PINEHURST – Emergency Department patients requiring additional monitoring and/or testing before they are admitted to the hospital or discharged are now being cared for in a unit at FirstHealth Moore Regional Hospital that provides specialized care without the stress or anxieties of the Emergency Department.
The hospital’s new observation unit opened in January in a renovated area that formerly housed the Cath Lab (now located in the Reid Heart Center). There are eight beds in the unit, but space is available to increase the number, as needed, to as many as 16.
Dan Barnes, D.O.
According to Dan Barnes, D.O., president of the FirstHealth Physician Group, most of the patients who go to the observation unit have come to the Emergency Department with chest pain or mild congestive heart failure. They have a normal EKG and stable vital signs, but either are too sick for immediate discharge or are not sick enough for inpatient admission.
“These are patients who may need monitoring for a period of time and some stress testing to help reassure us that their chest pains are not related to a cardiac condition,” Dr. Barnes says.
Patients with kidney stones, dehydration, and mild trauma or dizziness might also be candidates for observation. Children and patients with a psychiatric diagnosis or a clear need for intensive care would not.
The goal for a typical stay in the new unit is 24 hours.
Dr. Barnes expects the observation unit will help decrease Emergency Department wait times by freeing up exam rooms previously occupied by patients being observed or monitored. Since observation beds are not counted as licensed inpatient beds, he says, the new unit should also help relieve inpatient capacity, especially in times of high census –during flu season, for example.
According to Cheryl Batchelor, R.N., the hospital’s interim chief nursing officer, the observation unit is staffed by designated observation unit nurses on a ratio of one nurse to four or five patients. Both private practice physicians and physicians from Moore Regional Hospitalist Services admit patients to the area.
“This is a better environment,” says Batchelor. “The patient is in a bed as opposed to an Emergency Department exam room. And, because daytime access to the area is not as limited as in the Emergency Department, visitors can come and go more freely during those hours, providing greater comfort to the patient. This is an environment that is more comforting and more comfortable than the Emergency Department.”