UF Health Shands nursing teams earn national Beacon Award for Excellence

The University of Florida Health Shands Hospital inpatient unit is among seven medical-surgical units nationally to receive a gold-level Beacon Award for Excellence from the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses.

This is the first time a medical-surgical unit at UF Health Shands Hospital has received the gold-level nursing honor. The 5 West Trauma/Lung Transplant Unit is one of only five gold-level winners among 20 current Beacon Award units in Florida and the only medical-surgical unit in North Central Florida with this distinction. The association has also honored the hospital’s Post Anesthesia Care Unit with a bronze-level Beacon Award — making it the first PACU in the nation to receive a Beacon Award.

When a unit receives a Beacon Award, the award has a lifespan of three years. Five UF Health Shands nursing units currently are Beacon awardees — equal to 20 percent of all awardees in the state.

The association describes the three-year, three-level Beacon Award as “a significant milestone on the path to exceptional patient care and healthy work environments.” Beacon Awards are given to nursing teams that successfully improve patient outcomes and meet criteria consistent with American Nursing Credentialing Center Magnet Recognition, the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award and the National Quality Healthcare Award.

“This award recognizes our hardworking nursing staff for excellent and sustained performance and clinical outcomes. Everything we do is designed to support the highest-quality care and the best patient experience,” said Irene Alexaitis, D.N.P., RN, NEA-BC, vice president of nursing and patient services and chief nursing officer at UF Health Shands Hospital. The evidence-based Beacon Award for Excellence criteria focus on leadership structures and systems; appropriate staffing and staff engagement; effective communication; knowledge management; learning and development; evidence-based practices and processes; and outcome measurement.

“Each and every staff member plays an integral part in making our unit excellent,” said Colleen Counsell, M.S.N, R.N., CCRN, the 5 West nurse manager. She and Elno Palonpon, B.S.N., RN-BC, the clinical leader of 5 West, credit the nursing expertise and interdisciplinary collaboration among their colleagues for outstanding results.

“This award signifies the teamwork present on our floor,” Counsell said. “From working together to enhance patient satisfaction to supporting each other, our staff goes above and beyond to make our unit gold.”

Nursing leaders in the PACU were humbled to achieve such a high honor that emphasizes quality patient care.

“This is a tremendous achievement; the journey to excellence is ongoing. The PACU staff is an awesome team of people who always strive for excellence,” said Michele Brunges, M.S.N., R.N., CNIOR, the PACU nurse manager.

Diane Skorupski, M.S., R.N., CNOR, NE-BC, associate vice president for PeriOperative Services at UF Health Shands Hospital, also recognized the team approach, emphasizing the PACU’s “multidisciplinary, collaborative approach with other health care professionals that focuses on patient safety and positive outcomes.”

“Achieving the Beacon Award is an example of our post anesthesia nurses’ relentless pursuit of excellence in the delivery of high-quality patient care,” Skorupski said.

This is the third major nursing achievement in recent months. Alexaitis spearheaded the effort that earned UF Health Shands its third Magnet designation in November. Magnet recognition is one the highest honors in the nursing industry. UF Health Shands Hospital is one of only 19 Florida hospitals and one of only 393 hospitals internationally with Magnet designation.

“UF Health Shands nurses are proud to serve our patients and the North Central Florida community and celebrate another national recognition,” Alexaitis said.

About UF Health Shands nursing: UF Health is one of the most prominent and well-respected health systems in the Southeast. Featuring the latest in life-saving technology and more than 3,500 of the best nurses in the world dedicated to excellence, UF Health Shands nursing is exceptionally proud to be providing our patients “experienced care, expert caring.” Our nursing vision — “to set new standards of excellence in autonomous and accountable nursing practice, committed to patient advocacy and innovative patient care in a climate of trust and collaboration” — is supported by our status as a Magnet hospital. Our Magnet redesignation in 2013 reinforces we are on the path to attaining our nursing vision. To learn more, visit http://www.nursing.jobs.UFHealth.org.

About the Beacon Award for Excellence: Established in 2003, the Beacon Award for Excellence offers a road map to help guide exceptional care through improved outcomes and greater overall patient satisfaction. U.S. or Canadian units where patients receive their principal nursing care after hospital admission qualify for this excellence award. Units that receive the Beacon Award for Excellence meet criteria in six categories: leadership structures and systems; appropriate staffing and staff engagement; effective communication; knowledge management; learning and development; evidence-based practice and processes; and outcome measurement. To learn more, visit www.aacn.org/beacon or call 800-899-2226.

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Lauren Irizarry's picture

Lauren Irizarry

Communications Coordinator

Lauren Irizarry is the lead communications coordinator on the Strategic Communications and Public Relations team. Joining UF Health Communications in early 2013, Lauren comes from a journalism background, specializing in...Read More