UCLA Santa Monica Medical Center's Neonatal ICU nationally recognized for excellence

UCLA Health Beacon Award

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Simi Singer
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The American Association of Critical-Care Nurses (AACCN) recently conferred a gold-level Beacon Award of Excellence on the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) at UCLA Santa Monica Medical Center. The prestigious honor is awarded to only a handful of hospital critical care units nationwide, with UCLA Santa Monica Medical Center's NICU the only hospital in California to receive the recognition this year.

The Beacon Award for Excellence recognizes exceptional patient care as well as safe and healthy work environments for critical care nurses. Critical care units that achieve the three-year award – in either gold, silver or bronze designations – meet national criteria consistent with the nation's highest nursing honors such as the Magnet Recognition, the Malcolm Baldridge National Quality Award and the Press Ganey Guardians of Excellence Award.  

"This award recognizes more than meeting the association's high standards – it really is a testament to the commitment every NICU nurse – more than 40 of us – has to the health and well-being of our patients and their families," said Maureen Schulte, RN, chair of the unit's Beacon application committee and a critical care nurse for more than 20 years. "All of us are here because we love what we do. Parents trust us to provide the best care possible for their babies during an extremely vulnerable time.  We all work together – nurses, doctors and NICU staff – to gain that trust and help babies grow and thrive."

The Beacon Award for Excellence recognizes units that successfully improve patient outcomes and align practices with AACCN's six Healthy Work Environment Standards. They include effective and systematic approaches to policies, procedures and processes that incorporate engagement of staff and key stakeholders, fact-based evaluation strategies for continuous process improvement and performance measures that meet or exceed specific benchmarks.

UCLA Santa Monica Medical Center's NICU is a 16-bed Level 3 unit. Heather Hackett, RN, is the unit director, and Juliet Sasinski, RN, is the unit's clinical nurse specialist. Both were instrumental in completing the application process and have provided great leadership to the NICU team.