Nursing Rapid Response Team
St. Vincent's Medical Center has joined a growing number of hospitals working to reduce the number of in-hospital heart attacks and other life-threatening events by building a Rapid Response Team (RRT). It's an approach described by some experts as a lot like making sure a brush fire doesn't start in the first place rather than waiting to put out a forest fire. The Rapid Response Team responds to more subtle signs of patient deterioration that studies show often appear six to eight hours before a cardiac arrest. The idea is to prevent the code and protect the patient.
The concept of rapid response teams is one of six quality improvement changes recommended by the Institute for Healthcare Improvement. IHI is leading a nationwide initiative to promote specific life-saving healthcare improvement methods. In essence, the Rapid Response Team means that intensive care can be brought to any patient in the hospital, no matter what unit or room they are in.
Join This Specialized Team
St. Vincent's Rapid Response Team consists of experienced critical care nurses, respiratory therapists, and hospital intensivists. Team members carry pagers with a number used only to contact them, and they are given no assignments other than the Rapid Response Team. Nurses, respiratory therapists, radiology technologists, and physicians simply contact the team if they're concerned about a patient.
The criteria for calling the Rapid Response Team include acute changes in a patient's respiratory rate, heart rate, blood pressure, oxygen levels, mental status, and urine output. There are other criteria, but probably none is more important than this: a nurse is worried for any reason about the condition of a patient. St. Vincent's wants nurses to trust their instincts and call the Rapid Response Team whenever they deem necessary.
Hospitals around the world are starting to create their own teams. They may have different names and slightly different criteria, but the idea is the same: to catch patients before they start a downward spiral. Typically the teams are not headed by a physician, but by experienced critical care nurses.