CNS Facilitation of a Cardiac Surgery Clinical Pathway Program

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In this collaborative project, the Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS) worked with various members of the healthcare team using a clinical pathway group work process to implement changes in the nursing, medical, and respiratory care of cardiac surgery patients. The patient population (N = 598) comprised cardiac surgery patients undergoing coronary artery bypass graft, mitral valve replacement, or aortic valve replacement. The practice changes implemented were earlier extubation, earlier ambulation, the administration of fentanyl and propofol, and the administration of gastrointestinal (GI) prophylactic medications. The overall outcomes were decreased incidence of pneumonia, earlier increase in level of consciousness, improved ambulation abilities, and improved nausea levels. Pneumonia decreased significantly, from 2.49% to 1.67% (p = 0.05). For patients who met early extubation criteria, mean time on the ventilator decreased from 17 hours to 8 hours, and length of stay decreased from 8 days to 7 days in a subgroup of patients (diagnosis-related group (DRG) 105). The overall annual charge savings was approximately $201,000. These results add to the belief that CNS-guided patient care in collaboration with the healthcare team has positive benefits.

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