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Introduces Senior Track

 Wesley Medical Center February 03, 2014
Wesley Medical Center has turned its attention toward providing tailored emergency care to senior patients.

By Sara Browning

Wesley Medical Center is where healing begins. Located on an 85-acre health care campus, the acute and intensive care facility offers inpatient, outpatient, diagnostic, surgical, and emergency care. Wesley Medical Center employs over 1,100 health care professionals all focused on providing quality health care and maintaining a personal connection with patients and families. Recognized by the Joint Commission as a Top Performer on Key Quality Measures, Wesley is one of only 67 hospitals in the nation and the only hospital in Mississippi to earn this distinction for its performance in the four primary categories of heart attack, heart failure, pneumonia, and surgical care for three consecutive years. Wesley is also the area’s first and only accredited Chest Pain Center in the Pine Belt.

“We believe in the power of people to create great care,” says Dr. Sherry Turner, Wesley ER Medical Director. “We are dedicated to providing high quality medical services that are both personal and compassionate.”

ER Services Tailored to Seniors
Part of providing excellence in health care means going the extra mile for patients who need additional comfort and attention, such as senior citizens. Designed with seniors in mind, the new ER Senior Track, introduced in mid-November 2013, was created to bring emergency services to senior citizens 65 years of age and older.

According to Dr. Turner, 40 percent of emergency room patients at Wesley Medical Center are over the age of 65. In addition, as the baby boomer population begins to enter its golden years, Wesley has begun turning more attention and resources toward the expanding senior population, finding ways in which to meet their specific needs.

“Going to the emergency room can bring a lot of stress for patients, especially for seniors who have health issues that are more complex than younger patients,” says Dr. Turner. “Our ER has been redesigned to include special features and equipment to help in the diagnosis, evaluation, and treatment of diseases and problems specific to seniors.”

Upon arrival to the ER Senior Track, the patients and their families have access to separate, private waiting areas with comfortable seating, including reclining chairs with wheels, and chairs that are sturdier and heavier for increased safety for seniors, who often push themselves up to a standing position.

Seniors in the ER will benefit from features and equipment that cater to older patients, including special beds which are less than two feet from the ground and have soft mattresses five inches thick to decrease the likelihood of skin breaking down. Noise reduction features, special lighting for seniors with cataracts, and soothing room colors help seniors feel relaxed and at home.

Senior Track rooms also include large, easy-to-read clocks and telephones as well as easy-to-operate call buttons and television remotes. Warm blankets enhance patients’ comfort. Other features, such as non-adhesive tape, which is gentler on fragile skin, and wheelchairs for easy transport, create a more pleasant emergency room stay for the elderly.

Prompt and Efficient Care
At Wesley Medical Center, all patients receive prompt and efficient care. Wesley Medical Center’s 45 Minutes-or-Less ER Service Pledge was launched in 2012 with the goal of having a physician or nurse practitioner evaluate patients within 45 minutes of their noted arrival time at the ER.

“In many emergency rooms across the country,” says Mike Neuendorf, Wesley Medical Center CEO, “wait times have been increasing. We want to assure our patients that we are dedicated to not only offering the highest quality care but also to providing that care as efficiently as possible. Our process improvements have been focused on getting patients into a room as quickly as possible and enabling our physician to begin their diagnosis and treatment in a timely manner.”

A NICHE-Designated Hospital
The ER Senior Track is the area’s only designated Nurses Improving Care for Healthsystem Elders (NICHE) site; a recognition achieved following intense training and evaluation of the ER staff’s care of older patients.

“Seniors in the ER sometimes have symptoms that can be a sign of a more serious illness,” says Dixie Norris, Emergency Services Director. “Our team of specially trained staff is attuned to the more subtle cues that can point to the need for immediate medical attention. We’re providing highly targeted care and enhancing the services we offer in order to keep them healthier in the long-term.”

NICHE nursing care models assist hospitals in improving care for hospitalized older adult patients. Implemented and tested at hospitals across the nation, NICHE nursing care models have been proven effective in improving clinical care and outcomes for elders during and following hospital admission. NICHE-designated hospitals report enhanced nursing knowledge and skills regarding treatment of common geriatric conditions, increased patient satisfaction, decreased length of stay for older adult patients, and enhanced environmental design to strengthen function and increase comfort for the geriatric population.

Wesley Medical Center ER nurses also participate in the Geriatric Emergency Nurse Education (GENE) program. GENE is a comprehensive course designed to provide the best evidence-based care for older adults. This extensive program gives nurses the tools to assess special needs in older adults, to recognize atypical presentations, and to coordinate care that will help improve patient outcomes. The course provides best practices from triage to discharge as well as patient and family education.

Monitoring Medications and Therapy
In addition to special nursing care, the ER Senior Track brings in pharmacists to assist with patients’ medications. “We carefully evaluate the medications our geriatric patients are taking before placing patients on new medications to ensure the appropriate medications are prescribed,” says Dr. Turner. “We take a history of each patient’s medications and send this information to our pharmacy. The pharmacy then evaluates the report and determines whether patients should or shouldn’t be taking certain medications.”

Wesley Medical Center’s Get Up and Go program examines physical strengths and weaknesses of each geriatric patient. “A mini activity assessment evaluates whether patients are able to stay mobile at home without falling,” explains Dr. Turner. “We send this information to the physical therapy department. If the patient is deficient in a specific area, the physical therapy department notifies the patient’s primary care physician.”

Returning Home
Once geriatric patients leave the hospital, an on-staff case manager assists patients in planning their follow-up care. “We provide patients with written instructions regarding their follow-up care to maximize their chances of the best possible recovery,” says Dr. Turner. “We determine if they will require a specialist follow-up and arrange for patients to see the proper physicians. Our nurses are trained to explain instructions in an easy-to-understand manner and make certain patients understand their care instructions before going home.”

Wesley Medical Center and their team of physicians and nurses are very proud of the care and results they are achieving for patients in the Pine Belt and beyond. Looking ahead, continuing to excel in patient care remains at the forefront of Wesley Medical Center’s goals for the future. According to Neuendorf: “Patient care, quality, and safety initiatives will always remain the number one priority for Wesley Medical Center.”

For more information on Wesley Medical Center, visit or call 601-268-8000. Wesley Medical Center is located at 5001 Hardy Street,  Hattiesburg, MS, 39402.
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 Wesley Medical Center| February 03, 2014
Categories:  Feature
Keywords:  Feature Story

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