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Baystate Medical Center Receives NICHE Designation For Excellence in Geriatric Care

July 05, 2016

SPRINGFIELD-- Baystate Health announced today that Baystate Medical Center received a prestigious NICHE designation.  

NICHE, which stands for Nurses Improving Care for Healthsystem Elders, indicates a hospital’s commitment to caring for older patients. Being part of the program will allow Baystate Medical Center to offer unique and evidence-based, interdisciplinary approaches resulting in better care for older adults.

“At Baystate Medical Center, we have a history of always trying to improve what we do, to ensure that we are always delivering excellent care to all our patients,” said Christine Klucznik, DNP,RN, Baystate Medical Center Chief Nursing Officer and Vice-President of Medicine, Professional Practice, and Magnet.

Census numbers suggest that the elderly are the fastest-growing population in the country.

“Older adults are the core customers,” said Vernette Townsend, RN, NICHE Program Coordinator for Baystate Medical Center.  “By 2050, there will be 90 million older adults. That’s almost double what it was in 2010. Ten thousand boomers turn 65 every single day. Anyone who is taking care of an older adult needs to know how to take care of them. NICHE helps bridge the gap by giving staff the tools they need to take care of these patients.”

Being designated as a NICHE hospital is a critical step in ensuring that caregivers are prepared for the complicated medical issues older people face.  Nurses at Baystate Medical Center complete the necessary training- 20 hours of continuing education specific to caring for older adults- to become certified geriatric resource nurses.

“As Baby Boomers are coming into the fold now, we’re having a lot more elderly patients at one time. We know how complex it is to care for them as the elderly face different issues than younger patients,” said Virginia Chipps, RN, Unit Manager of Springfield 3 Medical.    “We have adopted a new model of practice on Springfield 3 Medical designed to address the needs and to prevent functional decline in elders, over the age of 70, that are acutely ill in the hospital and to help them to transition back to their home.”

Known as ACE (Acute Care for Elders) programs, this nationally recognized model of care has shown to significantly improve the clinical outcomes by improving their ability to function self-sufficiently when discharged- thus reducing the need for transfers to nursing homes or rehabilitation hospitals.

The program’s success is built around maintaining the physical and psychosocial needs of the patient.  The focus of the program is to keep patients engaged and moving around early and often to help prevent complications associated with immobility and to prevent delirium.   Each day a team of interdisciplinary professionals made up of nurses, pharmacists, volunteers, therapists, nutritionists, and spiritual care review each patient’s plan of care and make recommendations to the physician for activity modifications, medication use and dosage, and nutritional needs.   Patient Advocate Volunteers and volunteer students make daily visits to patients to provide support, assist with meals and walking, and to identify any needs the patient may have.

Preliminary results of the program’s success over the past year have been extremely encouraging with falls and delirium rates decreasing by 30-50%.  The length of the hospital stay has also decreased by almost a full day for those admitted to the ACE program.  The NICHE program advocates the use of the ACE model of care for hospitalized elders.

“Through training, our nurses have learned to assess patients a little differently, identifying patient symptoms that are more unique for the geriatric population versus the general population,” Chipps said.

As one of the 500 NICHE designated hospitals in the country, Baystate Medical Center will have access to the program’s online resources and training as well as best practices used at other facilities.

Baystate Medical Center is one of 17 hospitals in Massachusetts and the only acute care hospital in Western Massachusetts to receive NICHE designation.