Friday, May 13, 2011 12:00 AM

Fresno Heart & Surgical's cardiovascular unit recognized as one of nation's best

Fresno Heart & Surgical Hospital’s cardiovascular staff received the Beacon Award for Critical Care Excellence from the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses (AACN) – formally recognizing it as one of the top intensive care units in the country.

There are more than 6,000 hospital intensive care units in the United States, and less than 315 of those have been recognized by the critical-care nursing association since it developed the award in 2003. Only 15 hospitals nationwide and only three hospitals in California earned Beacon Award this year. The Beacon Award recognizes ICU’s that meet high-quality standards, provide exceptional care of patients and patients’ families while fostering and sustaining healthy work environments.

Cynthia Cervantes, chief nursing officer for Fresno Heart & Surgical, expressed pride in the nursing team: “Our patients know there is something special about the service they are receiving. The Beacon Award simply reaffirms what the patient already knows — that he or she is getting the very best care.”

HealthGrades has also recognized the hospital for its exceptional patient care with the Outstanding Patient Experience Award three years in a row.

The hospital’s cardiovascular unit (CVU) not only specializes in the treatment of cardiovascular-related patient care, including open heart surgery, heart attacks, heart failure, difficult arrhythmias, and advanced interventional procedures, but it is also the nursing team that takes care of any bariatric and surgical patients requiring intensive care services. “We have developed the reputation of specializing in care for any situation,” said Cervantes. “As a result of that flexibility and drive to tackle any challenge, everyone here shares in providing excellent care.”

Some of Fresno Heart & Surgical Hospital's cardiovascular unit critical care nurses receive the Beacon Award at a conference in Chicago. Pictured from left to right are Jesus (Alvin) Narvaez, Denise Simons, Choua Yang, and Carol Uyesaka.  

Critical-care registered nurse Christine Swift, who spearheaded the effort to apply for the quality award, agreed. “We’re awesome,” she said of her CVU colleagues. “I’m so glad we’ve been able to showcase the work we do here.”

Swift said that teamwork and communication are strengths of the CVU. “We started a critical care nurse practice council that has been a nice forum for nurses to find out what’s going on in the unit and best practices,” she said. “I really like the collaborative environment that the Council brings to nursing.”

To receive the Beacon Award, a unit must meet 38 different criteria in six categories – including innovation/excellence in recruitment and retention; education, training and mentoring for nursing staff; evidence-based practice and research; outstanding patient outcomes; creating and promoting healing environments; and leadership and organizational ethics. Because the award program provides nursing care units a way to better measure their systems, outcomes and environment, the Beacon Award is increasingly linked to patient quality and safety initiatives.

“We know we have an extremely experienced staff and great quality outcomes and this award helps recognize the hard work that we see on a daily basis,” Cervantes praised.

Erin Kennedy reported this story. She can be reached at