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VA San Diego Healthcare System


VA San Diego's Direct Observation Unit recognized with Beacon Award for Excellence

VA San Diego's Direct Observation Unit staff

VA San Diego Healthcare System’s Direct Observation Unit (DOU) wins the Silver-Level Beacon Award For Excellence on Sept. 9. The award is given out to units who meet the criteria for excellence in six levels of quality care. Photo by Christopher Menzie.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

The San Diego VA Medical Center’s Direct Observation Unit (DOU) received the Silver-level Beacon Award for Excellence by the American Association of Critical Care Nurses (AACN) on September 9, 2011.

The Beacon Award for Excellence recognizes caregiver units who successfully improve patient outcomes and align practices with AACN’s six Healthy Work Environment Standards.  The silver-level award represents the second of three-year, three-level award with bronze, silver, and gold designations.  These awards meet national criteria consistent with Magnet Recognition, the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award and the National Quality Healthcare Award.

“The Beacon Award lets us see the bigger picture,” said Ben Yao, staff nurse for the DOU.  “We had performance measures and goals but this award collectively brings everything together and recognizes that as a unit, patient care matters.”

The DOU is an acute care setting that offers critical care to patients who are in more stable condition than patients in the Intensive Care Unit.

To receive the Silver-Level Beacon Award for Excellence, the unit met the following criteria:

  • Leadership structures and systems
  • Appropriate staffing and staff engagement
  • Effective communication, knowledge management, learning and development, best practices
  • Evidence-based practice and processes
  • Patient outcomes

The DOU met these standards through performance that yielded a low patient fall rate, low infection rate, high hand hygiene rate, and low pressure ulcer (bed sore) rate.  In addition, they incorporated the Planetree Alliance standard of patient-centered care, meeting individual patient needs.  In three years, the unit will be eligible for the gold standard.  In the meantime, nurses in the Direct Observation Unit are adapting to new challenges.

Sheryl Leary, DOU clinical specialist said “every patient brings a new situation and we always strive to meet their individual needs.”

For more information on the Beacon Award for Excellence, visit:


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