As heart attacks are the leading cause of death in the United States, with 600,000 people dying annually of heart disease, HSHS St. Elizabeth’s Hospital is educating surrounding communities on the importance of cardiac care.
In 2004, St. Elizabeth’s Hospital became the first hospital in the St. Louis metropolitan area to be designated as an accredited Chest Pain Center. This accreditation attests that St. Elizabeth’s meets strict criteria for recognizing and treating patients who come to the emergency room with possible heart attack symptoms.
Colleen Albrecht, BSN, RN, CEN, CCCC, Chest Pain Coordinator for St. Elizabeth’s Hospital, said that hospital cardiovascular service leaders felt it was important to move forward with accreditation so that patients with cardiac events were afforded a higher standard of care.
As Chest Pain Coordinator, Albrecht looks over hospital processes and patient care — from a low risk patient with chest pain up to the most critical patients with heart attacks.
“I’m watching those processes and making sure things are done according to the things we have outlined. We have standardized our order sets and approaches to each of those patient populations, so I review and make sure those processes are being followed by colleagues from the Emergency Department all the way up to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU), Cath lab and cardiac rehab when a patient leaves,” Albrecht said.
Cardiac care is something that St. Elizabeth’s colleagues “take pride in,” according to Albrecht. “We are known for our excellent cardiac care and it’s something that we all feel passionate about.”
Albrecht said that accreditation touches many areas of the hospital’s care. The hospital proudly partners with nationally recognized providers from Prairie Heart and Vascular Institute who continue to develop advanced clinical programs and procedures. There is also many external partnerships outside the walls of the hospital that contribute to the award-winning heart care at St. Elizabeth’s.
“One of the important pieces is that we are interacting with EMS agencies and keeping a good relationship with EMS,” she said. “Being chest pain accredited helps us to look past our own hospital and work with people in the community.”
Often times, colleagues from St. Elizabeth’s provide education within the O’Fallon community about signs and symptoms of heart attacks.
Early Heart Attack Care (or EHAC) education asks you to learn the signs and symptoms of a heart attack so you can become an active bystander to save a life – even if it’s yours.
According to the Society of Chest Pain Centers, some heart attacks are sudden and intense. But most start slowly, with mild pain or discomfort.
• Uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain in the center of your chest. It lasts more than a few minutes, or goes away and comes back.
• Pain or discomfort in one or both arms, your back, neck, jaw or stomach.
• Shortness of breath with or without chest discomfort.
• Other signs such as breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea or light-headedness.
Albrecht said that women’s symptoms can be much more subtle and that often women describe their main symptom as fatigue.
• Shortness of breath. May occur with or without chest discomfort.
• Nausea and light-headedness
• Flu-like symptoms, including chills and cold sweats
“We’re asking people to pay attention to those signs and symptoms and react to them, call their physician, go to the ER,” Albrecht said. “Even if the symptoms are vague and intermittent.”
Albrecht said the affects of the hospital’s chest pain accreditation are felt far away from the hospital.
“We participate in a program through Prairie Heart, which is called the Stat Heart Program,” she said. “It allows us to offer the same services to surrounding communities where there are not Cath labs and Cardiologists ready to help in case of a heart attack, which allows those patients to be moved here very quickly. They are offered the same level of care as a patient who is right here in O’Fallon.”
In the summer of 2018, St. Elizabeth’s Hospital, as member of the Prairie Chest Pain Network, received the Mission: Lifeline Bronze Plus Receiving Quality Achievement Award for implementing specific quality improvement measures outlined by the American Heart Association for the treatment of patients who suffer severe heart attacks.
“That is a really great award because it shows our compliance with all of the measures that American Heart Association is tracking,” Albrecht said. “It shows we are successful in providing great quality care to patients who are experiencing heart attacks, whether they were brought from another community hospital or came through our Emergency doors.”
Albrecht said that the award is due in large part because of the collaborative effort with local EMS agencies and clinical teams across the hospital.
“As we approach Heart Month in February, we are excited about opportunities to partner with the community, doing heart attack awareness and showcasing physicians and what they have to offer,” Albrecht said. “We have many services now that we didn’t have previously. We have great structural heart programs going on and a lot of innovative things happening.”