The Big Numbers for Cold and Flu Season (continued)
When patients arrive, they answer five basic questions at the triage desk and the process is completed at the patient’s bedside. Triage is the process in which patients describe their ailments and nurses take their vital signs as part of the initial assessment.
Fast Track patients are now on aver-age treated and released in 63 minutes. This includes taking and processing x-rays. Regular ED patients are treated and released in 3 hours. “Patients who need to be admitted wait closer to four hours than the goal of three, and that is the challenge the ED is working toward,” said Dr. Gummerson. Even when the hospital is forced to go on Yellow Alert and the wait times increase, Dr. Gummerson said he knows the staff is working as efficiently and quickly as possible.
A critical nursing shortage across the nation is leaving many Emergency Departments understaffed. Jones said, “We’re very lucky at AAMC because we have been able to hire RN staff to fill our vacancies and retain our incredibly skilled nurses, making us fully staffed at this point. Each ED nurse is doing an additional eight hours of on-call a month to assist when the volumes are crazy.” The ED has 54 nurses, 17 ED technicians and six secretaries. Respiratory therapists, radiologists, IV specialists, and other medical specialists are available as needed.
Dr. Gummerson said the experience of the staff is as important as the number. “Nearly one third of the 54 nurses have more than 10 years here, a lot of them more than 20.” Dr. Gummerson has been with the department for 17 years.
In addition, the hospital’s askAAMC program provides free medical advice to the region. By calling (410) 573-5490 or 1 (800) MD-NURSE, someone with a medical concern can speak with an RN who is trained specially for triaging patients. He or she will provide advice to patients who think they may need emergency services.
The entire ED staff is looking forward to the move to the new hospital off Jennifer Road, which will take place this fall. The current space of the downtown ED is 9,000 sq. ft. The new ED will have 38,000 sq. ft. Instead of two ambulance bays, which have served the downtown hospital, the new hospital will have eight bays on a horseshoe-shaped driveway specifically for emergency vehicles. Also included are separate areas for Fast Track, clinical decision making and pediatric patients.
Thanks to the state-of-the-art helipad funded by the Annapolis Lion’s Club, helicopter landing will be available. All of the ED equipment will be new and the radiology services for x-ray, MRI and CAT-scan will be right beside the ED for easy access. Additional staff already is being interviewed in anticipation of increased volumes in the ED.
“The real challenge for us will be to keep our patient satisfaction as high as it is now,” said Dr. Gummerson. “We’ve already seen that as we improve, more and more people want to come to us, which means we have to keep improving to keep them satisfied.”