Seniors Emergency Center: The First of its Kind
Annie Peters, of Laurel, is part of the fastest growing segment of our population - people age 65 and above. For patients such as Annie, Holy Cross Hospital has opened an innovative Seniors Emergency Center - the only one of its kind in the nation- marking the beginning of a new era in the care of our area's older residents.
In November of 2008, Annie visited the Seniors Emergency Center at Holy Cross Hospital because she was having difficulty walking.
"I was in severe pain in my left thigh," Annie says. The pain was so bad that she and her husband decided to go to Holy Cross Hospital.
As soon as Annie entered the hospital's Emergency Center, a triage nurse assessed her needs. Because of her age and because her condition was not life threatening, Annie was assisted to the Seniors Emergency Center to receive care tailored toward the specific needs of seniors.
"I was very impressed with how quickly I was seen and how fast X-rays were taken," she says.
After carefully considering Annie's tests and medical history, Steven Grufferman, MD, emergency medicine, diagnosed Annie with a muscle strain, which eased her concern.
"While a muscle strain is not life-threatening, not knowing the cause of such extreme pain can be very scary for a patient," says Judith Rogers, PhD, MSN, RN, chief nurse executive and vice president, Patient Care Services. "The specially trained clinicians in our Seniors Emergency Center address each patient's emergency medical problem in light of their medical history and age-related considerations. This expertise in senior emergency medicine, combined with our compassionate approach, eases patients' vulnerability, helps them to better understand their treatment plan, and assists with follow-up care upon discharge."
Dr. Grufferman told Annie to take it easy and prescribed medication for her pain.
"My treatment was great," Annie says. "The staff was very caring and kind. They made sure I was comfortable and made a point to see that my needs were met."
At the Forefront of Care
The Seniors Emergency Center is the result of months of research and planning, including focus groups with previous patients of the hospital's Emergency Center. Key staff members also strategized with experts from the Erickson School of Aging Studies at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, to help decide how the new center should be constructed and what it should offer.
"In the end, we created a model facility that combines patient-friendly physical features with an evidenced-based approach to emergency care for older individuals," says Lawrence A. Oufi ero, MD, chair, Emergency Medicine.
Making the Grade
The new center possesses some unique characteristics that help to ensure excellent patient care. First of all, it is located in a dedicated area of the Emergency Center to promote patients' privacy and to reduce their anxiety and confusion.
"The center features six curtained bays, two private patient rooms, a dedicated nursing station and a small consultation room for family conferences," says Bonnie Mahon, RN, BSN, MSM, senior director, Office of Seniors and Medical/ Surgical Services. "Softer lighting, blanket warmers, special pressure redistribution mattresses, handrails and special flooring that reflects light in a way that makes missteps less likely further ensure patient comfort and safety."
But it is the underlying philosophy that really sets the new center apart. Rather than viewing a visit to the Emergency Center as an isolated incident, the Seniors Emergency Center team treats each visit as part of a continuum of care.
"The goal is to discharge patients safely from the Seniors Emergency Center equipped with the resources they need to regain health," says James A. Del Vecchio, MD, medical director, Emergency Center.
That might mean admission to an inpatient unit for further evaluation or treatment, consultation with a social worker or referral to home health services. In such cases, the care team remains in contact with subsequent health providers to ensure a seamless transition from the Seniors Emergency Center to the patient's next provider of care.
As for Annie, she is back home, doing well and appreciative of the care she received from Holy Cross Hospital. She says, "I know from experience that not all hospitals pay so much attention in trying to make their patients feel comfortable and in meeting their needs."