Teamwork saves lives


A paramedic works quickly to communicate with staff at the hospital.

A cardiothoracic surgeon describes it as seamless coordination at all levels of care.

A patient says the staff explained each test and every procedure, involving his family at every point.

A nurse says it’s dedication to each patient and sharing in their care.

Teamwork saves lives.

So, maybe teamwork only begins to explain the concept of quality care aimed at reducing the region’s top health problem, explained Dr. George  Christensen  III, one of the newer members at the St. Elizabeth Heart & Vascular Institute.

When he stepped foot in his first open-heart surgery, he was mesmerized. “I was really awestruck with the amount of folks who are in the operating room and how things are very orchestrated and team-oriented to fulfill each goal in each case,” said  Christensen.

Doctors  at “macroscopic and microscopic” levels work as a team to figure the best treatment for patients, marrying traditional treatments with the latest technology. “It is a team,”  Christensen  said. Electronic records, better communication and new techniques are making it even better.

In one case for cardiologist Dr. Kevin Miller, it was images sent to his cell phone by an interventional radiologist that prompted a nearly-immediate implant of four stents. The patient returned to work within days. Miller is quick to credit others from the primary care physician to the radiologist to surgeons and staff in this and other cases for working closely and collaboratively start to finish. In this case, he added, “It really was an amazing sequence of events.”

Heart-bypass patient Jeff Bolte said throughout his hospitalization, doctors and nurses “made sure I understood everything. They made sure I knew what to expect ” they took special care to explain everything to my wife and son. I can’t say enough about it.”

At St. Elizabeth Fort Thomas ICU, nurse manager Rosa Vittitoe, said “from the time you enter the door, the number one focus is taking care of that patient, that family.” Families tell her, Vittitoe said, “they see the teamwork.”

For Christensen, the efforts result in coordinated and effective care from the emergency room to the cardiologist to post-surgery. “We really want to give the sense that everyone’s on board, including the family,” he said.

“There are many, many  pieces of the puzzle in healthcare,” he said. That includes the nursing staff, mid-level providers, the surrounding environment including the patient’s social support system of family and friends. “If you incorporate everyone into the team, I think patients, overall, will have a better outcome.”