UF Health Shands Nursing earns state-high fifth Beacon Award

The UF Health Shands Cancer Hospital trauma/lung transplant unit nursing team earned its second gold Beacon Award for Excellence from the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses. This accomplishment bumps the organization’s total number of active Beacon Awards to five, making UF Health Shands tied for first place for the hospital system with the most current gold-level Beacon Awards in Florida.

The hybrid trauma and lung transplant nursing and patient services team received its first Beacon Award in 2014. It is now the second nursing unit at the hospital to receive two awards at this level.

The Beacon Award is a three-year designation that recognizes individual nursing units focused on improving every aspect of patient care.

“I’m proud to say that we have some of the best nurses in the industry,” said Irene Alexaitis, D.N.P., R.N., NEA-BC, UF Health Shands Hospital chief nursing officer and nursing and patient services vice president. “Our skilled nurses and UF physicians work hand-in-hand to create a holistic approach to patient care. Quality outcomes and safety are first, along with compassionate and attentive caring. This achievement is a testament to our teams’ dedication to delivering the best possible patient experience.”  

Awardees meet stringent criteria consistent with other well-respected honors, such as Magnet recognition by the American Nurses Credentialing Center, the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award and the National Quality Healthcare Award. Beacon Award criteria include leadership structures and systems; appropriate staffing and staff engagement; effective communication, knowledge management, learning and development; and evidence-based practices and processes.

“We are proud of the trauma/lung transplant team for achieving Beacon status for the second time,” said Colleen Counsell, M.S.N., R.N., UF Health Shands Cancer Hospital trauma/lung transplant unit nurse manager. “They are an exceptional team that provides the highest quality care.”

UF Health Shands has more than 2,900 nurses practicing in hospitals and outpatient programs across Gainesville. They have achieved three consecutive Magnet designations from the American Nurses Credentialing Center, a recognition attained by just 452 hospitals across five countries. In addition to providing patient care, the nurses are also involved in robust clinical research, including 15 current studies.

“Our nursing staff are devoted to the highest standards of nursing practice,” said UF Health Shands CEO Ed Jimenez. “The academic environment requires highly qualified and skilled nurses to serve patients with all kinds of conditions, including critical and complex medical needs. Our nurses are experienced and also caring. They put their heart into their nursing careers.”

UF Health Shands currently has five nursing care units with active Beacon Awards for Excellence issued by the American Association of Critical Care Nurses: the cardiac ICU (gold), the pediatric ICU (gold), the surgical/trauma ICU (gold), the trauma/lung transplant unit (gold) and the post anesthesia care unit (silver).


About UF Health: With a combined 996 licensed beds, the UF Health Shands Gainesville facilities include UF Health Shands Hospital, UF Health Shands Children’s Hospital and UF Health Shands Cancer Hospital. It also operates the health system’s two specialty hospitals, UF Health Shands Rehab Hospital and UF Health Shands Psychiatric Hospital. The Jacksonville campus includes UF Health Jacksonville, with 695 licensed beds.

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Nacuya Rucker

Communications Specialist

Nacuya Rucker is a recent Gator grad with a zeal for public relations and communications. Before obtaining her role as communications specialist at UF Health Communications, she garnered experience via...Read More