Thanks to the support of the Wabasha community, and after years of pandemic-related delays, Gundersen St. Elizabeth’s Hospital and Clinics has a new, state-of-the-art set of equipment that will take on some of the mundane computer work required of nurses, which will in turn free them up to spend more time caring for patients.
The hospital recently installed a 16-piece GE cardiac monitor system in its emergency and surgery departments, and on the medical/surgery floors. Several of the units are stationary, while others are mobile and can be used in different areas. They replace monitors that were 15 years old and approaching the end of their useful lives.
New technology a 'win-win' for staff, patients
The main function of a cardiac monitor is to record a patient’s vital signs, EKG readings and other critical health indicators that are collected at the bedside, said Monica Walters, the nurse manager of inpatient and emergency services at St. Elizabeth’s who coordinated the purchase and installation. The upshot to the new monitors is that they interface directly with Gundersen’s patient records system. Now, rather than nurses taking time to manually record and/or scan patient information into the system, the monitors feed that information directly in.
“Now all of (the information) is flowing in in real time,” Walters said. “Our people in La Crosse, our cardiologists, our specialists, are seeing it exactly as this data is being collected.”
That automation is a win for nurses, who before spent good chunks of their shift entering data.
“This technology is a win-win for our staff and the patients we serve; it is an upgrade that improves the patient experience,” Walters said. “While the monitors instantly collect and upload the health data in real time, our care team is attending to our patients. Immediate results mean that treatment decisions can be made faster, and necessary consults and transfers can be expedited.”
A community effort
The system’s $300,000-plus price tag was covered entirely through fundraising efforts, led by the St. Elizabeth’s Foundation. The hospital also received gifts from the Doffing Charitable Fund and the Wabasha-Kellogg Area Community Foundation, as well as the local Rotary Club.
“It was very community driven,” Walters said. “We are grateful to everyone who has contributed to this project. Every donation was an investment in advancing local healthcare.”
Tom Crowley, the director of the St. Elizabeth’s Foundation, was the driving force behind its fundraising and said Foundation members saw the project as a natural fit for its support. In total, its efforts raised around $245,000 – the majority coming from its annual Jim Abbott Memorial Golf Tournament, which sees heavy community support each year.
“Our Foundation was very supportive of this concept because it makes such a difference clinically,” he said. “From a clinical standpoint, we felt it was a great upgrade.”
Crowley called the two-year push to raise the money a group effort, as the hospital’s employees crafted gift baskets for raffle drawings, and the Auxiliary played a role through its fundraising events, including its annual spring bazaar.
“We’re excited to be able to bring this technology here for the community,” he said.
And staff are excited about how this new technology will improve patient care – and their work.
“For patients, it means they’re getting high-quality care locally, close to home,” Walters said. “We’re so lucky to have the equipment that we do for a small rural hospital.”
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