WellSpan receives national safety award, local patient thankful

2 min read556 views and 765 shares Posted May 27, 2020

WellSpan Health has received a national patient safety award in recognition of its Central Alert Team, a group of nurses remotely saving lives in Lebanon and elsewhere.

The 2019 John M. Eisenberg Patient Safety and Quality Award is an annual award made by the National Quality Forum and the Joint Commission that recognizes “the best examples of individual, local, and national efforts to improve patient safety and health care quality.”

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WellSpan was announced as the “Innovation in Patient Safety and Quality at the Local Level” recipient earlier in May and is the first Pennsylvania health system to receive the honor in 15 years, since the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center in McKeesport received it in 2004.

The Central Alert Team is a remote group of nurses who monitor patients’ vital signs around the clock and alert bedside teams when signs of sepsis or other dangerous changes in the data appear. WellSpan estimates that the group has saved the lives of over 350 patients and has “achieved Top 10 percentiles in sepsis mortality performance at every hospital compared to peers nationally, as well as Top 1 percentile for the largest WellSpan Health hospital,” according to the award listing.

Tammy Sullivan, who lived to celebrate her 49th birthday with family after recovering from sepsis discovered by the Central Alert Team. (WellSpan)
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One of the patients thankful for the Central Alert Team workers is Tammy Sullivan, who almost lost her life when she developed a case of sepsis while staying at WellSpan Good Samaritan Hospital in Lebanon. Sullivan, who is herself a case management manager at the hospital and a nurse with nearly three decades of experience, spoke about how “grateful I am to all of those people who saved my life. It’s a surreal feeling.”

Sullivan was losing consciousness in her hospital bed before her bedside team rushed in following an alert sent out by the Central Alert Team. It was discovered that she had developed a serious abdominal infection. “If I wasn’t being monitored, no one would have found me,” Sullivan stated.

A Central Alert System nurse, Angela Mays, stated that the infection could have been lethal. She and the rest of the team on watch that night had to follow a gut feeling: “this one is sick, something is not right here and I’m going to intervene on their behalf.”

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The Eisenberg Awards were begun in 2002. In the 2019 award listing, WellSpan was selected for recognition in part due to its “system-wide approach demonstrating an innovative combination of technology and trained medical staff to save lives and engage in early sepsis intervention.”

President and CEO of WellSpan Health Roxanna Gapstur, Ph.D., R.N., stated in the release that “this prestigious honor is a testament to [their teams’] innovation while finding a better way to improve the health of our communities.”

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