HealthApril 02, 2015

Is Beacon beckoning your nursing unit?

Offered by the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses (AACN), the Beacon Award for Excellence recognizes nursing units that shine in their dedication to patient care and staff satisfaction.

Unit nurses confident in the capabilities of their colleagues may want to consider a closer look at the Beacon Award for Excellence.  Offered by the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses (and no, you needn’t be an association member to apply), the Beacon Award recognizes acute and critical care units that shine in their dedication to patient care and staff satisfaction.

“The caregivers in these units,” said AACN President Teri Lynn Kiss, MS, RN, MSSW, CNML, CMSRN, “are healthcare professionals committed to the best in patient care.”

Last year, more than 70 units from 60 hospitals across the country garnered bronze, silver or gold Beacon Awards. Virginia Commonwealth University Medical Center, Richmond, made AACN history by boasting some eight nursing units that have earned Beacon Awards. Other hospitals that could be considered 2014’s notable-of-the-Beacon-notable include Sharp Grossmont Hospital, Le Mesa, CA, which had two units earn Beacon Gold, and the St. Mary’s campus of Mayo Clinic Hospital, Rochester, MN, which had two units earn Beacon Gold and another, Beacon Silver.

Beacon history

AACN established the Beacon Award for Excellence in 2003 to offer hospitals a way to respond to the public’s growing worries about patient safety and quality of care. In 2010, AACN updated the program to ensure continued close alignment with evolving standards of excellence.

Beacon Awards recognize achievement in five specific areas:

  • Leadership structures and systems
  • Appropriate staffing and staff engagement
  • Effective communication, knowledge management, and learning development
  • Evidence-based practice and processes
  • Outcome measurements

Signing up for the Beacon Awards for Excellence provides hospital units with a map and tools for their journey to excellence. Applicants receive a comprehensive feedback report that outlines strengths as well as opportunities for improvement to chart their course. In addition, three tiers of distinction offer unit recognition at various levels of accomplishment:

  • A Bronze Beacon Award acknowledges a unit’s success in developing and deploying performance criteria for optimal outcomes.
  • A Silver Beacon Award recognizes success in demonstrating continuous learning and effective systems to achieve optimal patient care.
  • A Gold Beacon Award celebrates staff-driven excellence in sustained unit performance and patient outcomes that exceed national benchmarks.

Beacon designations are valid for 3 years.

Beacon benefits

Beacon Awards offer more than a stylish plaque to display on the unit. (Although, what unit’s decor wouldn’t benefit from this beauty?) Beacon recognition communicates important messages to staff, patients, prospective employees, and the public.

  • To staff, a Beacon Award for Excellence is a prestigious acknowledgement of a job well done. A Beacon Award can also infuse a solid dose of professional morale as nurses take pride in their unit’s association with the highest standards of evidence-based excellence. 
  • To patients, a Beacon Award is an indication of high quality care and patient satisfaction.
  • To prospective employees, a Beacon Award is a signal that the unit is a positive and supportive place to work.
  • To the public and other evaluators, including the Leapfrog Group, a Beacon Award is recognized as a significant achievement, and is likely to impress.

To learn more about how your unit can join the more than 300 others that have distinguished themselves since 2010 with a Beacon Award for Excellence, check out AACN’s Beacon page.

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