News Release: Emory Healthcare

May 5,  2009

Emory University Hospital Nursing Unit Wins Prestigious Beacon Award for Excellent Care

News Article ImageEmory University Hospital

The Emory University Hospital 4A/5A Cardiovascular-Thoracic Critical Care Unit has received the Beacon Award for Critical Care Excellence from the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses (AACN) – formally recognizing the Emory team as one of the top intensive care units in the country.

Developed in 2003 by the AACN, the Beacon Award for Critical Care Excellence recognizes individual critical care units that meet high-quality standards and provide exceptional care of patients and patients' families while fostering and sustaining healthy work environments. There are an estimated 6,000 intensive care units in the United States, and only 132 of those units have been recognized for excellence by this award.

The Beacon Award is Emory's first. It is the fourth award given in Georgia, and the first awarded to a cardiovascular intensive care unit in the state.

"This is a wonderful recognition for our nursing units, which have demonstrated a consistent drive and dedication toward delivering outstanding patient care for some of Emory's most seriously ill patients and their families," says Therese Baker, RN, cardiovascular unit department director. "As one of the very first units in the state of Georgia to earn a Beacon award, and the first at Emory, not only is this a tremendous honor for our unit, but for all of Emory Healthcare."  

Mary Zellinger, RN, MN, clinical nurse specialist at Emory University Hospital, says, "Our team of nurses deliver daily the very high standard of patient and family-centered care that Emory University Hospital promises to those who allow us to care for them each day. And while this prestigious award is the result of many months of preparation and hard work by each of our 75 nurses, the effort and commitment that go into fulfilling that promise day in and day out has made this honor even more special."   

To receive the Beacon Award, a unit must meet 42 different criteria in six categories – including innovation/excellence in recruitment and retention; education, training, and mentoring; evidence-based practice and research; patients' outcomes; creating and promoting healing environments; and leadership and organizational ethics. Because the award program provides nursing care units a way to better measure their systems, outcomes and environment, this award is increasingly linked to patient quality and safety initiatives.

"Over the last 19 years, there has never been any doubt in my mind about the excellence of the 4A/5A nurses at Emory," says James Ramsay, MD, professor of anesthesiology and medical director of the 4A/5A ICU at Emory University Hospital.

"Time and time again, I've seen the recovery of seemingly hopeless patients, which could certainly be credited in large part to the superb care given by these smart, interested, engaged, caring and collaborative professionals. It is a privilege and a pleasure to work with this entire team."

The Emory award is designated for one year, and units must re-apply annually to continue their designation. As part of the overall evaluation process, an expert panel reviews each application against national quality standards measures. The association removes all references to the facility or location to avoid bias and protect the unit's confidentiality.

AACN is the largest specialty nursing organization in the world, representing the interests of more than 500,000 nurses who are charged with the responsibility of caring for acutely and critically ill patients. The association is dedicated to providing our members with the knowledge and resources necessary to provide optimal care to critically ill patients. 


The Robert W. Woodruff Health Sciences Center of Emory University is an academic health science and service center focused on missions of teaching, research, health care and public service. Its components include schools of medicine, nursing, and public health; Yerkes National Primate Research Center; the Emory Winship Cancer Institute; and Emory Healthcare, the largest, most comprehensive health system in Georgia. The Woodruff Health Sciences Center has a $2.3 billion budget, 17,000 employees, 2,300 full-time and 1,900 affiliated faculty, 4,300 students and trainees, and a $4.9 billion economic impact on metro Atlanta.

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Twitter: @emoryhealthsci

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