University Hospital 4C celebrates Gold Beacon Award

January 25, 2023  //  FOUND IN: Our Employees,
Top: The 4C night shift team; bottom: The 4C day shift team.

Approximately a 4-minute read

Key takeaways:

  • Last week, 4C celebrated earning a Gold Beacon Award for Excellence from the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses.
  • The team became one of only 168 units across the country to currently hold this designation.
  • To achieve Gold status, 4C had to demonstrate exceptional performance in six key areas.

Last week, the team on the 4C Cardiac and Thoracic Surgery step-down unit in University Hospital (UH) celebrated a major achievement – earning a Gold Beacon Award for Excellence from the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses (AACN). Unit leaders shared news of the award with their team in November but waited for the plaque to arrive on the unit before hosting an official celebration with meals, cake and Gold Beacon pins for the entire 4C team.

“I am so excited to celebrate with you,” Michelle Bero, M.B.A., B.S.N., R.N., 4C clinical nursing director, told the team during last week’s event. “This recognition is a testament to the exemplary care we provide. It acknowledges your clinical expertise, your dedication to building invested relationships with – and ensuring positive outcomes for – our patients and their families, and so much more.”

What does the award mean?

According to the AACN, the 4C team joins just two other units in the entire state of Michigan with Gold Beacon status (one of which is C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital’s 12 East unit) and only 168 units across the country currently holding this esteemed designation.

The AACN states that the Beacon Award for Excellence lauds North American hospital units that employ evidence-based practices to improve patient and family outcomes. To achieve Beacon status – bronze, silver or gold – a unit must meet defined criteria in the following areas:

  • Leadership structures and systems
  • Appropriate staffing and staff engagement
  • Effective communication
  • Knowledge management and learning development
  • Evidence-based practice and processes
  • Outcome measurements

“This is no easy accomplishment,” said Cathy Kendrick, M.S., R.N., CNML, NE-BC, chief nursing officer for the Adult Hospitals at U-M Health. “This distinguished honor represents the commitment, compassion and integrity of the entire 4C team. It is wonderful to see their work acknowledged in this way.”

Pursuit of excellence

The team on 4C is committed to excellence every day in the care they provide to patients. Staff on the unit were interested in pursuing the Beacon Award, knowing that exceptional teamwork, evidence-based practice and positive outcomes made the unit a strong candidate. At the start of 2022, unit leaders supported completing the AACN Beacon Award for Excellence application as a top priority for the year.

A group of 4C staff with varied backgrounds, experiences and perspectives came together to work on the application. They learned about the process and criteria involved, set goals and worked as a team to produce a comprehensive application. Throughout the year, they shared their progress with staff during DMS huddles and at meetings with the Unit Based and Workload Review Committees.

In addition to the core group working on the application, team members from across U-M Health helped obtain relevant data and supply necessary reports. Pharmacy provided medication safety information, administrative assistants from 4C and other units provided overtime and lunch break information, nursing leadership obtained data regarding staff injuries, and staff from Quality provided safety and quality indicator information. In addition, an AACN Beacon Award specialist was available to offer support during the development of the application. 

Altogether, the 50-page application took about eight months to finalize and submit. 

“The 4C Beacon team developed an application that highlighted every aspect of the care provided and how continuous quality improvement, teamwork and shared governance leads to high quality, patient-centered care,” said Nikki Quenby, R.N., a unit nurse who helped put the application together.

“This application allowed 4C to share a holistic picture of what occurs daily on the unit and the amazing work of our team to create overall improvements in the quality of care for patients and staff,” added Kathryn Szczechowski, D.N.P., R.N., AGACNP-BC, PCCN, educational nurse coordinator for the unit.

The 4C application scored on the 80 to 100 percent band overall which, according to the AACN review panel, reflects a unit with outstanding processes, clear evidence of learning and improvement cycles, and best practices identified in multiple areas. The reviewers also noted that 4C exceeded benchmarks and showed beneficial trends and excellent performance in most areas.

Celebrating and supporting each other

Bero said the care of 4C patients requires dedication as well as a passion for the unit’s patient population. The work on the unit is rewarding because team members make a personal investment in the care of each patient.

“I could not be prouder of nursing than I am now,” said Nancy May, D.N.P., R.N., AMB-BC, NEA-BC, chief nurse executive for Michigan Medicine. “In spite of many challenges over the last few years, our nursing teams continue to rise and ensure that our patients receive the best care available, as evident with this latest Gold Beacon Award on 4C.

“Congratulations to the team and Go Blue!” said May.

“We want to thank all our staff for the care they provide every day,” Bero said. “A passion for this work fills our cups and has a life changing impact on the lives of our patients.

“We are a very busy unit and our shifts are filled with competing priorities,” said Bero. “We make a point to support and celebrate one another.”