Upgrading Respiratory Services
| Upgrading Respiratory Services|
by the staff of The Silvercrest Center for Nursing and Rehabilitation, Briarwood, New York
| Mechanical ventilation incurs substantial morbidity, mortality, and costs. Because premature or delayed weaning can cause harm, weaning that is both expeditious and safe is highly desirable. We assessed 312 patients/residents over a three-year period, beginning in 2003, with the baseline and treatment populations well matched on population characteristics, age distribution, sex, and primary diagnosis. Implementation of our initiative increased the wean success rate by 40.9% from 2003 to 2004, and by 65.5% from 2003 to 2005. In 2005, the number of ventilator-associated complications decreased to zero.|
Background and Planning
The ventilator unit was established in 1992 to complete a natural continuum of care for ventilator-dependent patients/residents from the affiliated acute care hospital to the community, and to ensure that adequate long-term beds were available for those unable to return home immediately. Ventilator beds outside the acute care setting had been limited in this area. Individuals who could not be liberated or weaned from the ventilator spent months in hospitals, typically with a compromised quality of life and at a tremendous expenditure of resources and finances.
Facility staff worked collaboratively with the New York State Department of Health to develop a program that would meet the needs of patients/residents outside the hospital setting. In the early years of the facility, the facility ventilator wean rate of approximately 40% matched or exceeded success rates at large regional weaning centers, demonstrating the benefits of ventilator programs in long-term care settings.
As respiratory services expanded, the number of subacute ventilator beds was increased from 8 to the current capacity of 48, making it the largest long-term ventilator program in the state. Noninvasive ventilation was introduced and initiated throughout the facility and, beginning in early 2003, upgrades to the facility’s physical plant (an emergency electrical system) and ventilator alarm system were implemented. A larger supply of bulk oxygen was obtained, and the inventory of specialty beds and augmentative communication devices was increased. From 2003 through 2005, mechanical ventilators were replaced systematically with sophisticated models that more effectively accommodated weaning. Staff education was provided and competencies were established on revised policies and procedures resulting from the expansion of the program and allocation of the additional ventilator beds.
During 2003, as planning for the expansion of the unit continued, the facility’s Performance Improvement Steering Committee (PISC) chartered the formation of a Respiratory Care Committee (RCC) consisting of both leadership and clinical staff. The PISC is an interdisciplinary group that includes facility leadership and is authorized by the Board of Trustees to provide oversight for the development, implementation, and evaluation of the Performance Improvement (PI) and Patient/Resident Safety Plan. Three representatives from the Board of Trustees are active members of this committee.
The RCC’s mandate was to improve systems and processes that would facilitate optimal patient/resident outcomes, and respond to any care concerns or trends. The committee reported activities and outcomes to the Performance Improvement Committee (PIC) on a quarterly basis. A primary task of the group was to revise methods of data aggregation and analysis for identified respiratory measures, including patient/resident wean rates.
Current wean rates were difficult to compare with previous years’ rates because the patients/residents admitted to our facility had increasingly complex medical and clinical presentations, requiring extensive nursing care, as well as equipment such as specialty tracheostomy tubes and augmentative communication devices. This increased clinical complexity was validated by the changing Case Mix Index (CMI), which increased from 1.7429 in 2003 to 1.7460 in 2005. A corresponding increase was noted in the CMI of the skilled nursing population. This overall increase in the CMI, coupled with the expansion plans for the respiratory programs, triggered recognition that existing systems should be revised to ensure continued quality and safety for our patients/residents.
Length of stay and individual care needs on our ventilator unit vary greatly among patients/residents, dependent on cardiopulmonary diagnoses, medical comorbidities, and candidacy to enter the facility weaning protocol. The facility’s interdisciplinary ventilator team (known as the “vent” team) focuses on providing individualized care to achieve successful ventilator liberation and improve quality of life. While liberation from mechanical ventilation and discharge to home are the ultimate goals, each discipline works to optimize functional status and quality of life for each individual in treatment. Ventilator-dependent individuals who cannot be weaned benefit from an individualized care plan that emphasizes improved quality of life.
Other goals for each patient/resident include reducing ventilator support, decannulating the tracheostomy tube, facilitating vocal or nonvocal communication, initiating oral feeding, and increasing both independence in activities of daily living and attendance at recreational/spiritual activities. The availability of portable ventilators, with battery backup, that can be accommodated on wheelchairs allows patients/residents the freedom to participate in those activities.
Expenditures for capital improvements and staffing related to the expansion of the respiratory and ventilator program were budgeted by leadership and approved by the facility Board of Trustees. Examples of initiatives for which resources were allocated included:
Oversight of the respiratory and ventilator program was assigned to the RCC, chaired by the Director of Respiratory Therapy. Members of the RCC include the Vice-President of Medical Services, a Pulmonologist, a Primary Care Physician (PCP), the Director of Respiratory Therapy, the Associate Director of Nursing, a Nurse Practitioner, Clinical Care Coordinators of the ventilator and respiratory units, the Clinical Nutrition Manager, the Assistant Vice-President (AVP) of Rehabilitation Services, the Director of Social Services, the Director of Speech Pathology, a unit Social Worker, the Director of Therapeutic Recreation, and the Vice-President of Finance.
All patients/residents are considered candidates for weaning unless excluded by pulmonary/respiratory assessment. If not excluded from the protocol, patients/residents either enter the program immediately or at a later date, as determined by their clinical condition.
The vent team assesses patients/residents upon admission, upon readmission, and at additional scheduled intervals. The members of the vent team, which meets weekly in a clinical rounds format, are the PCP, Pulmonologist, Director of Respiratory Therapy or designee, Nursing Clinical Care Coordinators, AVP of Rehabilitation, Director of Speech-Language Pathology, Chief Clinical Dietitian, Social Worker, Therapeutic Recreation Leader, and consulting Psychologist (ad hoc). While staff respiratory therapists drive the weaning process, the interdisciplinary team develops a comprehensive care plan for each individual, with a focus on both quality of care and quality of life.
Family members are considered vital members of the team and participate in the care-planning process by providing information about patient/resident goals, care, and treatment preferences, as well as about advance directives and end-of-life decisions.
Significant staff training and education activities were required for expansion of this program. Standards of care and safety were the primary focus, with topics including disease states leading to respiratory failure, concepts of mechanical ventilation and alarm response, assessment techniques, noninvasive monitoring tools, potential complications associated with long-term ventilator dependence, and managing respiratory emergencies. Use of new equipment and revised policies and procedures were also covered.
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