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MUSC's care for tiny patients recognized

The interdisciplinary team of trained health care professionals who provide specialized care for the tiniest patients in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) have received recognition from the Vermont Oxford Network (VON) for their efforts to improve the quality of care for these vulnerable infants.
All newborn babies need special care, but some require intensive medical attention following delivery.
Babies admitted to the NICU are premature, have very low birth weights (VLBW), or have a medical or surgical condition that requires specialized care. VON is non-profit voluntary collaboration of health care professionals dedicated to improving the quality and safety of medical care for newborn infants and their families. Established in 1988, VON comprises  nearly 700 NICUs around the world that collaborate in research, education and quality improvement efforts.
MUSC cares for approximately 250 VLBW infants (between 500 and 1,500 grams) each year.  
“When babies are protected from the damaging effects of oxygen, ventilators and infections they do better and go home sooner,” said Robin Bissinger, Ph.D., R.N., Neonatal Nurse Practitioner program director. The MUSC staff’s dedication to quality improvement has improved care and subsequently helped reduce the length of stay with VLBW infants going home to their families approximately two to three weeks sooner than the national average.
Since joining VON several years ago, MUSC has focused on the following key quality areas: hospital-acquired infections (HAI), chronic lung disease (CLD) and staffing for excellence. HAI can pose a huge threat to babies struggling to live. Following the motto, “a hospital-acquired infection is not a birth right,” MUSC developed a multidisciplinary team of providers to address causes of HAI, and consult other institutions while reviewing and implementing techniques to decrease HAI in the NICU. As a result of this collaboration, MUSC has reduced its infection rate by 75 percent in five years, and is now within the group of leading hospitals in the network. Similarly, the rate of CLD in MUSC’s NICU is now well below  one-half of what is typically seen in NICU graduates, again representing a substantial improve-ment for MUSC’s infants.
“There is not one service that enters the doors of our neonatal nurseries that have not participated even by simply washing their hands and rolling up their sleeves,” said Bissinger. “The commit-ment of our nurses to not only work in a unit where change is a constant factor in their lives but embracing the change, which has been an amazing contribution to these outcomes. In many cases it is the staff that drives the change and we, as leaders, just keep making sure the road to change is clear for them.”


Nov. 21, 2008

The Catalyst Online is published weekly by the MUSC Office of Public Relations for the faculty, employees and students of the Medical University of South Carolina. The Catalyst Online editor, Kim Draughn, can be reached at 792-4107 or by email, Editorial copy can be submitted to The Catalyst Online and to The Catalyst in print by fax, 792-6723, or by email to To place an ad in The Catalyst hardcopy, call Island Publications at 849-1778, ext. 201.