to create a culture of patient safety and fund innovative safety programs.

The Saint Clare’s RT department was nominated for the Josie King Culture of Safety Hero Award after a potentially deadly incidence was averted by a quick thinking therapist at one of the system’s facilities.

“A patient in our Respiratory Rehab Unit became disconnected from their ventilator,” explains Marconi. “The vent was alarming, but the external alarm was not.”

Even though not in the room at the time, the RT heard the alarm and rushed in to reconnect the patient. But that wasn’t the end of it. That therapist informed others on duty that day, and together they traced the line back from the external alarm to find out what the problem was. When they saw that it was damaged at the insertion point on the ventilator, they informed their managers about the situation.

Management immediately put the team to work inspecting all the ventilators in the facility to make sure they didn’t have the same problem. Cables deemed in less than perfect condition were replaced.

Then to make sure something like this could never happen again, the department redesigned the manner in which the cables were connected, effectively eliminating any delay in response time, and thus potential for patient harm.

Taking a proactive role

Carlos Marconi says his staff was recognized at the awards ceremony for other inroads they’ve made in the patient safety arena as well, including working closely with nursing and the medical staff to reduce the system’s ventilator-associated pneumonia rate to zero over the past six years and providing in-patient tobacco cessation counseling to patients who smoke.

While he admits it can be a challenge to change the culture of a department or hospital to improve patient safety, he believes his respiratory team is showing it can be done. “In any health care institution there will be unplanned events,” says the manager. “However, by addressing these and taking the opportunity to improve patient safety and care, similar occurrences can be prevented in the future.”