Local ER scoring positive marks

FAIRMONT — The $4.5 million remodeled emergency department at Mayo Clinic Health System in Fairmont has been open for just one year, but it already has shown a positive impact on patient care and satisfaction.

The Joint Commission, a non-profit organization that accredits and certifies 21,000 health care programs in the United States, took note of a significant jump in scores at the Fairmont site. The commission rates health care facilities similar to star ratings for hotels.

“We were 40 in April 2016. We are currently at 85,” said Sandee Vaske, nurse manger, of the overall emergency department score. “I’m also proud of the nursing team and the hard work that they do. They have taken their rank from 45 up to 92.”

She said the Joint Commission contacted Rochester, wanting to know the how the department achieved such an increase.

“It’s just an outstanding effort from the team, of the collaboration and how well they work together,” she said.

The commission wasn’t the only group who noticed. Vaske has given tours and fielded calls from other medical facilities that reached out to find the reason for the improvement.

About 10,000 patients pass through the Fairmont emergency department each year, but that number is on the rise if February was any indication.

“We definitely saw a huge peak,” said Vaske, citing influenza as the cause. “Our average census is 33 patients a day, but I think we broke the record about three times in one week.”

One day tallied an all-time high of 59 patients.

The design of the updated emergency department enabled the medical staff to handle the deluge of patients on high-traffic days, but the addition of a physician also was merited, according to Dr. Kim Schutterle, emergency department lead. Schutterle replaced Dr. Brian Bartlett, a board certified emergency medicine physician who was in charge at the start of the remodeling. Bartlett has assumed a regional role with the Mayo system.

“We decided we needed to buff up our resources, as far as providers go,” Schutterle said. “Dr. Bartlett was on board and worked very diligently to get us another provider during the peak hours.

Numerous census reports showed the highest amount of patient traffic came in from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., so an additional provider and a triage nurse were added to the emergency department staff during those hours.

“Those two additional pieces were huge,” Vaske said. “That really helped when we were seeing those high census. It would have been difficult for one doctor to handle.”

If the need arises, more resources are pulled from the hospital. Staff is cross-trained to provide flexible manpower to meet patient demand.

Another eye-opening improvement registered in the door-to-diagnostic score, which dropped from 14 minutes to 4 minutes. The door-to-diagnostic score registers the wait time from when the patient walks in the door until the time treatment begins.

“We were alerted about the door-to-diagnostic score through Rochester, through the Joint Commission,” Vaske said. “That really showcases the emergency room design we developed is meeting our patient and our staff needs. It really helps us know that we were able to get the best model we could to meet our patients’ needs.”

“Our ER is how an ER should be,” Schutterle said. “The nurses are in a central pod. There’s open communication so everyone knows what’s going on. We have this global awareness of all things around us. We’re only a couple of steps from any room so if we’re needed, we can be there in seconds.”

Schutterle credits the emergency department design and the camaraderie of the staff for his move to Fairmont from Mankato.

“The layout and flow here is just phenomenal,” he said. “I’m just part of a team, and it’s a fantastic team. The very special thing about this place is that we’re open and listen to each other.”


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