VCU Medical Center Medical Psychiatry Unit Earns Beacon Award for Excellence

First psychiatry unit in nation to receive the honor.

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The Medical Psychiatry Unit at the Virginia Commonwealth University Medical Center was presented on April 1 with a bronze-level Beacon Award for Excellence by the American Association of Critical Care Nurses (AACN). It is the first psychiatry unit in the nation to earn the honor.

The Beacon Award recognizes individual units that show exemplary practice in improving every facet of patient care. The Medical Psychiatry Unit demonstrated strengths in leadership, staff engagement, effective communication, knowledge management, patient outcomes and evidence-based practice and processes.

Bronze-level awardees demonstrate success in developing, deploying and integrating unit-based performance criteria for optimal outcomes.

“It is through the hard work of all our staff that this award was made possible,” said Charlene Moore, nurse manager for the unit. “It gives validation to our work and offers a means for us to showcase the importance of psychiatric nursing as well as the nurses’ role in our health care setting.”

John Duval, CEO of MCV Hospitals, pointed to two Beacon Award recipient characteristics that he said align particularly well with the VCU Medical Center’s goals.

“For patients and their families, the Beacon Award signifies exceptional care through improved outcomes and greater overall satisfaction,” he said, quoting characteristics identified by AACN. “Also, for critical care nurses, a Beacon Award can mean a positive and supportive work environment with greater collaboration between colleagues and leaders, higher morale and lower turnover.”  

VCU’s Medical Psychiatry unit has 20 beds and is home to brain stimulation services, including electroconvulsive therapy and transcranial magnetic stimulation. It is one of only seven psychiatry departments in the country with a complete brain stimulation program.

Staff has worked to make the unit look as non-institutional as possible by hiring an artist to paint unit walls while keeping standard institution safety measures. It is one of the leading units in the country for patient and staff safety and has an extensive safety program in place that includes education and training, collaboration with police and security officers and implementation of a trauma-informed care program.

Other units at the VCU Medical Center that have received this award in recent years include the Medicine Telemetry/Progressive Intensive Care Unit, Pediatric Intensive Care Unit, Neuroscience Intensive Care Unit, Medical Respiratory Intensive Care Unit, Surgery Trauma Intensive Care Unit and the Hume-Lee Transplant Center.

Joel Silverman, professor and chairman in the Department of Psychiatry at the VCU School of Medicine, said this prestigious award means the Medical Psychiatry Unit at VCU Medical Center “serves as a bright beacon in a dark night for people who are lost and suffering.”

As the first psychiatry unit in the nation to earn the honor, VCU Medical Center’s Medical Psychiatry Unit also serves as a beacon to which similar units across the country can now turn for guidance in achieving excellence.