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Baystate Medical Receives NICHE Designation

SPRINGFIELD  Baystate Medical Center is one of only 17 hospitals in Massachusetts and the only acute care hospital in Western Massachusetts to receive designation as a NICHE hospital in support of caring for elders in a growing Baby Boomer population that is retiring and requiring more complex care.

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 evidence-based, interdisciplinary approaches that lead to better care for older adults.

“At Baystate Medical Center, we have a history of always trying to improve what we do, not just to provide good care, but excellent care,” said Christine  Klucznik, DNP, RN, Baystate Medical Center CNO and vice president of Medicine, Professional Practice, and Magnet.

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 from 2010. Some 10,000 baby 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 to take care of these patients.”

Becoming a NICHE hospital is a positive step in preparing 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 we see Baby Boomers requiring more care now, we’re also seeing many 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 our Springfield 3 Medical unit 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 been shown to significantly improve clinical outcomes by improving the elderly patient’s ability to function at discharge, therefore 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. A team of interdisciplinary professionals made up of nurses, pharmacists, volunteers, therapists, nutritionists, and spiritual care review daily 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.

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